FASHION COLUMN: Sheenie Yip on the Artistry of Identity and Consumption
Charlie Kolbrener | Dec. 1, 2017, 3:36 a.m.
It is certainly difficult to mitigate the contest between the pitfalls of consumerism and an interest in fashion. Clothing, after all, is a wearable expression of materialism. But fashion is also an integral aspect of people’s ability to create a sense of identity. For some, it can be a safety net, or a comfort blanket. So we cannot condemn fashion (and the brand fetishization that comes with it) as only an extension of the negatives of capitalism. It is not always just an attempt to fulfill socialized images; it can be attempt to fulfill your desired image.
This week I sat down with Sheenie Shannon Yip SC ’18.Yip’s look transcends segregation of styles. Elements of formal wear and European streetwear all play into Yip’s distinctive style. We talked about Sheenie’s experiences with developing a personal sense of style, and how fashion can operate as both a form of self-expression and an extension of consumerism.
TSL: How did you become interested in fashion?
Sheenie Yip: I think my experience is really specific because, for a good chunk of my life, up until I was like twelve, I had really bad skin problems so I couldn’t wear anything but sweats all the time … And then, I lived in Shanghai from nine to twelve, and then, when I moved back I just wanted to remake myself ... I mean obviously I had a rough start. I wore some weird shit. Tumblr helped me shape my style and know what’s out there.
TSL: Who inspires you?
SY: I really got into shaping my personal style or standing out through observing Japanese Harajuku or FRUiTS. FRUiTS magazine is like this – it’s stopped now, but there’s this specific place in Harajuku where people dress a very specific way. I would wear tattoo tights with guns printed on them and these skeleton hand necklaces that were like chokers with fake blood on them and studded headbands ... I think that was freshman year of highschool, or sophomore year. I wore double platform creepers and all that. From then on, I think just following Tumblr and slowly transitioning to Instagram and following very specific people that I really liked and obviously it changed over the years. Because I’m Asian-American, there’s not a lot of representation there for me in the media. I shaped it through my own media, like Tumblr and Instagram and followed a lot of Asian models or Asian fashion, lifestyle people.
TSL: What are your favorite pieces?
SY: My beret. I’m just recently obsessed with wearing a chain. I’ve been wearing a pinstripe blazer a lot. It’s getting old, I need to change it up, but that’s recently what I’m doing. I love trousers. I don't pay attention to runways all the time, but every time there’s a good pair of trousers, I’m like, “Yes.”
TSL: How do we rationalize the contest between the problems of consumerism and an interest in fashion?
SY: “There’s no ethical consumption under capitalism.” I guess I can avoid thinking about it as much right now because I’m not focused on buying expensive things. I do respect people who do at times when they’re very specific about it, because it’s not buying for the brands, it’s buying for the artistry behind it ... That’s why I think people make fun of hypebeasts, because they’ll buy things just because it’s hyped for a couple months and then it’s not anymore, maybe they’ll resell it. It’s evident here, but I think it’s even more evident in China, where people don’t even ascribe identity to clothing anymore. You see someone wearing like, Balenciaga shoes, or something that you would assume here is a signifier for someone that cares, but they just bought whatever they saw that was interesting to them. So there’s definitely a devaluing. I do think reselling is really interesting within the context of capitalism because … there’s something about the way that you can pass clothing around that’s very communal.
TSL: How would you describe your personal style?
SY: I love dressing down formal wear. And I think recently, just from things I’ve been looking at, I’ve started looking a lot at European street fashion. And it’s not that I try to buy those brands, like I don’t own Supreme or Palace or whatever, but I like the look. So it’s dressed down formal with a little bit of street style. Sometimes I wear girly things, but it’s only when I go out.
TSL: How has fashion worked for you as an expression of self-identity?
SY: You can essentially control how people see you. I think that I’m a very much visually expressive person. That a way to establish who I am, maybe to other people is through clothing. Not everyone does that. Also, with my skin, I think it was a way for me to control visually how I presented myself instead of wearing black sweats all the time.