Daur Power by Michaela Cordes | 6th December, 2019 | Personalities
With discipline, natural charm and seemingly endless energy, Caro Daur has not only conquered the fashion world. In only four years, the social media icon has established herself as a worldwide brand supported by her two million followers on Instagram. A personal encounter with the digital entrepreneur – and a profession that is still fighting for recognition.
It’s the morning after the amfAR Gala in Cannes. Last night, Caroline Daur was posing on the red carpet in a glamorous designer gown in front of the screaming crowd of photographers. Now, casually dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, she’s sitting right next to me in the backseat of a cab with her laptop on her knees, concentrated on a contract with one of her cooperation partners. Before leaving for the airport, Caro – as she’s known not only to her followers – quickly drew up a video concept for a major fashion brand and posted it on her Instagram account. Within seconds, her community of more than two million followers starts reacting: They are liking, commenting and clearly enjoying taking part in her everyday life. The young entrepreneur has also built a powerful network outside the digital world and is on first-name terms with personalities like Moncler owner Remo Ruffini, Valentino chief designer Pierpaolo Picciolo, cult designer Virgil Abloh (Off-White, Louis Vuitton Men) and the entire Fendi family. When the son of the fashion designer Elie Saab got married earlier this year in Beirut, Caro Daur was on the guest list. Prestigious fashion brands such as Prada, Fendi, Valentino and Cartier, but also big companies like Apple, Tesla and Warner Bros., have all collaborated with the 24-year-old from Germany. Having arrived in Paris, we are headed to lunch on the patio of the Hotel Costes. Up to 500 million people use the Instagram app daily, but still, very little is known about the business behind the beautiful pictures, so we have arranged for a personal interview.
When we were preparing for this meeting, you asked me not to use the term “influencer” when referring to your profession. What would you prefer to be called? To me, the word influencer sounds empty, devoid of content. It’s not a branch of any profession nor does it say anything about a person’s daily work. It’s simply descriptive in that it says what a person does: They influence somebody else. Anyone can do that as far as I’m concerned. The word influencer was suddenly used a few years back when – after appearing out of nowhere – social media technologies were developing incredibly fast. If you ask me, it’s got a negative connotation. No, I rather would describe myself as an entrepreneur. I founded my own company a few years back. I am personally involved in every detail, every single day – from management to individual projects. I read contracts, hold PR meetings, answer emails and phone calls, draw up concepts, work behind and in front of the camera and entertain people 24/7. You could almost compare my job to a reality show! On top of that I take drama lessons, I have worked on a pilot movie in London and I invest in startups. Those are all activities that I don’t communicate on Instagram so much and things where I’m still treading carefully. Let’s see what’s next.
“It’s a business that involves doing ten different jobs!” CARO DAUR
You’re one of the big names in the fashion business today and you’ve created a community of two million people on Instagram who follow your every move. Which preconceptions or false impressions about your job would you like to set straight? This job is no bed of roses! I can tell you that, and I try to communicate this in my daily Instagram stories. Its not easy to portray the right balance. On the one hand, I’m quite aware of the unique privileges that come with it and how incredibly grateful I can be. But there’s also a lot of pressure involved that you cannot see. I wouldn’t be able to do it without discipline and a whole lot of hard work. It can really be incredibly stressful and I go through a lot of ups and downs. During the various Fashion Weeks, for instance, my schedule is extremely full and things are very intense. On really crazy days I may attend eight different shows, which means eight different outfits!
Eight outfits in one day? Why do you have to change for every show? I don’t have to, but it gives me the opportunity to present my style. If I’m cooperating with a brand like Prada, for instance, I like to wear Prada to support their collection and as a gesture of respect toward the brand. Plus, I always think: Fashion Weeks are only two months a year, what’s wrong with powering through? So this means I’m constantly on the go, for an entire month. During this time I only get to sleep an average of four hours a night. I plan my outfits for the next day, packing up returns, the pieces of a collection that have to go back to the designers …
Wow – you really do that yourself? Sure! I do everything myself. That’s why I’m always racing against the clock. I arrange my own meetings, fittings, events, and even choose the locations myself. I try to plan things as efficiently as possible. In the early mornings before the day starts, I love to fit in an exercise class. That’s how I unwind and recharge my batteries. The first show then usually starts around 9 am. I buy snacks on the way there and eat my sandwich, fruit and sweets in the car in between shows. In the evenings I usually have elaborate seated business dinners planned.
What do you love most about your job? Oh, there’s so much! Meeting interesting people, traveling, discovering new cultures and interesting biographies. It’s a huge privilege, which I’m absolutely aware of. From the very beginning, I have always tried to look at my job from something like a bird’s-eye perspective and so I don’t think the “scene” has changed me all that much. This is something I also owe to my parents. They’ve always been there for me when I needed them and they have taught me true values and the important things in life. Of course I know very well how treacherous social media can be: how you can get caught up spending far too much time on your phone and “forget” all about real life. But I would also like to stress how many opportunities there are in the digital world. My community is very cool – I’m constantly exchanging views and ideas with my followers, learning from them, getting tips from them and even meeting them in real life.
How does that work? Can you explain? I am connected to people from around the globe. My community is so diverse and made up of people from all over the world. When I post a question on Instagram, I always receive an answer almost immediately. My followers are faster than Google! (She laughs) Here’s an example: I’m constantly on the lookout for good cafés and so I asked my followers once: Hey, what’s your favorite coffee shop? After receiving their answers, I drew up a list, which I called the Daur Coffee Tour, and shared it with them. I love doing things like that because they don’t only help me – they’re useful for all of my followers.
When you post a question to your forum of two million, how many answers do you generally get? That depends on the question, of course. If it’s a very specific question, I don’t get all that many replies. But it gets interesting when I get the same answer from completely different people! That’s when I know I’ve probably hit a hot spot. You can really do market research that way.
How would you describe your followers? Sophisticated, stylish, roughly my age, but often older too. I’d say between 25 and 35, mostly women. I know my followers very well, actually. I’ve had people from my community approach me quite often and find myself blushing with embarrassment because they’re so much cooler than I consider myself to be (She laughs). Sometimes people will say: My god, don’t you think you’re way too transparent and that you share too much of your private life? That’s when I think: But who am I, after all?
Where have you set yourself limits to what you will share? I’m always listening to my gut feeling and so I only do things I’m really comfortable with. In that sense, I’m my own barometer. I think many people spend a lot of time thinking about and planning things that their community will approve of, but I find it more important to be spontaneous and natural. Although of course I sometimes say to myself: Come on, Caro, what was that about? You should have considered what you were going to do for at least three minutes longer! (She laughs.) But it’s also important to make mistakes. I always try to reflect on what I do and show the good as well as the bad. I draw the line when it comes to illness, family-related things and very private topics.
Was there ever a time when your family did not approve of what you were doing? In the early days, my father used to often ask: Do you really have to do all that? But today, he has a lot of respect for what I do and tells me often: Wow, I know very few people who work as hard as you do!
Do your parents understand your job? Yes. Because they know my daily routine – if you can call it a routine – what I do day in and day out, and they support me wholeheartedly. I work in fashion, lifestyle, beauty and fitness, and these areas all overlap. If I go to a film festival like the one in Cannes, for instance, I meet people from many different industries – people who work in fashion, beauty, film, music and lifestyle. Very often, new contacts and new possibilities for collaboration will arise just from attending an event like that.
Speaking of film festivals – is it correct to say that you are aspiring to work in the film industry yourself? Yes – it’s my dream and that’s why I spend several weeks each year taking drama lessons in L.A. I already told my mom that I wanted to become an actress when I was only 11 years old. In kindergarten, my dream was to become an opera star, but that ended the minute I realized that I couldn’t sing (She laughs). Later on, in high school, I took a drama class. That’s when I realized that acting was what I really wanted to do! It was so much fun that I joined the drama club as well. After graduating from high school, I couldn’t decide at first whether to study political science, drama, business or law. I finally decided to go to business school since I’m an anxious type and wanted to be sure to have a solid foundation on which to build. While I was at college, I also worked for Michael Page, a headhunter company in Hamburg.
You were always a straight “A” student – is that true? Yes… almost. After my final exams in high school I was only two points away from what I had been hoping for. While the other students were already celebrating, I was applying to retake one of the Abitur exams. I wanted a top result! So for two weeks I did nothing but study, and guess what: After repeating the oral exam to improve my average, I still missed my objective by one point. But at least I tried!
You’re quite an ambitious person, aren’t you. Um, yes, “quite” is putting it mildly. (She laughs)
“I’m always listening to my gut feeling and only do things I’m really comfortable with. In that sense, I’m my very own barometer.”
About those jobs you took while still a student: What were you more interested in, earning money or gaining experience? I was interested in both. I did a lot of different things, including tutoring and spot-hitting for a catering company. I worked whenever they needed me. Sometimes I would begin at 4 am doing breakfast service at a hotel in Hamburg. Other times I flipped crepes at Heide Park Resort, a big amusement park in Soltau, not far from Hamburg. But I wasn’t very good! (She laughs) Maybe those part-time jobs weren’t always fun, but I definitely gained some amazing experience. Today, looking back, I often think: Isn’t it funny that I once flipped crepes in an amusement park?
Instagram was founded in 2010 and your community, the people who follow you on your personal account, grew right along with the app. In 2005, after Nike, the sports company, had approached you regarding a collaboration, you decided to take some time off from your studies and concentrate on your business. That cannot have been an easy decision. My workload was becoming increasingly difficult to manage by mid-2015. I was traveling all the time and it didn’t take me long to realize that I simply had way too much on my plate: my studies, my job with Michael Page and now this completely new venture. So I decided – for a while, anyway – to concentrate on growing my business. I much prefer doing one thing well to doing three things only partially well. I’m a perfectionist through and through.
What were you hoping to do one day career-wise when you applied to business school? I was hoping to join a big company. My focus university was business management. I enjoyed law very much, in fact. For statistics and math I often had to stay at the library until midnight, studying.
Today you are the boss of your own company, Caro Daur GmbH, which you started in 2017. I’ve always been an independent person, founding my own company was a natural step. On the one hand, I like to do my own thing, on the other, I am a very social person! That’s me – a typical Pisces. Yes, I do love astrology! I like to swim with the crowd but I also need to be able to withdraw and be by myself. But in the end, I never really do that, though (She laughs). When I’m traveling, for instance, I’m the last person you’ll find sitting in their hotel room by themselves. Unless, of course, I sense a bad vibe. I can feel those immediately and always want to understand whether it’s me putting out that vibe and whether there’s anything I can do to change that. I always try to reflect and am very interested in the human psyche and how it works.
Who are the three people in your life you listen to the most and turn to for advice? My sister and my parents.
Tell us about your childhood – how did you grow up? In a small village called Maschen, close to Hamburg in northern Germany. I was a free spirit already as a child – very open, very talkative, interested in everything and always asking questions. I think I must have driven my teachers crazy sometimes. And they either thought: What else is she going to ask next? or they warned me: Caro, get to the point! Actually, I haven’t changed very much at all since then (She laughs).
Your relationship to your parents is very close, and when you have a few days off and happen to be in Hamburg, you like to stay at home with them. A fact you also love to share with your followers. Last year, I was on the road for 315 days! So I really didn’t see a point in moving out. On the other hand, I think it’s important to eventually leave the nest one of these days and I intend to start looking for my own apartment soon. But I also kno that when I do that, I will miss my parents even more.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now? I definitely want to have a husband and kids one day because I’m very much a family person. Just like a Border Collie, I’m always trying to keep the flock together. I’m a real mom type of person, too. The kind that organizes everything and takes care of everything. My mother had me when she was 39, so I’m not in a hurry or worried that I might miss out by not starting a family right away. I want to take advantage and enjoy all the opportunities that are coming my way right now and the rest – I am sure – will follow.
… and careerwise? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I would love to concentrate more on acting. I also feel my interests for art and in the tech industry growing. I am contemplating starting my own charity organization. With my reach, it would be a shame not to use that and go further in that direction. Or get more involved in politics, for that matter. (Editor’s note: Caro Daur urged her followers on Instagram to vote in the European elections in May 2019).
Many companies surely today regard you as an authority and seek your advice. Are you often approached for tips and tools about what works on Instagram and what doesn’t? Sure, there are sometimes requests. But it is my conviction that Instagram doesn’t work with a strategy you develop. It is a platform for people and not a machine. We’re not a theoretical business case, there’s no formula. I still think what you need most is authenticity.
So there’s no recipe for success? I’ve had many people come up to me and ask: Why don’t you write a book and explain how you do what you do and how everything developed? But I cannot explain how to build a community of followers. It’s so much more than that. You see that when you look at other people who have become successful in their field: They didn’t follow a particular formula. Things fell into place in a certain way. When people ask me for my top five tips I always have to laugh. Here is my best advice: Do your own thing! And make sure you don’t look left or right, or compare.
“I’ve been asked to write a book about my business, but there’s no magic formula. My best tip: Just do your own thing!” CARO DAUR
One business venture other women in your business aspire to is to create their own fashion collection under their name. Chiara Ferragni, for instance, the Italian fashion entrepreneur, built up a million-dollar business via Instagram doing exactly that. Is this something you have also considered? Naturally. I’ve had all kinds of ideas where that’s concerned, but the problem is, as so often, putting together the right team. I’m only 24 and I’d like to gather more experience before trying something new too quickly.
Last night at the mfAR Gala, Ferragni stopped by your table to say hello. Is there such a thing as friendship in this business? Yes, of course! Chiara and I have met up privately several times already. I’ve made many new friendships through my work and we write each other, telephone or have regular FaceTime conversations. For example, I am very close friends with Barbara Sturm and her family (Editor’s note: Dr. Barbara Sturm, the beauty entrepreneur). And all of this happened originally through Instagram. Crazy, isn’t it?
What has been the best moment in your career so far? Oh, there there have been so many! But one of them was definitely being photographed by Peter Lindbergh. It was an incredible honor. He is such a unique person, so friendly and sincere. Then there was the collaboration with MAC (Editor’s note: Caro Daur has already created two lipstick collections for the Canadian cosmetics company) – it was amazing. I’m close friends with most of the people on the MAC team. I call them my MAC family for a reason!
What are the values that you identify with and that you instill in your brand? It’s important to me not to take myself too seriously. I’m not always in a great mood, but when that happens I own and accept it. Empathy, respect and sensitivity are the magic words for me. I think I primarily have my parents to thank for that, because I have learned a lot from them, also about how to be with one another as a couple. My parents never argue and always treat each other lovingly. I treasure that and I realize and make myself aware as often as I can how fortunate I am to be able to live such an amazing life.