Style Profile: Taylor Okata

One of the things that came up when I interviewed Tay for this style profile is how important comfort and attitude is to personal style. Tay owns some awesome designer pieces but what makes his style unique is how he confidently mixes pieces in an unconventional manner and makes them his own . Tay’s personal style was a result of his upbringing ¬†in Hawaii/LA and also his time spent living in Tokyo.

You may have seen Tay on many a streetstyle blog before in the past and after meeting him I can see why; Tay isn’t afraid to experiment and try new things with his style. ¬†I’m happy to share with you some of his favorite summer looks and also his unique perspectives on style as an individual who’s worked in a variety of roles in the New York fashion industry.

See the feature after the jump

How did you become interested in clothes? 

It really started from my upbringing as everything I think is linked to for most people. My mom was crazy into fashion, despite growing up in Haiwaii where fashion didn’t really exist at the time. We didn’t have access to it but for some reason my mom always did. She always figured out a way to turn something into the most chic thing, and she kept up with her magazines. It trickled down to my sister, then to me because it was the two of them who raised me.

I really started to get excited about it when I lived in Tokyo. It’s where I learned fashion could ¬†a part of who you were and how translated it that on the outside. Clothes are a quick way to give a glimpse of who you are and your likes and dislikes. My experience living in Japan really lead me to how obsessed I am with fashion more as a lifestyle, than just the name labels as I wear.

Look 1: Eddie Eddie by Billy Tommy Custom¬†¬†‘Reasonable Doubt’ Jersey, Pester Japan Shorts Caminando Shoes, Illesteva Glasses

What aspect of your personality do you want to come out through your clothes, are there particular you want to highlight through your style?

Some people think I take a long time to get ready but for me it’s really a grab and go. The older I get, the more it’s about quality over quantity. Everything I do own is something I’m connected to. What I do want to translate with the way I dress is my confidence and my openness. I want people to feel comfortable talking to me, I like to meet all different types of people. I don’t want to be pinpointed when people look at me and my style. When people see me they don’t know how to place me in a stereotypical category, I’m multi-racial and I come from a very diverse background and I’ve lived in many cities. ¬†I like to dress in a sense of carrying over that worldliness and diversity where people can’t put me in a stereotypical category.

Look 2: Assembly New York Hat, Raf Simons Shirt, Philip Lim pants, Adidas sneakers

How have the different cities you lived in affected your style?

That’s a great question because every time I do get interviewed about the way I dress I always bring up where I’m from, which is Hawaii but also Southern California. Hawaii is definitely influenced by West coast fashion and in particular hip-hop. When I lived in LA it was that similar type of fashion with that relaxed look. Not just denim and tees but more of the east-side nitty gritty, socks with baggy shorts and a little more of the ‘hood’ style. Thats the areas I was raised in in Haiwaii and where I lived in LA. No matter how “high fashion” I get or wherever I work in the industry, it always finds a way of incorporating itself into my style without me consciously making that decision. It’s like what I feel comfortable in, and what I end up buying from that designer is that certain piece that’s familiar to me ¬†My experience living in Japan definitely pushed me to try new things as well. Before living there I never played ¬†around with different shapes, layering, elaborate prints and textures.

How about New York City as an influence? There’s a practicality element for me here.¬†

It wasn’t one of the strongest impacts on my style. New York really reminded me of how I used to dress in LA or Hawaii. Looking back now living in the other cities having a car with AC or whatever can definitely influence what you wear. You have a lot more to think about how to get dressed in New York not just due to the weather, but also just because the pace of the city doesn’t give you the time to change or relax sometimes. You do have to think about how what you’re wearing might translate into night if you have to go somewhere straight from work for example.

Look 3: Philip Lim shirt and shorts and custom-made sandals, Illesteva sunglasses

How has working in fashion changed how you shop or how you look at clothes? 

It’s changed alot actually, not to sound jaded or anything. I’m more aware of who I’m wearing and supporting and the lifestyle that they’re portraying. Fashion is portraying a lifestyle , a fantasy and an idea. For me I’m more aware of that than ever working in the industry and I’m alot more picky that I ever was. I try my best to not let the politics affect my decisions on what I want to wear, but it’s definitely made me more aware who I’m choosing to wear.

It’s hard to go on your own road stylistically.

I feel like I go on my own road alot with fashion, sometimes you get hated on, sometimes you get made fun of, sometimes people love it. That’s kinda why I love fashion, I love that risk of the unexpected. Not necessarily dressing to fit in or to follow that same trend or culture.

What would you like to see more of in your personal wardrobe and in the industry in general? Is there anything missing right now?

It is hard to shop these days. People think I only want to wear designer because of the name but I invest those pieces of designers who’ve done something original from the beginning. I look for for functionality without being too literal.¬†It’s about finding that balance of looking very put together but also coming off relaxed and comfortable.

With menswear there’s these three sides you can kind of have to choose from. The sartorial suit guy (who likes Italian tailoring etc), the Americana guy (who wears denim and chambray shirts) , and then streetwear (sneakerheads who might incorporate more fashion elements). There are these three categories, and there’s nothing for someone like me or some of my friends. We’re older now and we don’t want anything to look too literal. Menswear adopts these three categories and doesn’t really allow people to break through them. Theres definitely original stuff out there and some designers make items that fall outside of these categories but the majority of the market seems very saturated.

What’s the balance for you when it comes to building your wardrobe and being able to switch your style up depending on the occasion.¬†

My friends have created some terms for me, like future cholo or sport forward. If I’m doing a sports look, I still do something fashion forward with it, so I still feel somewhat put together. ¬†An example of that is how I wore the New Balances with nice trousers and the Dries shirt or if I do something that’s kinda cholo with the shorts and the socks but they’re designer versions. I never want to go out the door with such an intense look. If I’m gonna do a statement shirt, I’ll pare it down with something simpler.

Look 4: Paul Smith undershirt, Dries Van Noten dress shirt ,  Timo Weiland trousers, New Balance sneakers, vintage Oakley Frogskins

How does your lifestyle and other interests play a role in how you dress or how you shop?

My lifestyle is busy, I wouldn’t say crazy. With work comes alot of events and meetings. When I do have down time I really like to chill and relax. For me relaxing isn’t staying home and watching TV, it’s more about being outside walking around the city , visiting museums and art galleries or taking a trip out of town. Whatever I wear can fit in wherever I go so I never feel like I’m not dressed up enough or I’m too dressed up. ¬†Whatever I wear can be translated into whatever I’m doing whether thats hanging out in the neighborhood with friends or going to a work event. I like to be fluid and not have to dress up for occasions. I feel like if you do that, you’re not always showing your true self.

You’ve done some styling work in the past. What is your approach to styling work? Do you always see it from your own personal style?

I¬†definitely¬†see it from my eyes first, but I do my best to take my own personal¬†aesthetic¬†out of it. ¬†You’ll still see some of me in it but for me it’s case by case. When I dress a man or a woman, I have to remember they’re not my body type and they have don’t have the same attitude as me. Attitude is a majority of the outfit. People always say “I could never wear that”, to me or a lot of my friends that dress really well. If you have that mentality you’re can’t pull something off, you’ll never pull it off.

For me 80% of the outfit is your attitude, so I have to look at my clients attitude first and go from there. If they’re really out-going and comfortable , I know they’ll be ¬†comfortable with anything I put them in so I can be more playful with¬†proportions. If someone is more timid and shy, I won’t¬†necessarily¬†go safe with a t-shirt and jeans but I won’t put them in the brightest colored pieces. I kind of look at each clients attitude and go from there.¬†