This Old Thing?
In today’s world, what’s old is new again. Between fashion nostalgia and the mainstreaming of vintage hauls, more and more, we’re looking to years past for inspiration. And why shouldn’t we? Sometimes the answer isn’t buying new clothes, it’s working with what you’ve got. With This Old Thing?, we’re bringing you all the fashionable details, red carpet memories, and styling tips you’ll ever need—straight from the celebs you love.
Get ready to get even more obsessed with Yuna. The Malaysia-born artist has been a fixture on the R&B scene since the release of her self-titled debut, with its Pharrell Williams’ produced hit, “Live Your Life.” Her soul-inspired pop tracks have featured guest spots by everyone from Usher to Tyler The Creator, she’s done pop-up shows all over New York Fashion Week, and she even hit the Coachella stage this past spring with Tokimonsta.
Now, she’s breaking free from her record contract to self-release her fifth full length,Y5, out now. The culmination of four EPs released in stages throughout this year, Y5 finds the hijabi-chic soulstress confronting death and impermanence and waxing rhapsodic about appreciating her natural beauty.
Below, Yuna talks about finding inspiration in Gwen Stefani, how she embraced modest fashion, and how she styled her hijab for a Chanel show.
Her First Fashion Idol
As a kid, you don’t know what style is. The only person that I thought was super stylish was my mom. She would have these really nice skirts and shoes and handbags, and so I grew up watching my mom dressing up and expressing herself through different fabrics and different styles.
Finding Her Early Personal Style
I grew up in Malaysia and MTV was a huge thing. When we finally got MTV on cable, I was exposed to all these different styles. From there, I just tried to pick and choose which styles I liked, because I love music. So if I really liked Christina Aguilera or Gwen Stefani, from there I’d use what they were wearing to figure out my unique style.
I didn't like dressing like everyone else in school. They all went for a certain look, and I remember thinking, “That’s not really my style.” Now, in my thirties, I still feel the same way. I pretty much just wear whatever I like.
Her First Fashion Crush
Gwen has always just done whatever she wants, fashion-wise. In the early 2000s, too, her makeup was super interesting, and she was a part of a band. That's something that I really wanted to experience. I really wanted to be like Gwen Stefani. I still remember watching the music video for “Ex-Girlfriend,” and it was just so cool. That’s the kind of impact I think you remember forever.
On Making Xtina Modest
For me, it was really simple. What do I like? Who am I as a person? I embrace modest clothing. So I just tried to say, “Well, my life now consists of wearing black inner tops [with long sleeves and crew necks] and black leggings, and then from there, I can wear whatever I like.” So, if you think about Christina Aguilera, I’d take her vibe from the colors that she would wear in her music videos. I mean, of course everyone remembers her super low leather pants, but I’d just say, “Well, I’m not going to wear the low-rise version, but I could try biker pants or something that’s not low rise.”
It’s the same thing when she wore a bikini top that was pink leather. I just thought, “Well, maybe I'll find a pink leather crop top.” So the vibe is there and the essence is there.
On Being a Fashion-Conscious Muslim
Being a Muslim who wears a hijab in the music industry is interesting, because I’ve had to create my own look. Obviously, there were moments where whatever I was wearing didn't work for me, but I’ve experimented with a lot of different styles and looks. And then when I finally came to find the style that really worked for me, I just embraced it.
I'm really not shy and I like failing. I don't mind looking like a fool one time so that the next 20 times I look like a million bucks.
Dressing Up For the Studio
I try to wear jewelry when I go to the studio, even though it's not great for recording. Jewelry will put me in a different mood, like, “These are the songs that I'm going to go out and perform in front of my fans so I need to embrace that person. I am that person.”
At the same time, it’s not necessarily like Lady Gaga where I’m just out shopping or whatever in a whole look or theme. When I’m in the studio I just dress like I’m an amplified version of me. After all, when you look cool, you feel cool.
The Joy She Finds in Black Boots...
I'm forever a black boots girl. I've been wearing them since I was 7 years old. I remember my first pair of black boots. They were so uncomfortable but the whole day I refused to take them off. I like all black boots, but especially platform boots. I love those.
...And Baggy Jeans
Right now I'm into baggy jeans, because when I was younger, I never could understand the right cut of baggy jeans, like how I could make it look cool. When you’re growing up, you're still growing into your body and getting comfortable in your own skin. I just didn't quite think baggy jeans looked cool on me, but now I’m like, “Oh, okay, you just have to be confident.” So, yeah, I love baggy jeans. It's like, “I'm just gonna wear those.”
How Instagram Inspired Her Last Tour
There are a lot of girls I really love to look at on Instagram, and especially the ones who wear the hijab. They’re so stylish, especially these fashion girls from Sweden or Denmark who pop up on my feed.
What's amazing is that they inspired me to go back to thrifting, which I used to do a lot. Back in Malaysia, we don't have a lot of options when it comes to thrifting and getting secondhand clothing. Over here, it's amazing. You have all these options, all the shops.
So I kind of got back into it because I was looking at these girls reworking oversized jackets, like putting beads on them and working on them. I love doing that. Even for my last tour for Rouge, I reworked a lot of my pieces. I’d take a simple jacket and make it so that there were little rhinestones falling off the shoulders or I had this printed neon green blazer and I went all the way to downtown L.A. to the Fashion District and bought beaded patches.
How She Accessorizes Her Hijab
I used to never wear the hijab. Growing up in Malaysia, it's pretty laid back. You can wear it or not. It’s your personal choice. But I just kind of started to like it, so I embraced it.
I love wearing a scarf on my head and I love covering my skin because it's just me. At the same time, I love fashion, so I remember before I started wearing the hijab, I used to wear a lot of earrings, like they were my favorite thing. When I started wearing the hijab I just felt really sad, like I had to sacrifice my earrings. After a few years of wearing my hijab, the holes in my ears even kind of closed up. That’s when I was like, “You know what? I'm gonna try and see if it’s going to look weird if I wear the hijab and also wear hoops. Maybe they don’t have to be huge.” And when I tried it, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this looks amazing. I can pull this off.”
Now, with my scarf, I just style it like how I’d normally wear my hair. I’ll think, “How would I normally wear my hair up? Would I make it into a bun? Well, what would that look like with fabric? How about a ponytail? How does it look with a ponytail put to the side? How about with braids?” I’d just make a braid or a bun with fabric, and say “Oh, this looks cool, so it works.”
It takes a lot of time, all that experimenting. Before an event or a photo shoot, I have to think, “What am I gonna do with my scarf?” For example, I went to the Chanel show recently. I love wearing my black hijab because it just looks simple and clean, like how you’d wear your hair. So for the Chanel show, I thought, “I really want to try a high ponytail,” but I knew it would be super hard to pull it off. I managed to do it in a way that looked cute, but it took me maybe an hour to do. I woke up super early that day, did my makeup, and then was like “Nobody bother me right now. I’m just going to be in that bathroom figuring out how to turn my scarf into a ponytail.”