Djibril Cissé Opens Up About Fashion, Football, and Music

Djibril Cissé is a modern renaissance man. The 35-year-old recently retired French footballer spent seventeen years as a goal-driven striker for football clubs from England to France to Qatar before leaving the pitch behind and venturing more deeply into the worlds of music and fashion. In an exclusive interview with i.am+, Dijbril opens up about life after football, his unique sense of style, and giving up one game for another. 

Djibril Cisse -- photo courtesy of Max Lacome

Djibril Cisse -- photo courtesy of Max Lacome

From your experience, what’s the most important factor of being part of a team?

What’s most important in a team is the fact you can rely on other people. When you feel a little bit down sometimes it’s good to know you have people you can count on and that dependency is what makes a real team. Everybody works for everybody else’s success, everybody helps everybody—that’s what makes a winning team. When everybody moves the same way and wants the same thing, we try to help each other in every type of way. That’s a spirit you can carry with you in everyday life.  

The nature of your career has been a very active one - what does ‘always on’ mean to you?

It’s important to be the best that I can be—that’s my mentality. Even during my football career when I had two bad injuries it was really important to come back as soon as possible and to be as good as possible as well. It’s important to always be ready. To be ready to face any problem that can happen. Readiness and preparation is a big part of my success.

I need to ask you about that double leg break – one of the most famous injuries in the history of the game. Tell us how you make a comeback from that?

Well, you know you have to be strong, in every sense of the word. Mentally you have to be strong because that’s the only thing that can save you. If you start thinking that you’re done, or that you’re never going to come back as good and as strong as before, that’s when you stop doing what you’re doing and start doing something else. I wasn’t the best football player but I was one of the strongest mentally. That’s how I achieved things that people don’t dare think, like coming back after 5 and a half months. Even my surgeon and the medical staff didn’t believe it. But I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be back on the pitch within 6 months. The mind decides and the body follows. It’s all about mental strength, not just physical fitness.

Now that you’ve recently retired from the pitch what are you turning your attention to?

My intention now is to try and spend more time with my family. I’m a big fan of fashion and music so I’m DJing a little bit. I’m developing my brand Mr. Lenoir and I’m trying to be a little bit more involved now that I have the time.

You’ve clearly always had a passion for fashion, what labels and brands inspire you?

I love Japanese fashion. I love Rick Owens, too. I’m linked to Adidas; they’ve upped their game and are making really good collections at the moment. But I’m more into Japanese fashion, like I Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake—the angles and cuts are like architecture for the body. That’s what good fashion should be: something you want to live in.

You are known for your eccentricity and have had as many hairstyles in a season as you’ve scored goals! What does style mean to you?

Style doesn’t define me. I wear what I’m comfortable in and it naturally reflects who I am. You have to be proud in how you present yourself as it in an expression of how others perceive you. As long as you own your sense of style people will feel it, and respect you. It’s hard to define style as it moves with the fashion trends.  As long as you feel good in what you’re wearing, you will define style, as opposed to style defining you.  

And what about the future of fashion?

I think the future of fashion is going to be more and more integrated with technology—that’s the way both industries are moving. Will.i.am understood this a long time ago, you know, he’s always been into this robotic kind of fashion. Even in the early days of The Black Eyed Peas they were the first to move in this direction. They were a little avant-garde at the time, but its fashion now and I think it’s only going to become more and more ‘futuristic’.

I think the future of fashion is going to be more and more integrated with technology—that’s the way both industries are moving.
— Djibril Cisse

You’ve been developing your own label for a few years now, what advice can you give to others looking to develop their own successful start-up?

Always believe in yourself. It’s not always easy starting something new. Everything doesn’t always go the way you might want it to but you have to be strong and believe in your dream. If you want it enough you’ll put in the time and effort to make it happen. You have to work. Work work work and never drop the pressure.

I know your other major passion is music, what genre of music do you listen to?

At the moment I listen to a lot of afro-house… afro-beats… everything with that afro vibe! That’s what I’m into right now.

Can you dance Azonto?

Come on now… what kind of question is this?! Look at me! Of course I can! You know I can!

So music is a big part of your life, and I hear you’ve swapped the football club for night nightclub. Tell me how you’ve turned your part time hobby into your next career move.

Mr. Lenoir

I haven’t swapped to be honest. It wasn’t a choice for me to make. I had to stop playing football because of my hip. DJing has always been a passion of mine, music is a big part of my life, so for me it was an easy transition. It started off small like a hobby, and then I got booked more and more and now I’m started to get recognized for my DJing – its cool! 

Next time you DJ can we come?!

Well you’re going to have to travel a little bit – it’s this Saturday and it’s in France!

Is that an invite?

On y va!! (Translation: Let’s go!)

Lastly, what does it mean to you to be connected?

It’s important to know what’s happening. The world is moving so quickly and it’s really our own responsibility to keep up. If you want to be innovative and make a change you can’t afford to be left behind.  Whilst it’s important to know what’s going on in the world of technology and fashion, and in all the industries pushing forward, it is also important to not lose touch and to be connected with people. We used to talk about how technology and social media helps us stay connected to one another, now sometimes it can be more of a distraction. It is as important to remain present as it is to be connected.

Je te remercie pour aujourd’hui – tu es genial!

 (Translation: Thanks for your time today – we think you’re dope!)