Samu is an Asian Regional and Comparative Studies major with a concentration in Human Rights, in the SFS, class of 2018.
(Samu is one of the most agreeable persons I have had the pleasure of shooting. He is polite; clever; sincere. I told him about this wall in the middle of nowhere, by Rhode Island Avenue station, and how I thought it would match his outfits well. It was cold and rainy, and there would be nowhere to change inside or under cover… But Samu was up for it, so we went. In the downpour I carried umbrellas for him as he changed outfits – everything from his socks to his necklace. This interview was conducted post-shoot, in a warm apartment. His various outfits hung on chairs to dry as we chatted.)
Sam K. Lee (SKL): So. Questions about fashion. hmm… Maybe you can talk about what you look for in an article of clothing. Earlier you said you cared about textures, which is really interesting… Or, I guess, your understandings or preferences or opinions about clothing in general.
Samu (SB): Yeah! Well. I think when I look for – when I’m actually shopping – 95% of the time it’s secondhand?
SKL: (nods) Yeah.
SB: Not necessarily because it’s better for the environment, it’s cheaper… On one hand, that’s part of it, and a good part of it, I think… But also because it’s much easier and much more exciting to find those kinds of treasures, rather than finding a new piece that you like now but might not like in a year or two. I think when you find things secondhand, you actually find things that are more unique. You don’t know necessarily what time period they might have come from, or something like that … Yeah, nowadays my style tends to be very colorful –
SKL: Was it not always that way?
SB: No – definitely not. Since I started caring about fashion, yes. But before I cared about fashion that much, I definitely wouldn’t say it was colorful… I mean, I like floral patterns and stuff like that… But not as wacky, not as funky as I would describe my style now. And then, I don’t know, I like mixing things up, so I definitely mix clothes of quote-on-quote different genders because that’s another thing: why should clothing necessarily have a gender? It’s more about how you wanna mix it and —
SKL: Yes – Androgynous fashion. All about it. I mostly shop in the men’s section now because it’s generally more comfortable, simple even…
SB: Yeah! For me it’s like men’s clothing is almost too boring for me now. I don’t mean – (looks cautiously at me) not to say that –
SKL: (catches his drift and laughs) No, yeah I loveee boring (Samu laughs too).
SB: But, yeah, I’ll go into a store, and look, and then, “Ok. Moving on.” It might be the kind of stores, you know, what they offer. I did a lot of my secondhand shopping in Japan when I was studying abroad, and there I didn’t have much trouble in the men’s section… But I really think it depends on location.
One of my main things about fashion that sometimes I can show depending on what I’m wearing — sometimes I can’t – but I like being able to show that kind of fun energy to people. Inspire other people to push their own boundaries. Because it’s difficult … Being able to inspire other people that way just as other people have inspired me …
… I didn’t really get into fashion until I learned about Japanese subculture fashion. And, after living there for a year, I definitely understand how that kind of fashion has come to be. Because in Japan there are so many pressures, whether it’s family or culture or society, business… There are so many pressures to conform. So when you use fashion as a means of non-conformity, then, that’s how this beautiful kind of – this subculture is born. I guess, for me, I didn’t grow up there, but I have always had those feelings about conformity, and that was a big part of my life – not fitting in. So fashion can be a kind of tool for that.
(Samu later told me about some of his inspos, many of which he knows himself – they are both designers and friends. His friend Brandon actually designed the green sweater and tongue necklace above. Other artists Samu knows and is inspired by include @bunta.r & @kllylmrck.)