Yan Yan Chan has become extremely adept at collecting the things that matter most, articles both tangible and otherwise.
On the one hand, she counts evocative scents and the memories they invoke – made in both the comfort of her home and abroad in equal measure – as being amongst the most valuable of things she documents and curates with artful ease on her eponymous platform. On the other, there’s an enviable wardrobe of architectural boots, grail-worthy bags, heirloom scarves and perfectly lived-in denim that has made her something of an authority on style without the sweat of a brow.
Below, Chan casts her curatorial eye on the latest from RE: DENIM, available exclusively at David Jones and speaks candidly on matters of life, love and style.
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What’s your earliest ‘fashion memory’? Seeing old photos of when my parents first started dating. Dad was managing a pop band in Hong Kong called Beyond, so he lived in double denim and paisley printed shirts. They use to travel around Asia together, while the band was touring and Mum used to spend her time collecting epic jackets and jeans. It wasn’t until I was in Year 8 that I had the confidence to raid my parents closet and dress myself. A year later, my first fashion memory would’ve been accidentally ending up at Fashion Week when I was 14, adorned in head to toe pieces from their wardrobe.
How have the women in your life influenced your sense of style? I’m drawn to women who are confident, undone and look sexy in a t-shirt and jeans. The way they carry themselves.
Do you find that your style of dress is contingent on where you are in the world? I’m all about less is more — figuring out what works best for me, and how I can wear that same item, multiple times, and, in different occasion, for every season. It’s about investing in the good pieces, and not having too much stuff. My sense of dress definitely varies depending on what city I am. I get so influenced by everything around me. In New York, I pay less attention to what I’m wearing, because people want to know who you are and pick your brain. In Europe, I’m on vacation mode and I’m all about colour, and white little dresses, because I want to look as saturated as Positano, but then also embody Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona [laughs]. But then in Sydney, people pay more attention to what you wear, so I like to dress for the hustle. I guess my style is quite spontaneous, youthful and.. occasionally rebellious.
Which external factors have most keenly shaped your personal style? Where I am in the world, who I’m with, and what the weather is doing.
Which three pieces never fall out of constant rotation in your wardrobe? I’m all about dressing for your body shape, pieces that flatter your body the most and make you feel confident. I’m quite petite, so I like to cheat a little and wear things that make me look taller. High waisted pants with a cropped flare, and a wider leg bottom, chunky ankle boots, and a good blazer. I like outfits that allow me to hustle, relax over red wine, and dance over disco.
To your mind, what makes the perfect pair of jeans? The one that fits! The one you wear, over and over again.
What advice would you give where it comes to the matter of styling denim? I love incorporating denim for dressier occasions. A denim jacket slung over the shoulders with a beautiful dress, or a pair of jeans under a blazer and tailored shirting.
To whom do you turn for inspiration? Who is your muse? I don’t really have one muse or have one source for inspiration. I’m such a visual person, and can sit for hours just overloading my brain with different images, so I love finding my inspiration in all different places. My most favourite and comfortable place would be the bookstore. Kinokunya in the city is my ultimate. I could sit there for hours and peruse through all their coffee table books. Endless!
What do you consider to be the most precious thing you own? I’m such a sentimental person, so anything that carries memories and holds distinct reminders of someone I used to be close with, who I was at that time, or where I was in the world are the most precious things I own. I think that’s why I have a constant need to document things. I have a collection of scarves my parents passed down to me a few years back, which I’m constantly growing and I’m a sucker for olfactory and collecting memories that way. Sounds kind of crazy, but I’m about to do a month in Europe and I need to find a new scent to bring with me for the month. So every time after that trip, when I smell that scent, it’ll take me right back to my first European holiday.
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You often work in collaboration with your partner. How do you navigate the challenges of living and working together? Working and living with anyone, no matter what their relationship status in your life, is always challenging. There needs to be a distinct line between personal and work — it’s something that over the last few years, and with a lot of practice (negative and positive), that I’ve slowly overcome and manage to do, kind of well. Nath and I spend a lot of time together, but it’s always about quality over quantity, and when we talk about work, we make sure that we don’t bring it back home. If we butt heads, we always talk it out and work out a solution – we’re very honest with each other. It’s important to nurture the personal relationship, and put time aside just for hang time, and to never take anything too seriously. We take work seriously, but with everything else – you need to see the humour and lighter side of things, enjoy the ride and just have fun. We’re both really social people, so on weekends and any other time we’re not hanging out, we make sure to enjoy our ‘me’ time. We both love our friends and know how important that time is to the both of us, so I think having figured that balance, it still makes things exciting for us. Oh, we also have epic date nights. That definitely helps.
Who wears the jeans? [Laughs] I’m definitely the more decisive person in the relationship, but Nath is such a people reader, sometimes I feel like he knows me better than I do, but we balance each other out in different aspects. We like doing things together and helping each other out. So, we pretty much share the same pair of jeans.
How have you seen yourself change most significantly since you’ve been together? How have they changed likewise? I feel like since the age of 16, I’ve been like 10 different people. The rate you grow and change between 16 and 22 is just unexplainable, it’s crazy! There are a lot of things in between then that are disposable: friends, clothes, careers, and you learn how fast-paced life is and how adaptable you become to certain situations. Timing is such a funny thing, especially when it comes to relationships and friendships. I’ve definitely become surer of myself, and have learned to be more confident (personally) and I guess I’ve done the same for Nathan, but more within his work. And it’s weird because if we met any other time, it would’ve been different. We’re both constantly learning from each other, it’s fun.
If you could invite five people from any moment in history to a lock-in dinner party, who would they be and why? Umm. Give me a real life, Midnight in Paris. Fitzgerald, Dali, Matisse, Picasso – oh, and can I be transported back into time too? Thanks.