He did a naked catwalk, secretly dreams of being an opera singer and became a millionaire by selling screwless design eyewear. Ralph from ic! Berlin is a bit of celebrity, though he doesn’t quite see it that way. He’s a cultural pedagogue gone founder, who now spends a good deal of his time living in the day-to-day anarchy of a life with three kids. Here he talks business, Berlin and what he would as Germany’s chancellor.
Important things first. You did a catwalk… naked. Why? (Watch the video)
We had this idea. We wanted to sell jeans besides our glasses, but just one single model. So obviously we couldn’t just present it. It needed to provoke. Maybe even hurt a little. My idea was this – the modern man has so much clothes to choose from, he can’t decide what to wear and accidentally goes out naked. And so I did.
That sounds like it required a lot of bravery. Maybe a bit of craziness, too?
Most of all it required a lot of radicalism. Being radical in the role I was playing was the key. If you told me to run through Soho House naked now, I would do it.
Okay, run through Soho House na-… just kidding. Can everyone learn being radical?
You can teach anyone the tools to stay in character. In that case, being naked was the role’s costume. So actually I wasn’t naked, I was wearing the role. It only gets embarrassing when you can’t to pull it off and stick to the role.
Are you playing a role when you go out there as Ralph from ic! ?
Not really. I’m the guy who comes to a party, says hello to everyone and then leaves. I don’t drink, so I’m not really the party guy.
You don’t… what? why?
Drinking isn’t my cup of tea and parties are literally made for drugs. Remove drugs from the nightlife and it’s done and gone. The only exception is music – when the music is really really good, that’s all the drugs you need.
What sucks about Berlin?
Friedrich Liechtenstein is a good friend of mine. He’s a gifted singer and songwriter. But sometimes, he completely fucks up his show. What he says then is: „Yeah, I know. Just imagine this was a very very well made movie about a guy who completely fucks up his show“. He’s the prime example for all of Berlin – people just don’t try very hard. At the same time, that’s also the best thing about Berlin.
Did you ever want to quit ic! and just leave it be?
There was a point when I was close to quitting. The other two founders and me were these three guys from Oldenburg having this big business love affair. After 5 years a fight over the company’s future broke out. I went through it with clenched teeth and didn’t like it one bit. I was close to calling it quits, when an adviser told me to fight through it. In the end I was glad I did – it earned me the company.
Do you work extra hours?
I don’t actually work that much. ic! Berlin was designed to run on its own at some point. And it does.
So what do you do on an average day? Usually one of my kids sleeps over, I cook some breakfast, do Tibetan yoga, go jogging, grab some lunch and pick up my smallest kid in the afternoon. After that, I’m usually living in my children’s day-to-day anarchism.
What would you do if you couldn’t fail?
Become an opera singer.
Your future CV says you’ll be chancellor from 2034 to 2044. What’s the first thing you do? I’d stop speaking. Once, I didn’t talk for 3 days for an art event. It creates a crazy tension. Since politics is essentially made of words, not speaking as a chancellor would be a great experiment.
Berlin in 3 words?
Laid-back. Lazy. Creative.