Style Crush is a weekly series showcasing the movers & shakers of the style world.
Model, student, and future lawyer, Vivian Chen is a multi-talented creative. We discuss her first foray into fashion, current style inspo, and how to stay driven in a competitive industry.
part 1: get to know me
Q: When you were younger, what did you want to be when you “grew up?”
A: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a lot of things ranging from a Victoria's Secret model and a judge. I had a very black-and-white way of viewing things and didn't hesitate to point out (quite obnoxiously) things that I thought were morally wrong (my mom parking in a tow-away zone!). Also, I was super tall as a kid and everyone told me to either be a basketball player or a model and I have no hand-eye coordination, so I thought being a model would be easier instead.
Q: What do you do now?
A: Right now, I'm a senior at UC Berkeley pursuing a double major in English and Neurobiology, currently planning on going to law school next year. At Cal, I've managed to merge my passions for writing, music, and fashion into the amazing organizations: FAST (Fashion and Student Trends) and Berkeley B-side.
For FAST, I've been a model director, helping to cast/train models for our annual fashion show showcasing handmade student designs! FAST has been a lovely experience. As a rule of casting our show, we're dedicated to showcasing models of all sizes and ethnicities, and my favorite part is watching people become increasingly confident in their own skin throughout the semester and finally watching them kill the runway at the end!
For The B-side, I was the Editor-in-Chief last year, and got a chance to work with a group of supremely talented and awesome creatives. It's been a blast watching people go through the process of writing about something deeply personal, such as a favorite artist or album, and to share how that has shaped or impacted a part of their life. Seeing the writers grow throughout the semester and become so proud of their work at the end with our semesterly print magazine was the best part.
Oh, and I also do a little freelance modeling on the side.
Q: What was your first foray into fashion?
A: My first foray into fashion was during my preteen years, when I got to go to the neighborhood mall for the first time with my friends! I would buy outrageous, cheaply-made dresses meant for formal events and wear them around all the time, running errands with my mom or whatever. I looked ridiculous.
part 2: style, style, style
Q: One piece you can’t live without?
A: My absolute favorite piece I have in my closet ever are these vintage 70s Disco Jeans that I got from Indigo Vintage! They're these insane, super-flared bell bottoms in a gorgeous medium wash and rainbow detailing on the black pockets.
Q: Any style icons?
A: I'm still searching for my personal, everyday style, but I definitely have some style icons that I look up to for fashion editorial inspiration. My favorite accounts on Instagram are @fleureganstyle, @contributormagazine, @neuneumedia, @afrostylezmagz, @schonmagazine, @flanellemagazine, @iamthat_shop and probably a ton more I can't think of at the moment. Things that usually catch my eye are intermixed textures, patterns, and interesting silhouettes. I love layers, as well as glints of sparkly glam interspersed with delicate fabrics against stark/barren backgrounds, for example.
Q: Your go to outfit?
A: My go-to outfit is usually a feminine, tight-fitting crop top paired with wide-leg pants. I really like A-line silhouettes and accentuating the waist. For example, my go-to outfit right now is a black halter crop top with these vintage, high-rise, wide-leg trousers I have in a dark brown plaid pattern. On a more casual day, I'd probably pair this with a chunky white sneaker, or a textured high-heeled boot.
part 3: some sage wisdom
Q: Do you have any moments when you wanted to give up (when it came to being a creative)? What kept you going?
A: I've definitely had many times where I've wanted to give up modeling. Currently, my biggest challenge is trying to get paid gigs, which is unfortunately very difficult unless you're signed. I've worked with many businesses, mainly vintage shops or sustainable businesses, and I've probably only been paid a couple times for my work. After a while, it just left me feeling kind of empty. The high of being able to create and act out a concept or artistic shoot gets brought down by the low of spending a couple hours doing unpaid labor for a business's marketing material.
Of course, I completely understand the work that goes into shooting and editing photos, and how people seem to think that giving a model photos for their portfolio is a fair trade for their time. However, I just feel that there's a reason people ask unsigned models to shoot instead of going to an agency and hiring a model, because the latter is much more expensive and the former is a cheaper, and sometimes free option. I completely get it, but I hope businesses realize how much buying a meal or even giving models store credit makes a huge difference, and that models give up time they could otherwise spend working another job.
Q: How do you define success (and also failure)?
A: I define success in creative work based on the happiness of the client and my own happiness with my performance. I make sure to do my research beforehand, looking up the client's past work, absorbing the mood and style, and attempting to express it with a touch of my own style. If the client enjoyed working with me and I enjoyed working with them, I count it as a success! If the client didn't enjoy working with me, I would make sure to ask for constructive criticism, since I think one of the most important things a creative needs to be is to be receptive to criticism, or else it's impossible to grow or improve.
Q: One piece of advice to 16 year old you?
A: One piece of advice I would have to 16 year old me is to stop caring about what other people think of you, and to stop giving time to people who don't have your best interests at heart.
Want more Vivian?
Find her on Instagram: @VivianWeiChen