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More Than - Thilo Kehrer

"Act of Balance"

More Than - Thilo Kehrer
"Act of Balance"
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More Than - Thilo Kehrer Act of Balance

Thilo
Kehrer

"Act of Balance"

 

How do you play in one of the world's fashion capitals, at one of the most important clubs in Europe and for one of the most successful national teams in football history without being crushed by pressure instead using your role to launch charity initiatives and never losing your curiosity about your surroundings? We asked Thilo Kehrer, a defender for Paris Saint-Germain and the German national team, the second star of More Than. "Human beings need balance to stay healthy," and even more so football players, pulled not only on the field for the jersey but also off it by the expectations, expectations and attention that often stifle the ambitions of those who would like to be precisely more than just an athlete. "We should be definitely free to show our creative side as it’s kind of opening a gate to another world from time to time."

Thilo Kehrer is only 24 years old, but he has already achieved some impressive goals in his life, from winning the Under-21 European Championship to wearing one of the most prestigious jerseys in world football, without giving up on being himself all the time. Born to a German father and Burundian mother in Tübingen, he spent his first years in his mother's country before going back to Germany where he began his long climb through the youth ranks of Schalke 04 until making his Bundesliga debut at only 17 years old. Then in 2018 he took off to Paris, to what is a favorite destination for football and fashion fans together. "Obviously it's a great opportunity to play in Paris in one of the fashion capitals, where you discover new brands and new opportunities on a daily basis."

One of these is Paris Fashion Week of course, which Kehrer attended for the first time last June. "Paris Fashion Week was a very interesting experience for us who are usually consumers and don't know the behind-the-scenes. I was very lucky to be invited by Ami for some dress fittings with Jose Cordero, one of the stylist of the brand, for the show and then to meet Alexandre Mattiussi, the founder and designer who is doing an incredible job, CEO Nicolas Santi Weil, Etienne who followed me explaining the creative process step by step and finally to be interviewed by Loic Prigent, who has one of the best YouTube fashion channels in the world. I really felt privileged."

For Kehrer, it was a week full of appointments very different from those usually offered by the football business. "Fashion Week makes you discover many new things that you wouldn't normally have access to," the Paris Saint-Germain defender tells us. The experience has not revolutionized the way he dresses, however, it has broadened the possibilities available to him, opening up new imagery in which to move in the future. "I wouldn’t say it changed me but to see the behind the scenes of fashion gives you an other perspective on how to understand this world and my style. Most of the people that runs the fashion world dress really in a very chill style. I mean we would imagine the opposite. And they always have like an unknown underground designer item that they wear more than just full branded everywhere. So again, you get to discover and meet people from all around the world working in this industry so you get to learn many things in such a short time. Great experience."

The relationship between fashion and football in recent years has grown exponentially, to the point of becoming almost overblown if explored without proper attention or passion. Then again, as Thilo Kehrer tells us, "I don't think all players really love fashion. And it's important to point out the difference between fashion as art and fashion as trend, which to me are two very different things. The second one for example leads to those stereotypes that have always polluted the public discourse about football." That is, soccer players who as soon as they show a deeper, more personal side of themselves unrelated to soccer performance are immediately labeled as uninterested in their profession. "I think exploring that dimension more should not be taboo. We are not robots, but people who want and find pleasure in doing the same things as everyone else if the situation allows it."

Then again, Kehrer recalls how "Fashion and style has always been a very strong thing in Football. From the haircut to clothing, we have seen many players be known and remembered because of their game and also their look." To think of separating the fields is impossible, as well as unnecessary. Now, however, athletes have gained further awareness, even adding a heightened sensitivity to high culture, diversifying their interests beyond the field. “As far as I am concerned I like fashion, as masterpiece, as lifestyle and this has nothing to do with being a footballer, it is a sensitivity that is personal.”

But Paris fans need not worry, Kehrer has not lost interest in playing. His is a reflection on the centrality of the individual in football, a demand for a balance between personal life and performance that is easier to achieve in other sports. "Obviously soccer must remain the priority, no question, but when I have time and desire I want to allow myself to feed on culture, including that which embraces fashion and lifestyle. Think of NBA athletes, who have always shown a deep interest in fashion without it preventing them from performing at the highest level on the court. Just as it doesn't stop anyone from doing so if you go to the movies, restaurants or Opera."

“As far as I am concerned I like fashion, as masterpiece, as lifestyle and this has nothing to do with being a footballer, it is a sensitivity that is personal.”

Paris Saint-Germain is the perfect stage to express all the facets of his personality, as in recent years it has proven to be the club in Europe most focused on associating its sports profile with other brands outside of football. And his team's many collaborations have impressed Kehrer, from the inevitable partnership with Jordan Brand, "which brought together two worlds like basketball and football and revolutionized the sportswear market." But especially the relationship with Dior Men, "such a legendary brand with Kim Jones at the helm, who already as he did at Louis Vuitton changed the world of men's fashion. One of my favorite designers and one that I've had the privilege of wearing on several occasions since I've been here in Paris, so yes PSG X DIOR is a collaboration that I loved very much."

But Thilo Kehrer's interests are not limited to the relationship between football and fashion. Rather, the German player on May 22 started his foundation, TKF, to help the less fortunate by taking advantage of his privileged position. In particular, his focus is on children in Burundi, his mother's home country where he spent the early years of his life. Kehrer has been fortunate because despite growing up in one of the smallest and poorest states in mainland Africa, he has always had a much higher standard of living than the rest of the population. He himself makes this clear when we ask him what it is like to be an athlete who has experienced firsthand the tragedy of poverty and social inequality. "Just for the sake of clarity, I only spent my early years in Burundi and I don't remember much about that time. And even when I was there I lived in much better conditions than the majority of the population."

Thanks to his personal story, however, the German national decided to build the Thilo Kehrer Center, a multipurpose space that can serve as a safe meeting place for young people, with tutoring services, special guests and an Internet connection. And also through the web comes Kehrer's newest initiative, a series of 3D animated NFTs called Babies. "The Babies NFTs were launched in partnership with my foundation (TKF), which is dedicated to fulfilling the dreams of children around the world and providing them with opportunities to build a better future. The Babies NFTs are an artistic collection of 3D animations that are sold on a dedicated platform and part of the benefits shared with the Thilo Kehrer Foundation." A scalable, metaverse-ready project that will bring countless surprises but most importantly whose proceeds will be donated to the foundation's projects.

Beyond the football player, Kehrer plays a new role attentive to both the culture and society in which he lives. "At any event, I believe that players can play an important role in bringing media attention to take an interest in lesser-known causes, using their name and fame to support charitable initiatives and raise funds. We are followed by thousands of fans scattered all over the world, and we should never forget that we are privileged and should do what we can to make the world better than it is today."

Talent: Thilo Kehrer
Photographer: Zoë Joubert
Stylist: David Bellion/José Cordero 
Production: Super Vision Office/Pascale Savary
Art Director: Alessandro Bigi
Words: Lorenzo Bottini