Child of the Sea

21 June 2017

Photographer Eva Gii
Interview Brogan Andersen
Words Ellen Coyle
Model Dorian Bitouala at Dulcedo Model Management

"I think with this generation we can’t be one hundred percent free."

Dorian. His name means 'child of the sea' and is symbolic of the way he embraces life with open arms. There's a plethora of possibilities extending across dozens of topics that he wants to explore - a master of touristry or a maker of garments. United in strong will and soft features combined, photographer Eva Gii authentically captures this French born Toronto boy through her lens. In a black and white portrait series, she serves fragments of Dorian at Dulcedo Model Management and his masculine exterior.

A traveller at heart, Dorian constantly longs for the exotic lands he hasn't set foot on. Yet. Embodying that indisputably French 'je ne c'est quoi', but with an enlightened twist like that busker you once saw on the metro who played music more beautiful than Debussy. So unlike the twisted and deceiving Dorian Gray, his fictional name-twin. Our Dorian writes his own stories. Making the most of his youth, each day is an opportunity to explore and learn, although occasionally he wishes he grew up in the 90s, when everything was way cooler.

In this interview feature you see Dorian’s mind unravel, as he recounts his adventures in hospitality, the curious story behind his orchid tattoo and why his generation will never be ultimately free.

When did you start modelling?

I came to Canada and started modelling in April 2014 after my studies. I wanted to stay in Canada for six months, because I wanted to improve my English. I was planning on going back to France or to another country afterwards, but I really liked living in Toronto, so I decided to stay for the whole year. I started to work in a French restaurant in a district of Toronto, and while I was working there during the summer an agent scouted me from Next Models. They didn’t keep me on after I was scouted, but they motivated me to try to sign with other agencies, and finally I ended up with my current agency Dulcedo.

What did you study?
I studied hospitality and management, because when I was a kid I wanted to be a chef. Then I saw the reality of the kitchen - so I decided to stay in tourism, because I still wanted to travel. Now that I’ve travelled a lot, I've reconsidered why I studied it, because even though I really like hospitality, it’s not what I want to do as a job or anything like that. I really enjoy it, but I did it just to be able to travel.

Have you done a lot of travelling so far?
Yes, I travelled to China for four months for a training period, so that was a good experience. I was on a very small island working in a resort hotel, so it was a good experience to see the culture. I had travelled before that on holiday, but with my experience of China in 2010 - when I finished there - I wanted to go straight to another country. That’s why my first goal after that was to try to go to an English speaking country or London, but the living there was quite expensive, so I decided to go to Canada. I still live in Toronto, I think it’s the general ambience. I’m from Paris so, if I were to compare a Parisian and somebody from Toronto, I prefer, one hundred percent, someone from Toronto.

Have you found your place?
Yes, exactly. Canadians are very humble and you can talk to everybody. Even if you don’t speak English you can go into a store and people will help you. In Paris, the general reputation we have is that we're very cold. Here it’s different. I like the culture. I don't regret deciding to leave France for Canada, except for my family and friends and maybe some food you can’t find here.

When did your interest in fashion and designers begin?
It was when I started modelling really. I knew the difference between designers and a bit of their story, because of my family's interest in fashion. My father has a background in Congolize, so I have inherited this interest from my dad and my uncles. They have really nice shoes in very good quality - very expensive clothing. My mum is from Italy, and on her side my youngest uncle has influenced me - he had this Italian or European influence in the way he dressed. My watch and my Gucci belt were given to me by him. That was really the first gift I got and maybe he gave me some sort of good taste.

Is design something that you would ever want to turn your attention to?
I have a friend who has his own brand, so sometimes I help him by proposing some logo designs, but because it’s not my brand, it doesn't feel the same. I have a book where I would want to start drawing - if I have an idea. I got it for Christmas and haven't had the time to use it yet, but for sure it’s something that I will teach myself. For now, I just put all my ideas in a book. My biggest dream is to one day create my own brand. When you have a dream, it’s never too late. Life is about finding your goal, work hard for it and believe in it.

What other things are you passionate about?
I used to play the drums and draw a lot. I had this artistic thing, but never studied art, because I thought I'd never find a job in it. If I could go back, I’d do some artistic studies. I really admire people who create something that people believe in. Like I know Michael Jackson did something like that when he was dancing. I also really love music. I have an interest in music coming from my Dad, who's into African music. My mum used to live in London, so she was influenced by English artists such as Massive Attack, The Doors and The Beatles. I'm listening to more and more soul and hiphop, but in general I listen to a bit of everything. It’s something I love, you know? But it’s not something I would put my whole life into. Maybe I’m in between the musician who plays music and the regular guy who listens to music.

What about travelling?
I really love travelling. I’m trying to travel at least once per year. This summer I’m going back to France, and maybe next year I’ll to go to an exotic place like South America or Thailand. Indonesia is also a place I’m very attracted to. Travelling is really good, because it’s kind of like going to school - it opens your mind. You become more understanding with others and also with yourself. You adapt to a new culture. There are so many places in this world with such different cultures. It’s something that’s going to follow me all my life - this need to travel.

You said you cook. What’s your best dish?
If I had to choose a French recipe, it would be orange duck marinade with green beans and caramelized onions. If you want a general dish, I really like curry and BBQ ribs. It’s really easy, fast and really good. For dessert, I think a good homemade apple pie. It’s a classic.

You have a lot of tattoos, which one was your first?
My first tattoo I had done is on my back. It’s an orchid. I had it done when I came back from China. I went to a national park there and it was full of exotic plants. A Chinese kid explained the story of the flower and I really love the orchid, because it’s very beautiful, although it doesn’t smell of anything. My own interpretation of it is to be humble – if you see the beauty of the flower, it doesn’t need the smell to show you that it's beautiful. I got three flowers, because it’s my lucky number and also represents my mum, dad and little brother. I wanted to picture them in a different way, because they are beautiful and they don’t need to show or tell me that. They are like orchids to me.

Who is your favourite designer?
Yoji Yamamoto. The first time I heard about him was in a Congo lesson. There is this song that talks about all these designers and I don’t know why, but Yoji Yamamoto in the music sounded funny. I saw his collection one day in Paris when I was maybe eight years old, nine years old - and it wasn't until later, at a family occasion where all my family and friends to get together that it came back to me. It was almost a championship of who was the more elegant guy, all the men would be shouting like; "oh my pants are Yoji Yamamoto, my vest is Hugo Boss", and it was the second time I had heard Yoji Yamamoto. His creations were sort of Congolize and I really liked the brand, because it was like the influence from my dad’s music. I also really like the creation of Y3 with Adidas. I like couturistic sport. It’s futuristic, but not too much. Japanese and South Korean fashion is something I really like. It’s like they’re in the future, the way they eat, the way they are about their hair - like they’re ahead. I think a key trend is to put skirts on men and then people are shocked by it. I saw that as a kid, when I was talking about Congolize fashion, men would wear skirts. To me a big change in fashion now is creating something for men and women, it’s the new trend. I know a lot of girls now who can dress like boys if they want to and we’re not going to look at them like it’s not elegant. The new look now - to be cosy, elegant, but cosy. I really like to be dressed well, but I really like to be cosy also.

What was it like growing up in France?
I used to live with my mum in a small town really close to Paris. It’s a very peaceful neighbourhood, but there is nothing to do there, so I was always in Paris. There was another city close to Paris called Clichy and I'd go there when I had the opportunity to see my dad, or when I was with my cousin. I never did stupid things as a young guy, because I was innocent in a way. My mum has a very strong character, as she never let us waste time doing stupid things, and gave me the best education - like what is good and what is bad. She had to, and I understand why she had to be like that with me. I had a lot of confrontation, but I never did really stupid things. I was tempted to, but because I had this education from my parents, I couldn't disappoint them.

What’s your lifestyle like now?
Right now, I’m focused on finding a university for next year - I’m going to return to studying. I want to do something like business, because if I want to start my own brand or open my own shop I need to know the business. I want to go back to school in Toronto to improve my English. My English is better now, but I really want to speak English as good as I speak French.

Who influences you?
Kanye West. He’s a big role model for me, because he wanted to be in fashion - he’s a rapper, he’s black, and he wanted to go into high fashion. He’s a good influencer, because he has taken some risks. I like Ian Connor, he’s a very young stylist, and for me he’s having a big influence on style right now. Also A$AP Rocky. His music, like when he was mixing American culture with Parisian culture, I really liked the way he did that. Or Pigalle, he inspired me a lot, because he learned fashion by himself. He created a shop in Paris with his family and friends and step by step he created this brand. Now it’s a really big name, yet still very humble. He didn't go to school for fashion, but he has proved that with motivation you can still learn it. Also, that if you just have the patience and work hard, but still fail, it’s okay. It’s part of everything.

How do you think social media is affecting your generation?
For me, when we talk about social media it’s apps like Instagram, Snapchat or even Twitter that is changing the way people are living. I mean, you have to be very careful when posting, for example if it’s political I’d rather not talk about it, because we all have different opinions and it can offend others if you say something on social media about your political views. You have to be careful for a lot of reasons. I think social media is good though, it’s like every new thing - progress can both have a good and a bad effect. For the good things, if you're interested in something, it’s a good way to find somebody with the same interest as you. You can meet other people from different parts of the world easily. We have everything now on the internet and it’s good in a way, but when you’re for instance scrolling down your Instagram for research, pictures that you pass might subconsciously slip into your mind. You might think you have an idea or something, but it's actually just something you’ve seen before. You could end up copying without being fully aware. I think social media is the reason why people say the new generation is lost.

How old are you now?
I was born in 1991, but I would have loved to be 25 during the 90s. The quality of clothing and music was better then. Now we just take what was before and change or add something, but creating something completely new? Honestly, I can’t see something like that happening now. If I talk about fashion, music and art - for me it’s like a circle. Maybe I am mistaken, but for the music industry, I can’t see a new Michael Jackson. For big artists like Justin Bieber, they can sell the same amount of albums as Michael Jackson, but for me it’s not the same thing. I can't see a new Michael Jackson or Prince in this generation. Maybe because of the new age of social media, we have become less engaged. Now I think people are using social media, because they know they can’t succeed without it. If they have their own business - it’s a good marketing resource, but at the same time I think people are a little bit scared. It’s like playing with fire. I think it can be very dangerous. I’d rather post nothing than post something and make a mistake, and I think that's why with this generation we can’t be one hundred percent free.

What is your ultimate dream?
My main dream is to create my own brand one day. Before that I want to open my own shop. For someone who has no experience in fashion - I have just my modelling experience - I think it’s better to keep this brand idea in my head than to go about creating immediately. It’s better to observe and get experience from others. All the big designers worked for a fashion maison before creating their own brand. I really want to learn a bit in the beginning and see if I’m capable. In Toronto, I’m trying to look for a job as a stylist. I think this summer I’m going to try to create a book of proposals. I want to learn fashion, by doing styling and then maybe one day open my own shop. I mean this is my dream, but maybe something will happen and I’ll change my mind. You never know.

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