Paris in four years

When I first came across @parisinfourmonths account on Instagram and hit the “follow” button for its envy-inducing photos reflecting a quintessentially Parisian lifestyle (strolls around the city, flowers, fashion and style, of course, included) I had little knowledge of the person behind all of this. Judging from the name, I assumed it was a documentation of somebody’s current venture to Paris for four months. As more and more time passed, I started questioning how long can possibly these four months last until I visited Carin Olsson’s – by then I had already learnt her name – blog and realized that “Paris in four months” wasn’t at all her current state. It was a reference to a very romantic prelude to the seemingly perfect Carin’s life that I was offered a glance at with these meticulously curated square photos.

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photo: Nadia Gric

Step by step, I learnt her story. No matter how reckless and brave her decision to leave a stable job in Sweden and install in Paris may sound, the outcome was (and is) more than rewarding. After more than four years full of difficult beginnings, challenging projects, and new discoveries Carin has earned her respectful name. For now, she has amassed almost one million of following on her Instagram account, to which she explicitly refers as her visual diary which still has the same direction as it had back in the beginning. At the same time, she goes so much further the usual ‘blogger/influencer’ tagline: Carin is also an appreciated photographer and a definite insider in the fashion industry. The names of her clients are not any less impressive: Gucci, Dior, Cartier to cite a few.

However, Carin’s level of modesty and kindness is directly proportional to her achievements. While I was waiting to meet her in the garden of Petit Palais, it was impossible for me not to notice the glances one elderly couple was giving this young Swedish woman when she entered the café and looked around with her big blue eyes and brushed through angelic blond curls. She was dressed in casual clothes: a green bomber, black T-shirt and jeans, the whole ensemble made just a notch edgier by her studded mini Lady Dior bag. Then she found me and greeted with a huge smile, as if we’d been friends for a long time before. Throughout our conversation, she never checked her phone or time, eagerly asked questions about me and willingly answered every question I asked – despite being very sweet, she’s also unashamedly open about the other side of her stellar ascension in social media and doesn’t sugar coat her words while talking about the daily life.

You’ve recently come back from a trip to Sweden to meet your family and friends. Doesn’t it feel strange to come back to your hometown after having spent four years here? Do you consider Paris as your home now?

It does feel very strange! I’d say I have 2 homes. Sweden will always be my home because that’s where I’m from, that’s where I grew up and where my family is, but I’m also very blessed to be able to call Paris my home as well.

So tell me more about that your life-changing decision back in the 2012…

Back in 2012, I was working in ELLE Decoration magazine as an editorial assistant, which was my first real job after finishing high school. I loved that, but I thought that I was missing something in my life, some excitement, perhaps. As I always wanted to live abroad, I told myself ‘let’s try this for a couple of months and see what happens’. To tell the truth, I didn’t think that I’d leave Sweden permanently, it was supposed to be my ‘get-out-of-my-sistem’ and ‘clear-my-head’ move. For beginnings, I decided to leave this job and for that everybody around me thought I was crazy! I moved for 4 months to Paris and when these months had passed, I got back to Sweden. But then I couldn’t forget Paris so in January 2013 I moved back. I don’t like to say ‘permanently’, I came here and I don’t know yet how long I will be staying (laughs).

Tell me, what do you do once this romantic and exciting period of acknowledging the fact that you’ve made such a huge change in your life passes and reality hits you? What kind of steps did you take that led you to the place that you are right now?

I wouldn’t surprise you by saying that it was hard. When I came here, I’d just broken up with my boyfriend after six years of being together, so I was heartbroken and spent much of my time crying. I was really debating whether or not I should stay, if it’s going to be too difficult for me to keep up, all kinds of stuff like this. It wasn’t a very smooth start to my career here, for sure. In the end, I decided to stick with it and try to do my best. I interned here in one showroom during the fashion week, where I sorted clothes, dressed models. It was such kind of job where you don’t earn any money at all, but I just wanted to get inside of the industry and see what it was like. After that, I took a job as an editorial assistant for websites. During all this time I also had my blog and Instagram going but I didn’t look at them as a way to earn money. I did it only for myself and then very slowly people started commenting and more people started getting in contact. I always loved taking photos but I never thought that I could actually do it as my profession; I never really thought, “I want to be a photographer and I want to do social media”, I just sort of did it and everything developed into this… It’s crazy when I think about it!

When did you have your first major career moment here? The one after which you thought ‘Wow, I’m really making it here!’

To be honest, I still don’t feel like that! The first major thing was probably a friendship with Nicole Warne from Gary Pepper Girl. Back in 2013, we started commenting back and forth on each other’s Instagrams and blogs, and when she came to Paris she suggested meeting and hanging out. We did some photo-shoots together, and that was probably the first time that I properly shot a model wearing the clothes instead of photographing only clothes. Later we stayed in contact and she asked me to come to fashion month in September so we did New York, London, Milan and Paris together. That was the best learning experience and it was precisely then that I decided it was something that I wanted to do. I know a lot of girls think that this industry is very glamorous and nice and everybody’s very sweet, which is not the case. It’s actually a very tough industry and you really really really have to love what you do to succeed. I think I got my first very serious project at Gucci and that was the moment when I had to pinch myself. I don’t really remember when exactly it was but later Dior reached out to me and asked me to come to the show and after the show they suggested to collaborate. You see, I never really thought “one day I want to work for Dior or Cartier”, it’s just a result of my love for what I do and I think it shines through. It’s a longer story than that, but it’s basically the most important things (laughs).

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photo: Nadia Gric

What are the most challenging things while working with the globally renowned brands as Dior and others?

The most important thing is to get along with people. I’m very lucky that I’ve had countless opportunities to work with amazing people that now we’re friends with, but, of course, there are always people who aren’t that welcoming. I remember being sad after so many jobs because I really don’t have a thick skin and usually I take things personally. Sometimes it’s just impossible not to pay attention so that can be really tough. Moving on to other challenges, very often people, usually photographers and others working in creative fields, think that they’re going to be able to do whatever they want and express themselves however they want, which is not always true. The main priority is to satisfy the client who has a final say on things. On the other hand, I feel that these are ‘luxurious’ kinds of problem to have at work.

Which project or journey is the most fascinating to date?

In terms of projects, the work I’ve done for Dior is something that I’ll never ever forget. It was so incredible to be a part of that but it was also a huge amount of responsibility and stress – I’d never been so scared of not performing well in my life but that made me push myself so much further. I’m forever grateful for Dior giving me this opportunity. Our collaboration took place a couple of years ago and I think Women’s Wear Daily wrote the first article acknowledging the fact that brands are starting to work with Instagram people to create content and they mentioned me and Dior. When the brand reached out to me it wasn’t so normal to let a person from Instagram take all photos of a world-renowned fashion house and it’s very cool to have been a part of it from the very beginning! Concerning travels, Morocco where I went with Cartier this summer was one of the most – I don’t even know how to describe it – extravagant journey. It was once in a lifetime experience – we were shooting in 46 degrees! (laughs).

You’re one of those people who have risen thanks to a social media. Are you comfortable being placed in the blogger/influencer category that still has negative connotations sometimes?

Absolutely! I think we must stop seeing this as something negative. Let’s be honest, of course there are people who label themselves as influencers and actually do nothing. As in every profession, there are those who do the job very well and also those who do the job very poorly; that doesn’t apply only for bloggers. People have a tendency to look down on us because they think it’s so glamorous to sip coffee and take photos of it. Of course, there are girls who do this this way, everyone does it differently, but for me it’s so much more than just being a blogger. At the end of the day, when you list what you’re doing, you see that you’re doing production, post-editing, retouching, business management, finances, marketing for yourself, branding, if you have an assistant, you’re also managing other people in your business, you’re writing, you’re the creative director of everything…You’re wearing so many hats at the same time. It’s sad that people have so many unjustified prejudices but I feel that they’re starting to change their minds about this – right now, there are many people who are fortunate enough to make a living out of blogging so they must be doing something, I guess (laughs).

Recently I read a very interesting article in Vogue about the influencers and there was this one particular remark that caught my attention: affirmation, shared by this new generation of social-media mavens themselves, that they’re having addiction to their phones, sometimes to such extents they can’t literally live without it. How do you deal with this intensity and obligation to be connected all the time?

I don’t feel this kind of anxiety at all and now I feel so unprofessional for saying this! (Laughs). I’ve always said that I’ll do this job for as long as I find that it gives me pleasure. For me, it’s absolutely essential to be able to disconnect. There are times, for example, fashion weeks when I have to be online all the time because it’s my job, but I also like to spend time with a boyfriend or friends and not look at my phone at all, so I turn off all the notifications and just relax.

Would you agree that it’s highly improbable to maintain relationships while doing a job like this?

Well, I’m not the best person to ask, as I’m not in a relationship anymore (laughs), but I think is that you have to find the right person. I believe that in a relationship you’re supposed to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders. I want to be with someone who supports me 210% and I could do the same to him as well. Not seeing your beloved one for a month or three months can be tough but there are people who support each other so much in their career choices that they learn to navigate it through. I also believe that it’s good to separate your personal and professional life, I don’t know if I’d like to have my boyfriend by my side 24/7, being involved with my blog, taking photos, which is very often the case for other bloggers. I’ve travelled before with boyfriends for work but I like to do my own thing on my own terms. In addition, it’s very hard to find a person who understands your life because it’s a very modern profession, you still need to deal with such questions as ‘so what do you do?’ and it’s hard to explain for those who are not in the industry.

Let’s talk about fashion weeks. Do you love them or do you dread them?

Both, and I think anyone in this industry would understand me. It’s definitely the most exciting time during the year, because there are so many things happening at the same time, but it’s also incredibly stressful. For me, working in fashion weeks means attending shows and presentations, but also meetings with people who are in town. I usually have the shoots scheduled at the same time, often with live delivery, which means that photos have to deliver the same day, which makes things very stressful. Then you want to catch up with friends, also simultaneously organize your projects and schedule things after the fashion week. But then again, it’s a good kind of stress to have. As freelancers, we’re never forced to do anything; we just do it because we love it. Even if I complain to my friends during these busy weeks, they know that deep in my heart I love all of that and wouldn’t be doing it otherwise.

How did you change personally during these four years?

Honestly, I don’t know if it’s because of Paris, my jobs, relationships, friends or it’s just a natural development, but I never felt stronger as a person before as I do today. I mean, bad things and comments still have influence on me, I’m not saying as if I’m made from steel, but there’s so much more. I’ve always had a problem with confidence and not believing in myself, that’s something I’m really working on but it gets better and better.

What do you miss the most about Sweden?

My family, for sure. I’m happy that I have only a few hours on the plane and I can see them. I also love how well organized everything is in Stockholm. Paris can be a little bit tough city with all its bureaucracy, paperwork, and when I go back to my hometown, I’m always shocked to see how smoothly everything goes. But then again, Paris has so many pros… That’s why I’m staying (laughs).

And what do you like the most about Paris?

I love the atmosphere the city has. I love the history, the culture, the fact that people take the time to enjoy their life – what shocked me the most was that people can buy a cake for dessert at Tuesday all for themselves (we don’t spoil ourselves like that in Sweden). That’s kind of mentality I really like. I also find fascinating that people sit and read in parks in the middle of the day. At the same time, I think that this feeling can be created in any place you’re happy in, it’s not only Paris. It’s the new energy this city has given me and the relationships that are the most important. If there was one thing I’d want people to apply for themselves from my story is that anybody can do it as well which doesn’t translate as ‘You can go to Paris’, it means you can change the direction of your life. I just gave up everything what was secure and took a huge leap of faith, and I believe anybody can do that.

So, for anyone who wants to change their life and move to another place – what do you think are the most important things to know before doing that?

It’s not such a big decision as you think it is! It sounds weird, but it really isn’t. There’s something that my mom told me that sort of changed everything: She said ‘Well if you don’t like it, you will just make a new decision’ and that made everything so much simpler. I asked myself why am I here panicking about everything? If I won’t like Paris, I can just change it. It goes with so many things in life; you’re the one making decisions and if you’re in a situation you don’t like, just do something about it. There are so many people who think that if they make a certain decision they’ll never be able to turn around, like THIS IS IT. But it’s not.

Lithuanian readers can find the interview in the newest issue of L’Officiel Mada

The good guy Brussels

What can you do in almost 4 hours? From my experience, it would be write one or two articles, watch a bunch of TV series episodes (I’ve noticed that my favorites are no longer than 20 minutes), for many it would probably be quite a generous amount of sleep before the exam (especially if the whole cramming process starts just a little too late, as always). Last weekend I also discovered that 4 hours is more than enough to completely change my surroundings and travel from Paris to Brussels. Well, in theory the surroundings are not so drastically different, because I was still speaking French there and the atmosphere was just as pleasant as a Parisian one, but there were a lot of things that seemed to be weird… and in a very nice way.

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Despite horrible and unwelcoming weather (having an umbrella in this trip and wearing multiple layers as a sartorial shield was more important than anything), Brussels somehow left a surprisingly good impression. If I had to come up with characters, Brussels would definitely be a good, peaceful and a very simple guy (but definitely not in a bleak, boring way!) From this perspective, Paris could take on a role of a very capricious lady. The sense of calmness just pervades the city: nobody bothers to use a car signal if you haven’t noticed a green light while being the first in the waiting line (meanwhile in Paris… All the cars standing in all the different corners of the street will start signaling you even if your mistake and slowness is not bothering them in any way), the drivers stop to let you cross the street even if you’re only in the process of approaching the crosswalk, there’s no particularly loud music anywhere and people seem to be literally fleeting in a slow motion. The city is sooooo zen. Okay, I might be exaggerating, but the good thing is that it really gives chilled, relaxing vibes to such extent that you suddenly don’t even care about the rain anymore. Or anything else for that matter. It’s probably weird to start the whole discussion about the city from this point of view, but it was actually one of my strongest impressions.

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The architecture is a little bit somber (what’s up with the black balconies?), or even gloomy sometimes, but it’s very harmoniously counter-balanced with impressive, white monuments and historical places, which instantly light up the city center. There are no two identical buildings: Each one is distinctly individual and attention-grabbing in its own way, be it for intricate ornaments, industrial details or even rusticity. I especially loved the fragments of wall art (it’s much more elaborate technically to call it simple graffitti) peppered throughout the whole city.

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I have to admit that it was probably the first journey where I had absolutely no plans what I want to see or where I want to go – the evening before the trip I told my boyfriend that we hadn’t even thought about a single plan for Brussels, shouldn’t we give at least some effort?! But it actually turned out to be the best scenario – we were just endlessly wandering in the beautiful streets and enjoying every sight that presented itself to us. Well, there was one exception – I was eager to visit René Magritte’s museum as it’s my all time favorite artist and this museum is like a Holy Grail for someone obsessed with Magritte like me. Seeing Belgium through the prism of Magritte’s work was probably the best plan I could have ever come up with then the rain was threatening to break our umbrellas and ruin our hair. But to be honest, I’d have given up even the best weather to explore the black and mysterious halls showcasing Magritte’s art and life. I could go on forever, but I’m saving my impressions for a special article dedicated to Magritte, so stay tuned!

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Last but not least – Brussels fascinated me because of the incredible amount of stylish boutiques, art galleries, bookshops and stores of antique things! The city is surprisingly full of all things art, which gives a very special touch to the city’s portrait. It doesn’t even matter that a Renaissance-looking gallery can be standing next to an industrial building, an obvious skyscraper wannabe. The city may not have an extraordinarily distinct character, it’s rather a well-curated mosaic of different façades, but what an awesome place it is to be!  Brussels, it was a great pleasure to know you and let’s meet in the future – I hope you’ll have better weather for us next time.

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Healthy relationship with time planning. My story

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With our obsession for productivity, a real 21st century disease (which translates to studying + working + doing sports + having an active social life + taking care of ourselves, food, beauty and sleep and 100+ other things included, and being happy on top of that) time planning is an absolutely crucial ability. I can guess that you clicked on the link hoping to read some miraculous things on time saving which you could apply in your real life and solve all of your problems in an instant. But as for every article with a very promising headline, there are no miraculous answers or hacks to this question. Despite of this, having an overwhelming schedule has taught me to be very disciplined concerning time planning and I wanted to share some of the tips that help me structure and even save big amounts of my time, which, I hope will be useful for you as well.

Number one: fill all the gaps

You know those small pauses that your day is filled with? Five minutes until the next bus… Twenty minutes before another lecture… Ten minutes waiting for your friend in a café…  You’d be surprised how all of these “insignificant” minutes add up and what quantities of work it’s possible to do during the day using only these gaps between precisely defined plans (such as work hours or lectures). In past months, I read several books only by using my time in metro, which is no longer than just one hour every day. My mom is laughing at me for always carrying the book or magazine “just in case”, but you never know when you’re going to be stuck somewhere having nothing to do and worrying about wasting your time (waiting for the doctor longer than expected is just one of the examples), so why not always have something useful? Of course, I’m not talking only about studying. You can use these minutes to answer your emails, phone that friend with whom you haven’t talked for ages, search for a recipe for an evening’s meal or anything else… However, be cautious: once you see the benefits of filling all the day with productive work, you can become too obsessed and leave no time for rest, which is an absolutely counterproductive thing.

Number two: prioritize or not prioritize?

Prioritizing is the key in successful time planning. I could bet it’s the top advice for whose who don’t know from where to start, because, obviously, this principle is logical and stress-reducing: you start organizing your work from things which are the most important and which need to be completed the soonest. However, it’s not always the best way to organize the work! Do you sometimes catch yourself thinking that you “feel like doing” the task which is not exactly the number one priority on your list? For example, brainstorming for a project due in two weeks than writing an essay due tomorrow? I’ve noticed that suffering on the task due tomorrow before moving to other things can be very inefficient. Right now, I should actually be doing homework for next week classes, but I’m writing this article instead. I feel that I have many ideas and that I can do it relatively fast and efficiently which might not be the case tomorrow… This article could take me some hours! I’m convinced that sometimes it’s better to switch places of your priorities if you feel that you’re capable of doing something you’re enthusiastic about without sacrificing your main task of the moment, of course.

Number three: know your enemies distractions

Every evening, I prepare a plan of things to do next day. It’s practically impossible to stick to it 100% every day, but it really helps to have a structured and motivated schedule when the amount of work becomes overwhelming. The way you plan your day is really personal, because there are different methods that work for some but are completely demotivating for others. As for me, I start my list with the essential tasks and after them I write a reasonable amount of other things that are not as important but which are possible to accomplish. For me, more is always better than less, so I kind of race with myself in seeing how much I can do in one day (attention: Setting up the to-do list bar really high is not supposed to make you unhappy if you complete only half of the plan, it’s supposed to keep you motivated. I also want to repeat that I’m talking about reasonable amounts of work, unrealistic plans are nothing but counterproductive to your work). The key to keeping up with your productive schedule is to have efficient pauses (which I’ll discuss in next point) and to know your distractions which could reduce your productivity: be it temptation to scroll social media feeds, chat with a friend, check the news, answering emails as soon as you receive them… You should work out to see what kind of activities distract you from concentrating on work and do everything to avoid them. You should also be very disciplined to concentrate on the task you’re doing and not change activities every thirty minutes.

Number four: efficient pauses

Having rest and re-energizing yourself is vital to efficient work. The problem is that sometimes you see that these work-free minutes haven’t helped you at all or even worse: You feel more tired and unwilling to return to work. For a really long time I considered reading books as one of my favorite pastime activities, but as the rhythm of my studies and work accelerated, I noticed that taking a book into my hands seemed to be the worst option. The problem is that all I do for my history studies and for my journalistic job is that I… read and write 100% of my time so reading isn’t the kind of activity that could make me relax anymore. In fact, I want to rest from it. One of the best advice I’ve ever been given to is to choose activities which are completely different in nature to what you do for the most of the day. For example, I found out that watching movies, going out for a walk in the city or doing sports is the best way for me to relax now.

Number five: don’t panic

Usually it’s not the amount of work that makes it all seem impossible, but the stress. Studying and working at the same time or having a lot of multiple projects can seem like riding a bicycle on fire, but from my experience, the biggest amount of time is lost while contemplating on the amount of work rather than just doing it. It’s easy to say, but panicking is the main element to cut off from your daily routine to make everything as smooth as possible. And to keep your emotions and head sane!

There are many other strategies to plan your time but I consider these as my essential ones. Let me know if you have found out any other ways to be productive!