Fashion Forward: #neverwearsolids with Sayuri Sasaki Hemann

Sayuri Sasaki Hemann in her backyard habitat. – photo by Jason Smith

My name is Sayuri Sasaki Hemann. I’m an artist and I love patterns and I love colors and I love birdsongs. And chickens. I think I am very normal in terms of being myself. Some people like to call it eclectic, but I do what I do.

I was born in Japan, and was raised there until age 9 when my family moved to Australia and that’s when I first learned english. I lived there for 3 years and then we moved back to Japan and then we moved to Romania for three years in high school. My dad worked in a trading import/export business so that’s how we got to travel a lot while I was young. I didn’t really like it back then because I would have to make new friends and then I have to leave and then try to penpal but it didn’t last. But now I feel I got a lot of adjusting to environment skills and good experience. I went to college in Portland; that’s where I met my husband and that’s why I’m here, because he’s from around here.

Elastic waist skirts and pants and hand-sewn clothing were fixtures of Sasaki Hemann’s childhood closet. – photo by Frankie Schneckloth

My mom dressed me growing up. She was a sewer and she was the one who taught me how to sew in the very beginning. She sewed all of our clothes. I mean, not all of them, but most of our clothes. A lot of them involved elastic waist skirts and matching plaid dresses and things like that. I have two sisters and all of us wore her clothes and that was kind of fun. I didn’t like it then, but I learned how to be creative from her. My mom is an inspiration.

I would say my style is playful, and I would also like to use the word succulent and crunchy. I think succulent reminds me of the succulent plants; kind of plump or something with interesting shape language. And crunchy means textural maybe, or unexpected.

I got my sense of style from my grandmother. My grandma is a fashion icon for me, not because she’s really trying hard, but she puts on whatever she has in front of her and it just works. She would put floral patterns with striped pants and it worked well for her. I love that. She’s my original #neverwearsolids. My mom also got that from my grandma, and now I’m getting it from both. And hopefully I’m giving the #neverwearsolids juices to everyone!

Iris Apfel is another style icon. She’s 98 or something now but she is definitely my style icon. I love watching her documentary and how she finds things and she wears it and she sources form everything. She’s not set on one brand. She sees everything as a material to wear.

Never Wear Solids zine produced by Sasaki-Hemann. – photo by Frankie Schneckloth

#neverwearsolids. This hashtag started when I made a zine for my friend called Never Wear Solids. The first zine, it was just a few pages and it was a tiny zine and it had all kinds of plaids. My second volume was stripes. And my third volume, I think it hasn’t been made yet. That’s where it started. It’s just a sentiment of not being stuck in one rule but you can do what you want. It could go on forever. Like florals. Florals and stripes. Or stripes and plaids. Or polka dots and stripes. Or conversationals and cheetahs. Or something like that. I don’t never wear solids, so I’m a little bit of a hypocrite in that way, but I like that sentiment and I hope that this hashtag spreads a long ways away. I think have people who have been using it around me. It’s not just me.

I think what you wear is what you are. I almost feel like I am the canvas. What if I put stripes on top, what’s the relationship? And if I need a pop of color I put a pin on it. I almost think of it as a drawing.

Favorite jewels of Sasaki-Hemann. – photo by Frankie Schneckloth

Another thing I like to do a lot is put earrings on which earrings can drastically change the outfit. I definitely go to earrings and I like big earrings. And dangly ones! And colorful ones! 

I think I feel most confident when i’m wearing something that goes well with my skin tone and the shapes of my body and the contours of the clothing envelop me. I’m not feeling worn by the garment but I’m wearing it. I’m owning it. That’s when I feel the most confident. I do like big tops and tiny bottoms. And I like stretchy pants in general.

A few of her favorite things: the beloved pattern on pattern apron (third from left) and yellow floral tunic (far right). – photo by Frankie Schneckloth

I love this yellow tunic that my mom made for me; it has a balloonish shoulder and it gathers around on the edge here. It has bold bold patterns with navy blue; it reminds me of a Marimekko pattern with bold florals. She told me she found that fabric at an upholstery shop and she decided to use it for a dress which is very inspiring because she’s not following any rules either. Whatever goes! Also, another one, it’s not a piece of clothing, but it could be. It’s an apron that my friend Kerry Lao made me. It’s a reversible apron, like a smock, with big pockets at the front and reversible and all the pieces are patterned. So it’s pattern on pattern on pattern. It’s the best.

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Sasaki-Hemann nestled in her favorite Chocolate vine. – photo by Frankie Schneckloth

I think I’m more daring now than before and I think it echos my personality, too, I’m more comfortable with myself. When I was in middle school, I think I wouldn’t have had the same style choices. I would be more conformed into some other style. But I think I do what I want now. Take it or leave it. I make my own rules.

My advice: don’t take style too seriously.