There’s a scar on Mogli’s upper lip that looks like it was from a gnarly situation, so it’s not something I initially bring up. But the Berlin-based musical artist/filmmaker/fashion designer casually mentions it during the photoshoot anyway, as though it’s always been a part of her life. Turns out, she only got the scar back in January; a dog had bitten her in Ethiopia, where Mogli was working with the German NGO Viva Con Agua, an organization that builds wells in clean water-deprived areas.
Mogli is full of these fantastically off-the-grid anecdotes: at 25 years old, she’s already cycled through New Zealand, backpacked through Southeast Asia, and roadtripped around Australia in a camper van (and that’s barely scratching the surface of her travelogue). Mogli’s most epic journey to date is actually widely available to view at home—it’s a documentary on Netflix, Expedition Happiness, that she co-directed with her ex-boyfriend; it chronicles their 11-month drive from Alaska to Mexico in a converted school bus. All of these global jaunts, in comparison, make Mogli’s current road travel in the U.S. seem rather tame, though the trip that brings her to New York City is monumental in itself. As a folk-pop musician, Mogli is on her first American tour in celebration of her new EP, Patience, which is a follow-up to her previous releases Bird (2015) and Wanderer (2017). By the end of this month, Mogli and her band will have made it cross-country, with a detour in Canada.
Though she’s got an insatiable appetite for adventure, Mogli’s top priority is to travel as mindfully as possible: she flies only when necessary (as to not contribute to a larger carbon footprint), she exclusively wears sustainable clothing brands or vintage, and she only uses vegan beauty products. Mogli even designs her own thoughtfully-produced apparel and accessories through MADEKIND, a European fashion collective dedicated to social responsibility. As a lover of the wild outdoors, Mogli incorporates self-recorded nature sounds into her live performances, sharing snippets from far-flung destinations with her audiences.
At The Hotel 50 Bowery in downtown Manhattan, several hours before her second-ever U.S. show, we asked Mogli about her favorite earth-friendly brands, the style tip that’s made packing a breeze, and how her transient lifestyle informs her music-making process.
FINDING A HOMEBASE
“There’s a lot more value in building a life at home that you’re happy with.”
My last trip [from the documentary] took a whole year, and I noticed in the end that I really don’t want to be abroad anymore. I really want to be at home. I’m still young and will need to travel, but I don’t have this urge to escape from my life anymore. I learned that there’s a lot more value in building a life at home that you’re happy with, and that you don’t constantly need an escape from it. So I live in Berlin, where all my friends are, and I’ve been there for nearly a year. It’s where I feel most at home, and I’m really happy there. I used to go away for three months [at a time to] feel at ease and to feel grounded, but now I’m think, “That’s not good.” You should have a life where you don’t need a three-month escape from to be happy.
I grew up in a big city, in Frankfurt, so the first thing I did when I was free, as an adult, was find nature and seek wilderness. I went straight to Australia and started traveling all over the world. Then, I came home and lived in the countryside because I thought that would be the best for me. But eventually I got super bored, like, “What do I do here?” I missed the city and the community. Berlin’s super international, and you can do something exciting every day. The liveliness of the city really inspires me to make music, and I think that’s the best combination for me at the moment. I have the freedom of a crazy town to be who I am, and explore all the different things I can do in a big city, and do my art. You can hear the city in the Patience EP; it’s where I came back to from my big trip when I was abroad for 11 months, literally in nature all the time. The EP is very intuitive and it’s more like a collection of moments of who I was last year when I wrote it. I was in Berlin, and you could definitely hear that in the music; it’s more electronic.
PERFORMING IN AMERICA
It’s been different touring in America because in Europe I’m used to playing in front of thousands of people, and the shows here are smaller. I got famous in Germany really fast [from my film] so my first concert was in front of 500 people, which was insane. I didn’t know what I was doing and I had never been on a stage. I’m really enjoying the U.S. tour because it’s more intimate and I get to meet the fans and connect with them. American fans are crazy, man! They get really into it, cheering and screaming, fighting at the merch table to get a picture. It’s different in every country.
It’s such a privilege to be able to travel, and to have a visa from a country where your passport allows you to basically go anywhere. I would really love to see the whole world, but at the same time I feel very selfish when I travel. [We] don’t give anything back to the countries we visit, we just take the experience and then we leave. Also, we leave a big footprint when we fly so I try not to travel [for leisure] anymore, because I have to travel for my work. I’m always trying to make better choices when I go abroad. People think I’m this huge wanderer because I’ve been everywhere, but now, if I go on holiday, I literally take my dog and go to a forest, two hours away from Berlin, and stay a week there. That’s my plan for the summer actually, to go to a lake and hang.
I have a capsule wardrobe at home, so packing for me is really easy, because all of my clothes go together. I can literally take four pants and four T-shirts, and know they will all go together even if I combine them in different ways. I think that’s my biggest tip, to have a wardrobe at home that you feel really comfortable with, and get rid of things you don’t feel 100% confident in. I pack a couple of high-waisted pants, crop tops, and jumpers that I can always wear. I have suits that I wear on stage at night, but I can take a blazer and wear it at daytime. I pack very basic clothes and leave room in my luggage because I know I’ll be shopping in vintage stores [while on the road]. It’s actually the first thing we do as a band when we arrive in a new city—we go vintage shopping. New York City is the best for that; we’ve already been to Known To Man, L Train, Monk, and Buffalo Exchange in Williamsburg.
“Get rid of things you don’t feel 100% confident in.”
I only wear sustainable fashion. I love Closed jeans, which is a German brand. Everlane has really beautiful basics and Reformation has trendier pieces. I love wearing vintage because that’s the most sustainable way of shopping. I love Veja sneakers, which is a sustainable shoe brand from France. I wear Doc Martens; I have Doc Marten sandals and Doc Marten boots. I don’t wear heels, but I have a pair of chic boots from Aeyde for performing. I usually wear nine or ten rings every day, one on every finger. Some of the rings are presents; I have one that’s from my mom and one that’s from my best friend, so wearing them is like always having my family with me. I designed two of the rings myself last year, for my sustainable fashion collection.
NATURAL BEAUTY PRODUCTS
All of my products are from the same brand, Hej Organic, and they only use natural ingredients. I love using one brand because I know everything will work together very well, and I can feel that. It’s really good for my skin if I don’t have to mix so many products. I use a serum, a face wash, a tonic, and a cream. Sometimes masks, too. That’s something I really love to do as self-care—if I have half a day off, I love to take a bath and put a face mask on, just take some time for me.
I don’t wear makeup during the daytime, but 45 minutes before a show, I’ll sit down and do my makeup for about 15 minutes. It’s meditating for me. The cosmetics I can’t live without are a blusher and highlighter from Amazingy. I would ditch everything else for those two products because they can make you feel alive and give you that glow. Sometimes I’ll go on with red lipstick, depending on the outfit, but I always use a blusher, highlighter, and concealer.
“I only saw the treetops and the sky. I wrote a song while I was floating in the water.”
- 1Closed jeans, €179
- 2Aeyde ankle boots, €245
- 3Hej Organic Energizing Face Serum, €14.95
- 4Hej face cream €2
- 5Hej face masks, €11
- 6Veja sneakers, €115
- 7Amazingly mineral blush, €39
- 8Amazingly highlighter, €42
- 9Propercorn Sweet + Salty, $5
- 10Away Medium suitcase in Aluminum, $575
- 11Marshall noise-cancelling headphones, $249
MOST MEMORABLE TRAVEL MOMENT
They have beautiful cenotes [natural sinkholes] in south Mexico in Yucatán, filled with fresh water. I was in the middle of the jungle, and there was no one there except me and my ex-boyfriend, and there was literally a large hole in the ground filled with fresh water that you can float in. As I was floating, I looked up and there was the jungle above me; I only saw the treetops and the sky. I wrote a song while I was floating in the water.
[My favorite road snack is] sweet and salty popcorn from Tyrrell’s and Propercorn; I’m addicted. I like to drink juices in the morning so I have all my vitamins because touring can be exhausting. There’s a great podcast called Where Should We Begin? by Esther Perel, and it’s really beautiful and interesting. The host does couples counseling on the show, where couples go in for an hour, she records the session, and you can listen to it. Right now we’re watching Game of Thrones together as a band. I have a Spotify playlist called “Mine“, and it’s all my favorite songs from 2018; I listen to it all the time with my [Marshall noise cancelling] headphones. When I’m in a car for hours, I just really, really love that I don’t have anything to do. I just stare out of the window and listen to music. After two days, touring feels like your normal life, and your normal life feels like some parallel universe that you can’t remember. You just really get into it and you groove.