Noonoouri is an activist with a passion for fashion, over 330,000 followers on instagram and has worked with top-name brands like Dior, Burberry and Marc Jacobs, traversing the globe in the process. She however only exists online. We talk to the Creative Director behind this digital fashion avatar, Joerg Zuber.
How did your trip to Kenya come to be?
I met Jochen Zeitz, the owner of Segera Retreat at the Suzy Menkes Condé Nast Luxury conference in South Africa. He first heard about Noonoouri as I was presenting her on stage. We talked about how we could collaborate, and he then invited me to Kenya. I was fascinated by his vision and how he gives people hope and a future; being respectful of nature and animals while trying to find new ways to educate and motivate people to do the same.
What was your most memorable experience in Kenya?
Definitely the untouched nature and animals. I saw elephants, which are my favorite wildlife. The people I met were so open hearted people. We went to a Samburu village and I was touched by the simplicity of it all. They may seem to have so little to someone from a big city, yet they have so much and are happy and content with life. I enjoyed their dance so much.
What inspires you to travel?
People, cultures, traditions – as curiosity is one of Noonoouri’s main core values, she wants to know about everything, and so do I.
Noonoouri has met almost every A-Lister in the world, from Kim Kardashian to Lewis Hamilton. What were those experiences like?
I believe her no-fear-approach gives her access to those top celebrities. She wants to support with ‘cuteness, curiosity and quality’. At first glance one can see that she is not real, but she can grab the attention in a very nice, playful and never-seen-before style. Meeting her two main muses when I was drawing her was definitely incredible: Naomi Campbell, her grace and otherworldliness, and Kim Kardashian, the face of social media who changed the way of communicating and interacting in the digital age. Endless possibilities are now open.
How is the creative process for Noonoouri and how long does it take to get the image?
A still post takes around three days to produce. First the topic is set, either related to travel and events or in tribute to a special person or day. Then the story is set. What do we want to communicate? What is the right pose/ body language, hair and make-up and of course finding the right outfit which has to be adopted to her body while respecting the original cut of the designer. Is it a photographed background or a 3D generated one? Then the pose has to be rendered in 3D, and since we can never adopt or reuse something, it is all done from scratch. The speed at which the eyes blink and every floating hair has to be carefully animated, and her body language has to be spot on.
What is your background?
I am a creative person by heart. I started to draw and design when I was five. The first magazine I got at this time was Vogue, so my roots are deeply related to this world. After school I worked as an apprentice in an advertising agency. Afterwards I worked as a freelance designer and set up my own studio in 2001. I never studied this in school…I am self-taught.
Last year you spent about 160 days travelling across the world, and this year it could be even more. What are some of your favorite destinations that you have been to so far?
Iceland was really impressive. Kauai in the Hawaii archipelago was lovely as there are so many untouched areas. I love New York as this is a true man-made jungle. Africa, too, because it is the cradle of mankind.
What’s your favorite thing to do in a new town?
I love to explore the city by walking or biking. I am not a self-driving person. I want to step/dive into the city and feel the vibe of the local people. How they talk, dress, what they eat, are they hectic or relaxed…
Which destinations are currently on your bucket list?
India because of the street food and culture, Rwanda because of the gorillas, New Zealand because of the scenery.
Who are some of the African designers you have worked with and are you looking to work with any Kenyan designers?
Absolutely – I have on numerous occassions worked with African designers such as Thebe Magugu, Laduma, Rich Mnisi, Marianne Fassler – I made contact with Kenya-based designer Wandia Gichuru. I am always curious to know about new cultures.
What’s the weirdest collaboration offer you have ever received?
When I was in South Africa for the aforementioned luxury conference, a journalist asked if I could put Noonouri next to Nelson Mandela for a picture to be published. I told him that technically I could, but this is not the idea about Noonoouri; I want to be respectful and authentic. She never met Mandela and this would be a rude way of getting the wrong attention. Noonoouri is digital but I try to give her an authentic life and only put her next to people I actually met in reality.
What do you always carry when travelling?
Cellphone, power bank, credit card and my Leica and Sony Alpha cameras.