Style Profile: Nina Hahn ‘Tokyo Satellite’

Style Profiles have been an essential part of this blog since the inception of Third Looks. I wanted to share the personal style of people I’m inspired by and do so in a way that would capture not only their look but the thought process behind their style. The way Nina dresses is unorthodox and utterly original. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in the same outfit twice and she constantly evolves: changing her hair, accessories and adding new pieces to her wardrobe. Her appearance is striking but not over the top or attention seeking. It’s this balance between the subtle and the gaudy that really sets her apart. Her attention to detail makes her one of the most stylish people I’ve met in New York. Nina has started being a stylist on shoots and it’s clear to tell from the way she dresses herself that she a creative vision.

Rebekah Seok who took these photos (and absolutely killed the shoot I might add) wanted to title the feature ‘Tokyo Satellite’ and I think in a way that’s a fitting descriptor for Nina’s style. Her style is a confluence of her time spent in Tokyo, London, New York and other far flung destinations (both real and imagined).  Her inspirations formed through these appearances and beamed to her through things like music, books and films. I had a pretty in-depth conversation with Nina about the evolution of her wardrobe and the core things which have shaped her aeshetic identity.

Many people would look at what you wear and think that they wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Are there styles you don’t feel you could pull off?

There are some things that body type wise I can’t pull off because of certain silhouettes. Like if I wanted to wear a V-cut dress that went down to my stomach I wouldn’t wear it because it just doesn’t work with my body type or it would give off an image that I wouldn’t want to give off.

How conscious are you about giving about the image that you are giving off with how you dress?

I think the only thing is I don’t like to give off a very sexual vibe. I don’t want to wear to wear anything that I know is showing off a lot of skin and asking people to look me up and down. I don’t like to dress like that. I like mini-skirts and tight clothes but I would definitely dress it down with something that’s the complete opposite so it’s not too much.

What are some of the things that inspire your style?        

Children’s books, books in general. animation and a lot of art too. Not necessarily a illustration of a man or a woman, just the piece of art on it’s own. Even music, I like classical music and punk music a lot. I would kind of interpret a song or music in my own way and incorporate that into how I wear clothing.

See the rest of the profile after the jump

Look 1: Comme des Garcons top, Black Comme des garcons pants, Tokyo Bopper shoes. 

Where did your interest in clothes come from?

My grandpa used to work at Givenchy in the 60’s in Paris. He had to quit because my Grandma wasn’t having the fact that he was in Paris and his family was in Japan. He always regretted it, which is why he talked about it a ever since he retired; all he really talked about was clothes and he would show me magazines.

Without even being conscious of it , I started looking at things in terms of aesthetics. When I would meet people I would people them by what they were wearing and stuff like that. That was when I was very young, when I was in middle school, high school I started going to places like Harajuku and Shibuya which is the central fashion scene of the city.   So eventually I started mixing what I learned at home (Vogue Magazine and high fashion Audrey Hepburn stuff) but I was seeing colorful very colorful Asian Harajuku style so they kind of blended together and formed my aesthetic.

JSG dress, Junya Watanabe jacket, vintage boots

Do you feel like you have enough clothes, or you always want more?

I always want more. I’ve never given away my clothes or sold any of them. So I have a big wardrobe but I don’t think it’s enough. I know it’s a luxury to have so much because you really only need stuff to keep you warm and comfortable. I know I have more than I need for a lifetime but I’m not satisfied for sure.

Do you feel like a collector in that sense, do you buy things just to have it?

Yeah, I buy stuff that I know I’m never going to wear. I need to have it because I want to use it in photoshoots because I style a lot. So if I see something I want to be shot in an editorial I’ll just buy it.

Look 2: Rick Owens shirt, Trash & Vaudville bralette, Junya Watanabe skirt, Tricot CdG socks, Chanel sneakers  

Mentally what is the approach you bring to styling? How is that different than the approach you take with dressing style?

I style the clothes but I like to direct the whole photoshoot more in terms of the background and who specifically is wearing it. I want to create an entire mood.  I’m usually good with clothes; don’t know how to photograph for example.  I prefer creating this entire fantasy world for the shoot.  For me, I’m going to work or school so I can’t choose the background, when I style stuff I get to pick out many more aspects.

You’ve travelled quite a bit, how did your time in Japan specifically and other places impact your style?

When I lived in Japan I never really realized I was getting inspired. It’s such a closed country I felt that was a Japanese thing. I thought that whole Harakjuku aesthetic, I thought that was normal.  I came to America and I realized just how much it was built in me. The proportions of the things I like, my style is very Japanese. I never realized it ‘til I left it. I compare it to what I see here and that’s when I realized I must have subconsciously really liked it and it’s really built inside me now.

Same thing with London, I haven’t been to London too many times but I’ve always liked the culture there. The designers and the music scene there in particular.  I’ve played close attention to a lot of those London brands and I noticed my style is quite a bit of that.

How do you reflect on Tokyo style now that you’re away from there, what interests you about it.

There’s a lot of different Japanese styles, some of which I don’t care for at all, and some I really adore. I do think that a lot of the Japanese style is amazing in terms of art as well. It all comes from this oppression that we go through as kids there. That’s why people who are very creative explode at a certain point and it seems so extreme and provocative.  It all comes from this repression. Sometimes I think it’s really cool that it’s so out there  but other times I don’t see it as pure because it’s about trying to be out there or too extreme. It’s more about copying and pushing what’s already out there, instead of making what comes naturally from within themselves.

It’s like an overreaction.

Exactly, it can be an overreaction.

Can you define key phases in your style over the years?

I went through an Audrey Hepburn stage where I was wearing pearls all the time. I went through a phase where I wanted to be Brazilian when I looked up the carnival in Rio and stuff and got a tan and go all out with blonde highlights.  I looked very much Brazilian or at least my interpretation of it.

I went through a minimalist phase where I just worn black jeans and a t-shirt all the time. I just switched out black jeans that were very different to me but to other people they just saw me in black jeans all the time.

I went through an extremely 20’s meets punk phase, where I was always in garter belts and red lipstick with jet-back hair and a lot of eye makeup . That was when I was in high school so I would wear corsets over button downs and leather jackets over plaid skirts to school. So I was doing a heroin chic schoolgirl kind of thing. Generally I’m always in black and white and some unexpected colors. I always have a little bit of a punk element in there.

Look 3: JSG dress, junya Watanabe jacket, vintage boots

What is about punk that appeals to you?

It’s the philosophy and the music. Originally I got into it because of the music but then I got into the philosophy of it and then came the aesthetic. That’s probably why I got so into the aesthetic anyway. Considering I work in fashion and clothing is what I do, so I pay a lot more to the aesthetic than the music. But originally I got into it through the music: the Clash, Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls and stuff like that.

 Do you see things on this masculine / feminine scale when you look at pieces?

I do like mixing it up. Sometimes I’m very girl clothes and sometimes I’m in very masculine clothes. I like both a lot; I don’t look at menswear and think, “ that would be so cool on a guy”.

What brands do you really like?                        

I like Comme, Yohji, Lost & Found, MA+, Undercover. Paul Harden I really like but I don’t think I have the charisma to pull it off, it’s better on older people I think. Elena Dawson, Prada and Miu Miu. Old Vivienne Westwood, old McQueen, old Margiela.

What about the philosophy of brands is that something you pay attention to?

I love Comme because of the philosophy. I really respect Rei and how she approaches  life and clothes.  Thats why I’ve been a follower of the brand for over 10 years. The same thing  with Yohji I really respect both their visions and their way of living and how it’s reflected in their designs. It doesn’t even matter if I don’t like their latest season, but I respect them so much and their attitude to life in general.

All photos by Rebekah Seok