When Maria Barfod is not exchanging her lovely apartment in central Copenhagen to follow her husband, the musician Tomas Barfod, on tour, she curates sets for fashion shows and DJs at high-end events. And this despite the fact that she has spent the past previous years learning to say no. We met Maria on a quiet morning in her home for a talk about finding the right balance and being forced to change your career path when you want to the least.
A DANCER STUCK IN SPREADSHEETS
Maria knew what she wanted to do with her life from early on. At six, she decided she wanted to live from her dance, and at 14, she got her first paid gig. And from there, she shuttled between school, the dancing studio, touring with musicians and dancing in their videos. Shortly after having just gotten her dream role, a dancer in The Nutcracker, her career came to an abrupt halt: Chronic tenosynovitis in both legs forced her to stop.
As it usually is, when one door closes, another unexpectedly opens. And soon after the dance found its end, Maria was in charge of making the fashion Acne Jeans breakthrough in Denmark. But as she, four years later, looked out over the 60 people she had under her, Maria realised that the emails and spreadsheets were not what she was meant to be handling for the rest of her life. So, she decided to give her job up, follow her heart, and pursue a career in music.
“Having a steady base is important to me.
It is not important to me
if that base is in Copenhagen
or even Denmark,
but I could never live
out of a suitcase.”
JAZZ MORNINGS AND TECHNO NIGHTS
And so, she did. Having had a side hustle DJing for a few years while building up an extensive network in the fashion industry, she combined her love of music and clothing in a dual track career: DJ and stylist. Soon after that, both careers were running smoothly, the couple had relocated to LA, and she had more than plenty of customers, both as a fashion stylist and as a DJ — way too many. ”I had worked myself to the bone and ended up with depression,” she tells and looks back: ”At that time, I would have done anything to avoid that state. But thinking back today, I appreciate the experience because it forced me to reflect on my life and what I wanted to do with it. Essentially, I had to choose between fashion and music, but I just couldn’t leave the music.”
So today, as we enter her apartment, clearly characterised by her great, eccentric,and daring sense of style, what catches the eye is a large, professional DJ controller in the window sill. In the home of Maria Barfod and her family, music plays a large part in their life. Between the two musicians and two children, music is there from early morning until late evening: ”I sometimes wish I could be able to separate life from work, but it will never happen. Tomas and I talk about our work from we wake up in the morning until we close our eyes at night, but we have also both made a living from our hobbies. We use each other in our work and help each other out a lot.”
A LIFE FULL OF CONTRASTS
Maria is learning to say no and listen to her inner voice, telling her to only choose what is truly important to her. The rest she lets go. Still, her plate does not look remotely empty, and even if she decided to stick with music, and music only, fashion is still there. ”Maybe I consist of contrasts – I need both worlds: the quiet days in my home office as well as the nights in clubs or playing at parties. I’m not an in-between kind of person; I live for the extremities,” Maria states. ”I’m learning to find the balance, and I wouldn’t be able to go out at night if I didn’t have the silence during the day.”
Following Maria on Instagram or listening to her talk about her life and work, you soon get the expression that the Barfod family spends most of their life away from home; be that in clubs, at parties, or travelling. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye.
”We are home a lot. Of course, we have periods of travelling, or my husband goes on tour, but in-between, I would say we’re more home than out. For me to be around people at night, I need time alone. I moved my office back home, and I appreciate those days where I don’t talk to anyone after bringing the kids to school,” she tells and goes on:
”Being a child of divorce, having a steady base is important to me. It is not important to me if that base is in Copenhagen or even Denmark, but I could never live out of a suitcase.”
Maria laughs as she refers to herself as being a bit of a ”loner” but taking time to herself comes from a constant need for quiet: ”I have so much going on in my head all the time, so if I had to deal with that while having a lot of people around me, it would be too much. I used to believe I didn’t like other people, but with time I’ve realised that I just need the quiet.”
“Things need to serve a higher purpose, and on the rare occasion that we go out and buy something new, we put a lot of thought and consideration into it.”
Her home is a lovely and casual mix of decorations, art, and furniture that all ooze of the couple’s creativity. And even when everything looks so well-thought through, everything is there by chance: Most is either gifts or things found used by chance. Maria treasures her home, but to her, keeping up appearance with trends and it-pieces in her home was never the dream:
”Things need to serve a higher purpose, and on the rare occasion that we go out and buy something new, we put a lot of thought and consideration into it. Also, we have a rule that if one thing comes in, another has to go. So, there’s a constant flow in our things – the same goes for clothes.”
Getting to know herself better every day and finding just the right balance, Maria doesn’t look for happiness in things, and when asked about her dreams for the future, they are based on feelings and ideals.
”I never dreamt of the big house or finding my bliss in something materialistic. But I always dreamt of having a family and being a good person. If I have that, I have all I need.”
FIVE FUN FACTS
Monica Kim Garza. She gets me every time. The way she sees and captures women in her art is amazing. I feel like it’s me in her works, and I think a lot of people feel the same way.
Favourite cultural activity?
I couldn’t name just one; I live and breathe for art and culture. I spend as much time in art shows and gallery openings as I can. I have a lot of friends that write, but I wish I had time to read more. But I’m really good when it comes to audio books.
Going out or inviting friends over for dinner?
We always go out. I wouldn’t want things tangled up and having a fun night with friends is so much easier when you don’t have to be careful not to wake up sleeping children.
Jazz at home, techno in the clubs. You know, techno deserves the good speakers.
I could never decide on just one, because it depends on the setting, mood, or context. But I will say this much: I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing navy blue.