The energy of differences.
Designer Hana Tajima has British-Japanese roots and she’s a Muslim. It’s the mix of cultures that lends her designs their signature style. We met her in her chosen home in Upstate New York.
Hana Tajima usually adopts a low-key approach in the morning. Just up and about and with Theo, her dog, swishing round her legs, all the fashion designer needs to wake up properly is a leisurely cup of green tea. It’s not that she particularly favours an ascetic lifestyle here in Kingston, a pretty little town of 25,000 souls that’s a two-hour drive north of New York City. No, it would be closer to the truth simply to say that Tajima is very choosy – about what she consumes and also about her spiritual and artistic needs. She curates her life with exquisite care, drawing on a variety of sources. So is this the reason for her success?
MINI 5-door: Fuel consumption in l/100 km: 6.5 – 5.6, CO2 emissions in g/km: 147 – 126. All values based on the combined WLTP test cycle. Further information: www.mini.com/disclaimer.
Cosmopolitan with a faible for simplicity.
Tajima, 36, grew up in England, studied in Tokyo and has lived in Malaysia. She first earned a name for herself after returning to England, when she began blogging about fashion. In 2015 she collaborated with Uniqlo for her first collection, and the Japanese company has held on firmly to this designer ever since. Shortly after, she moved to New York. Why? “It’s like so much else in my life,” she says. “New York just happened to me.”
In her small, bright house in Kingston, she has at most 20 books – each of them hand-picked. One of them is Stoner by John Williams, a campus novel that describes the vagaries of love. Its main character, William Stoner, the only son of a poor farming couple, is a very straightforward person. At first glance, his life doesn’t seem particularly remarkable, yet it affords him some very profound experiences. “Beautifully written,” is Tajima’s verdict. “The urgency, the beauty, the simplicity.” Her appreciation of it says something about her and the way she sees the world.
Exploring favourite places in New York.
The young Muslim designer with Japanese roots left her British home and headed to New York City. During the pandemic, she decided to quit the Big Apple and move out to rural Kingston. Now she commutes to the city several times a week, jumping into a snazzy MINI 5-door Cooper S right on her doorstep. As she climbs in, her slim silhouette is mirrored in the Midnight Black paintwork. Having the MINI outside her door is reassuring for Hana. “Having the car there to take me from one place to another makes me wonderfully flexible,” she says with a smile. Being able to set out at the drop of a hat for some kind of adventure is absolutely in keeping with her mobile lifestyle. For her, driving a car is a very meditative way to get about. And Theo, her dog of unspecified pedigree, always comes along for the ride. The 5-Door Hatch has ample space for her beloved dog, who is feeling a little shy today because of our unfamiliar faces.
Our first stop in the big city is Brooklyn, or to be more precise the 9th Espresso Bar, Hana’s favourite café and a popular meeting place for young intellectuals. The girls here wear clogs and cropped trousers, the boys sport glasses with transparent frames and outdoor brand Salomon’s sneakers. Lost in thought, Hana sips her next cup of tea while people all around are drinking flatties. Hana is not particularly tall but she certainly stands out in the crowd. Her hip-length plait, wound around and tied with fabrics, bobs when she walks, and she’s wearing a silk triangle on her head, a long, sleek, minimalist cotton blouse, vertiginously high heels and a pair of fluttery bell-bottoms that end just below her slim ankles. She seems to have a passion for ribbons and cords – they’re everywhere, on her bag, on her outfit, on her head. Leather, fabric or glossy strips, with and without knots, they protrude from everything, likes cables to connect with the world. Hana is not just a fashion designer. She also describes herself as a musician and a visual artist. She says that in all of these disciplines she follows her absolute desire and determination to explore the world, and that this is the essence of her creativity.
FASHION THAT UNITES THE MUSLIM AND THE WESTERN WORLD.
Tajima’s fashions are especially popular with young women all over the world. She owes that success to the fashion group Uniqlo and its global branch network. In the service of the fashion giant, Tajima has in recent years defined a totally new, diverse and international look that sells very well indeed. The clothes span a bridge between the Muslim and the Western world. As a fashion intermediary, Tajima herself attempts an elegant balancing act, at once breaking with clichés and conveying an aesthetic reality for many modern Muslim women, who to this day feel underrepresented in the public perception of the West.
The success of Tajima’s collections speaks for itself. And yet one cannot help asking her how she did it. “There’s a parallel existence of cultures in my life. I seek and find a very special, sometimes strange beauty in that.” This is the basis for her designs, she explains. “A part of me is obsessed with simplicity, with clarity – even with what is not visible. That is a very Japanese approach. Then there’s the rebel in her. “A loud, pretty eccentric aspect that’s born of my childhood in England.” Of course, the people of her chosen home, New York, are also a source of inspiration, she adds. “When I encounter someone here who is absolutely passionate about something, it immediately opens up a new universe to me.”
A woman with many talents.
It’s the contrasts that Tajima likes especially about New York. Her favourite places are sources of inspiration, like the Guild Gallery in Canal Street, a rough area in the southern part of Manhattan, and Nalata Nalata, arguably the trendiest ceramics boutique in town. She seems completely absorbed here, picking up almost every object and handling it. Hana’s parents are ceramic artists, too, and her grandfather is the famous sculptor Michael Simpson. These days, making pottery is another passion Tajima has added to her life like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. “I put it down to my family that I feel such a connection with fabrics, stones and other materials,” she says. What she particularly loves about her MINI are its soft leather seats. She is – quite literally – a material girl.
Tajima’s life partner, Spencer Zahn, is with us now. He manoeuvres the gleaming black MINI elegantly out of a small parking space and joins the New York City traffic. From the passenger seat, Hana taps around on the MINI’s display; she wants to show her music, the music they share because Zahn – who lives with Tajima – is a successful music producer. In Kingston they celebrate house music, Tajima playing the piano and singing and Zahn plucking the strings of his double bass and beating time on the wooden floorboards with his chunky boots. They upload the products of these sessions on Spotify, where Tajima uses the name Yuka Ren. She has just released a new album. Atmospheric love pop now fills the car as the MINI’s all-embracing speaker sound transports us for a moment to another galaxy. Yuka Ren, aka Tajima, sings a beautiful, sad song about a total loss of control caused by love. The MINI is set to cruise control – better to be on the safe side!
CAPTURING everything with her creative mind.
Later, as we stroll through trendy Williamsburg district, Tajima often gives the impression of being a silent observer although she is not taciturn. She just considers carefully before she speaks and looks at the world much as a photographer scrutinises his subjects. She takes people as they are, doesn’t judge them. She seems content simply to capture everything with her mind’s eye so that she witness people and the world in silence and feel blessed by it. The impression this leaves with her is what she expresses in her artistic work, which also aims to show a little piece of utopia: a world united and connected in which people can be true to themselves. The fashion designer, whose larger-than-life portrait was suspended above the Uniqlo store on Fifth Avenue when a new collection dropped, strives to accept people just as they are, even if they don’t share her mindset.
The MINI’s indicator flashes as we head out of town for the small town of Kingston. The wing mirrors sport the pattern of the Union Jack, the flag of Great Britain, Tajima’s emotional home. Her headscarf bobs at every bump in the road. To this day, she wears it for her faith. Zahn takes a hand off the steering wheel and places it in hers. New York’s outskirts slide past the window. Outside, leaves drift down from the trees. Winter is on its way. But inside the MINI, it’s warm, just like it is everywhere in Hana Tajima’s bright world of colours.
Hinweis (English disclaimers below):
Die offiziellen Angaben zu Kraftstoffverbrauch, CO2-Emissionen und Stromverbrauch wurden nach dem vorgeschriebenen Messverfahren VO (EU) 715/2007 in der jeweils geltenden Fassung ermittelt. Die Angaben berücksichtigen bei Spannbreiten Unterschiede in der gewählten Rad- und Reifengröße. Die Werte der Fahrzeuge basieren bereits auf der neuen WLTP-Verordnung und werden in NEFZ-Äquivalenzwerte zurückgerechnet, um den Vergleich zwischen den Fahrzeugen zu gewährleisten. Bei diesen Fahrzeugen können die CO2-Werte für fahrzeugbezogene Steuern oder andere Abgaben, die (zumindest unter anderem) auf CO2-Emissionen basieren, von den hier angegebenen Werten abweichen. Die CO2-Effizienz-Spezifikationen werden gemäß der Richtlinie 1999/94/EG und der Europäischen Verordnung in der jeweils gültigen Fassung festgelegt. Die angegebenen Werte basieren auf dem Kraftstoffverbrauch, den CO2-Werten und dem Energieverbrauch nach dem NEFZ-Zyklus für die Klassifizierung. Weitere Informationen über den offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und die spezifischen CO2-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem "Handbuch über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO2-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch neuer Personenkraftwagen" entnommen werden, das an allen Verkaufsstellen und unter https://www.dat.de/angebote/verlagsprodukte/leitfaden-kraftstoffverbrauch.html erhältlich ist.
The values of fuel consumptions, CO2 emissions and energy consumptions shown were determined according to the European Regulation (EC) 715/2007 in the version applicable at the time of type approval. The figures refer to a vehicle with basic configuration in Germany and the range shown considers optional equipment and the different size of wheels and tires available on the selected model. The values of the vehicles are already based on the new WLTP regulation and are translated back into NEDC-equivalent values in order to ensure the comparison between the vehicles. [With respect to these vehicles, for vehicle related taxes or other duties based (at least inter alia) on CO2-emissions the CO2 values may differ to the values stated here.] The CO2 efficiency specifications are determined according to Directive 1999/94/EC and the European Regulation in its current version applicable. The values shown are based on the fuel consumption, CO2 values and energy consumptions according to the NEDC cycle for the classification. For further information about the official fuel consumption and the specific CO2 emission of new passenger cars can be taken out of the „handbook of fuel consumption, the CO2 emission and power consumption of new passenger cars“, which is available at all selling points and at https://www.dat.de/angebote/verlagsprodukte/leitfaden-kraftstoffverbrauch.html