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How I Shop: Hana Tajima

The longtime Uniqlo collaborator shares her affinity for vintage clothing, DIY and finding cashmere sweaters and silk camisoles on Ebay.
Hana Tajima. Photo: Courtesy of Uniqlo

Hana Tajima. Photo: Courtesy of Uniqlo

We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."

When New York-based, British-Japanese designer Hana Tajima first partnered with Uniqlo in 2015, she considered her collaboration — a range of modest clothing primarily released in Southeast Asia — a small project. Fast-forward four years later and her seasonal collections for the major Japanese retail brand have gone global, expanding to the U.S., as well as the rest of the world. "Our designs have a really nice intersection between LifeWear and making clothes made to be worn and lived in," says Tajima to Fashionista. "It's been really fantastic."

For her most recent offering, which arrived in Uniqlo stores in March, Tajima aimed to evoke a feeling of stillness, or "the simplicity of the divine," as she describes it. Having moved from Brooklyn to the greener pastures of upstate New York — two hours north of the city in a town called Kingston, along the Hudson River — Tajima's affinity for nature is obvious in the current collection, too, such as her own illustrations of botanical-inspired motifs on satin square-shaped stoles.

But before Tajima focused her efforts on designing with Uniqlo, she was mainly recognized for her namesake blog, featuring creative inspirations and photos showcasing her personal style: an effortless mix of timeless pieces with thoughtful pops of interesting prints and textures. Over the phone from her home in Kingston, Tajima told us all about how she shops, from her love of vintage clothing and preference for DIY over purchases, to her never-ending search for cashmere and silk camisoles on Ebay

"My personal style is simple but specific. There's an intention behind what I'm wearing: I will pick my clothes based on how I want to feel, as opposed to how I want to look. That often starts with one piece that I really want to wear that day and then I'll build around that.

To be honest, [dressing modest] has really become second nature to me. I don't think of it as modest wear, I think of it as understated, so it's more like an intention of what I bring into what I choose to wear. It doesn't even feel like I'm having to make a conscious decision of, 'I need to cover' or 'I need to wear something specific.' It's more like, 'I would be more comfortable if I was wearing this.' In the winter, I'll wear cashmere sweaters and really loose, wide pants and that's just a uniform. Then when spring rolls around I'll start to get adventurous again. I really love wearing dresses because they're so easy. They're one piece and it answers my entire question for what I'm going to wear today.

I live in Kingston, N.Y., right on the river and it's really beautiful. I grew up in the countryside in England in the middle of a national park. After living in Brooklyn, I finally moved out of the city and it's been really wonderful. I love the slower pace of life and just being around nature more. But my style has definitely changed. It's really funny how quickly you turn into wearing the same things every day. 

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But I realized that I do enjoy getting dressed in the morning and feeling like I'm presenting the best version of myself; being creative with clothing — that's what I live for. I remember while growing up in a small town, I would wear these crazy ridiculous outfits for an eight-year-old and walk around being like, 'This is who I am, this is me.' So it kind of feels like I'm going back to that. I'm not under any pressure to look a certain way but it's nice to feel that fun and playfulness again.

I've always been drawn to vintage styles, too. There's so much depth in clothing. I love digging into archives and discovering things that were maybe overlooked and bringing it back to life. I'm definitely drawn to looser silhouettes; I really love that androgynous look. In terms of color, I tend to revert to a more neutral color palette but I'll have these moments — actually in times like this when spring is just around the corner — where I'm like, 'No, I can't wear black anymore. I've got to live with more color and prints.' It never lasts that long but for a moment, I'll emerge from my black cocoon and, slowly after a few months, I'm crawling back into it.

For the longest time, I basically shopped on Ebay and in vintage stores, and all of my basics I have gotten from Uniqlo since forever. I don't necessarily enjoy shopping, like being out in a busy high street and searching around for things. I feel like going into vintage stores or shopping online on Ebay for all of the millions of things that are on there answers that same urge for trying to explore and find different things and really hunting for those pieces of treasure. That's my ideal way to shop.

It's been a few years now, so I feel like I really honed my craft [shopping on Ebay]. In the winter, I'm living in vintage cashmere sweaters that I get off Ebay for $10. It's kind of like finding a designer that isn't necessarily desirable but I like that specific design and that specific fit and then you try and find it in ten different colors. I also feel like I have a slightly dangerous addiction to buying vintage silk camisoles and silk camisole dresses. It's verging to unhealthy. I literally just bought a silk camisole on Ebay. It's a really simple off-white silk camisole with lace trim. The thing I really love about silk camisoles in particular is that you can wear them under everything and you always feel the silk next to your skin and you're like, 'This feels awesome.' I'm going to feel awesome for the whole day.

I try not to analyze [a potential purchase] too much. I have four different categories in mind for my wardrobe: being in the studio or at work; being at home; those rare times I have to do something fancy; and activewear. If it doesn't fit in one of those four categories, then maybe don't get it.

But if I know I'm going to wear something a lot, I don't mind spending money on it. I also have this mentality where if I know could make a version of something, then I shouldn't spend the money. I should just make it myself. When I'm not working on something, I sit in my studio with a ton of old kimonos that I bring back from Japan and I unpick all of the stitches and turn them into other things. That's my pastime.

I recently got a couple of Phoebe English pieces from Ebay. I'm always on the hunt for her stuff. She has a really interesting way of constructing garments. It's definitely not typical and her attitude towards sustainable fashion is really admirable. She has a very distinctive aesthetic without it being a statement. But aside from that, there's always the search for cashmere that never ends."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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