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Charles Bals ‒ an insider guide to Düsseldorf


Photographer, art director and curator, Charles Bals co-founded Düsseldorf’s hybrid production house Parasol Island in 2003 and set up their hip creative studio Another Slang in 2013, that focuses on digital lifestyle and fashion communications. He shares his favourite city spots with Harriet Quick

Harriet Quick portrait
Harriet Quick,

How long have you been connected to Düsseldorf and how has the city changed in that time?
I was born in Berlin but have spent most of my life in Düsseldorf, where I founded Another Slang and co-founded Parasol Island. I’ll be honest, Düsseldorf takes a long time to embrace a new trend, and once one arrives it will linger for at least a decade too long – I’m convinced we will see skinny jeans here soon. We’re striving to become a gobalised big city, with more and more luxury department stores and flagship stores popping up. Yet, at the same time, the family-owned boutiques, old cinemas and antique markets such as Les Halles are disappearing from the map.

Tell us about your work.
My studies began with illustration and graphic design and then I quickly gravitated towards cinematography and directing at the Filmakademie in Ludwigsburg. Through my work, fashion photography and corporate design were added to the mix. Alongside this a profound passion for obscure vinyl music from the 1970s unfolded – I have one of the deepest collections in Europe – as well as a romance with 50s to 80s interior design. Fortunately I am able to embrace most of my fetishes as creative director, or generalist, of our company.

How would you describe your style?
I like my things to be vintage. We can tap into the best of past decades like no generation has been able to before us. Everything is for the taking: films, music, clothes, furniture, books. I like to consume all of this in a modern context. But overall, I look quite classic – with a little provocation from time to time in colour or cut. I curate a Tumblr called anotherslang.tumblr.com that expresses my taste quite well.

Which items and brands do you have most of in your wardrobe?
Since my wife’s brand Galvan London does not do menswear, I have to rely on lots of vintage jackets from Italy – as with the vinyls. Also, Ralph Lauren, and whatever else I have to combine with this: A Kind of Guise, Our Legacy, Études, Christophe Lemaire, Haversack …

What are your grooming essentials?
If I don’t get busted I usually use what is not mine on our shelves: Dr Barbara Sturm skin care, for example. I sometimes remember to buy myself Aesop serum, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Universalis, and Creed Impérial Millesime for long evenings.

Which are your favourite eateries and restaurants?
Fortunately there’s lots of fresh food at Carlsplatz, including Laura’s Deli for lunch. Otherwise, Olio remains a favourite. There are amazing burgers at Richie ‘n Rose – try the Italian Buffalo burger – great pizza at the freshly opened What’s Pizza, and must-have authentic Japanese at Kushi Tei of Tokyo.

Who are your Düsseldorf inspirations?
We are surrounded by a lovely family of friends who often come to our home for dinner parties. They make a huge difference to this town and all of them are local heroes to me. My dear deceased friend Jochen Hülder was always an inspiration on a personal level as well as a local hero since, as manager, he took the band Toten Hosen to fame. Detlef Weinrich runs Le Salon des Amateurs, home to my favourite music. Julia Stoschek got Düsseldorf back on the map with her exhibitions. Uwe van Afferden runs the internationally distributed Heritage Post out of his two-person backyard office. And Peter at Feinschnitt, who’s been cutting my hair since I was 15.

Which shops, streets and boutiques are thrilling you now in Düsseldorf?
The neighbourhood near work, Unterbilk, is really nice. Here you’ll find Uwe van Afferden, Wandel Antik, Ela Selected Clothing, Jacke wie Hose – you can take in these with a good stroll after lunch. If I need perfect denim, I will go to Jades downtown.

What’s your favourite view?
Besides my way home from work, where I get to cross the cinematic bridge over the Rhine, my favourite views are of our gardens at home and at work. I have always been a sucker for everything tropical, so you’ll see a fully grown Bismarckia nobilis palm and a massive Washingtonia robusta palm, which are rather rare in this region.

Tell us about your top walk in the city.
By the river or through Carlstadt with lots of small boutiques, a few galleries and designers, good food and even some plants.

Which cultural centres shouldn’t be missed?
The Langen Foundation at Stiftung Insel Hombroich in Neuss, which is near Düsseldorf. The architecture is fantastic and there is a nice museum.

After dark you like to ...
Listen to music or sleep. I need my sleep, I really do. Otherwise I turn into a nasty gremlin. My family will confirm that.

Which is the best day trip outside the city?
Düsseldorf is a great place to travel away from. Paris, Antwerp and Amsterdam are each two to three hours away by train.

Which films and music are top of your playlists?
I can happily mention thousands of records and films, but I will have to cut it down to the noir comedy The Long Goodbye by Robert Altman. After that, grab a glass of Suntory whisky, and listen to Messaggio by Paolo Renosto (alias Lesiman) on vinyl or YouTube.

www.anotherslang.com

www.parasol-island.com

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