This Model and Activist Tells the World Who She Is Through Her Clothes
Plus, her approach to fall style in her 70s High Jeans. In collaboration with Levi's®.
For New Yorker Jeannie Jay Park, getting dressed each morning isn't singularly a matter of trying out a trend or returning to a trusted uniform. Those priorities work for some, but for the first-generation Korean-American model and Asian rights activist, getting dressed is about communicating her values first and foremost. "It's a pretty intuitive process for me, finding parts of myself in the clothes I put on my back," says Park, who's also the founder of Sanitation Nation and co-organizer of Warriors in the Garden. "Because when you put an outfit on, you decide to tell a story to the world about who you are and what you stand for."
Park enjoys experimenting with different silhouettes and looks, resulting in her most authentic form of self expression. That's where denim—also known as her "longest-standing fashion relationship with any article of clothing"—and Levi's® comes in. The brand's history of championing individuality dates back generations and its designs welcome endless interpretations, including Park's latest ensembles that are distinctly her. Wearing the 70s High Jeans, Park honors her creativity, humanity, and authentic sense of self in outfits that might just speak to you, too.
How do you define your personal style and what priorities are informing it?
"If I could put one word to my personal style today it's authentic: authentic to who I am as a Korean-American woman, authentic to my heritage and my humanity, authentic to my values and intentions as a racial sustainability advocate and activist, and, ultimately, authentic to my roots. And I largely have my relationship with fashion to thank for that. As Asian-Americans, our roots are undoubtedly multifaceted and entangled in various realms, crossing cultural borders. On par with that, so is my style. Experimenting with my fashion sense has allowed me to independently accept and embrace my heritage.
"Beyond that, my style is wildly investigational and adaptive, molded purely with my imagination. It's a means beyond just fashion for me—as a way to liberate myself as a Korean-American woman and convey an identity I can independently shape as freely as I wish. In this regard, it's not just fashion that informs my style, but also my heritage, my comfort, and mostly my humanity."
Do you have a perfected style uniform or do you prefer to experiment with your look each day?"My style has largely evolved in alignment with my self-growth. There's no such thing as one perfected style uniform—at least not one that will stay with me forever. And I think that speaks to the evolution of our industry, into a more sustainable era, for people and the planet—one that I believe sustainably-focused brands, such as Levi's®, are largely pioneering and taking part of."
Jeans are such a personal preference. What qualities make a pair absolutely perfect in your eyes?
"Sustainability and humanity with jeans are key, considering that denim is one of the least eco-friendly fabrics to manufacture with. That's why sustainable jeans such as these from Levi's® are the best in my eyes. We all have a part to play, and jeans, specifically, have functioned as emblems of youth and counter-culture, symbolic for the labor rebellion, and the blurring of gender lines and norms in fashion.
"Above all, the comfort and practical nature of a pair beat all. The way they make me feel. The elusively empowering feeling of being able to 'wear the pants' as women in a man's world. As an Asian woman, experimenting with jeans has been an integral part in deconstructing social gender norms and pressures displaced onto me, specifically with the rise of oversized silhouettes which give me the physical freedom to rebel from feminine standards built off the male gaze, deliberately rejecting the artificial female body."
Tell us about styling the Levi's® 70s High Jeans. How do you interpret the classic flare and straight-leg styles into your own authentic way?
"The Levi's 70s High jeans are arguably seasonless, and that's what makes them the perfect pair of fall jeans. Fall feels like that stuck, in-between place we've all been in. Moving from summer to fall, the weather varies so drastically throughout the day here in NYC, so I always love to layer and mix it up, such as with the white cropped top and denim oversized shirt. That's my quintessential casual fall fit. And I always like to add a flare of personal touch, whether it's some loud jewelry, a statement belt, or a cowboy hat.
"On colder nights, I'll opt for thicker layers, such as the yellow puffer vest. A straight black jean is a necessity for me through most seasons, especially fall. Mixing classic, sustainably sourced denim with various styles, fits, and shapes is an extremely interpersonal and liberating process. It allows me to experiment with and discover the identity and message I will project to the outer world with the clothes on my back."
When do you typically like to break out your new fall denim each year?
"As a multi-hyphenate creator, activist, and model, I never know where my days are going to take me: running from last-minute castings to meetings to protests. It's always essential for me to feel comfortable for a full day of unknown adventure. Denim signifies versatility. It can be worn so casually yet, when styled differently, it can be made to feel formal. I love a black jean for that reason—it's so easy to take from day to night, especially with a pop of vibrant color such as the yellow puffer vest. This is the perfect outfit for wearing from day to night for a fall day around the city."
What's your approach to styling jeans this fall?
"Jeans are so versatile, crossing gender and class boundaries, allowing me to mix and match so many pieces I wouldn't usually pair, and experimenting with the different facets of who I am and my style. They open up a world of possibilities, of self-exploration, and looking forward I want to play with more unconventional unisex silhouettes and get more creative in exploring the versatility of style with my jeans."
Do you remember your first-ever pair of Levi's®?
"Growing up going to a uniform school with dress codes that perpetuated gender stereotypes, my obsession with fashion as a means of liberation only grew. I would go to thrift stores and try to find pieces nobody else had, desperate to stand out. I bought my first pair of Levi's® 501 at 13 and I still have them. They got so ripped over the years now they're shorts.
"Denim is my favorite material to recycle and reuse in this sense. Taking old denim I've outworn that have represented me throughout various parts of my journey, deconstructing them, and discovering new life in them—and hopefully one day passing it onto the next generation to keep us connected. My longest-standing fashion relationship with any article of clothing is with denim. Levi's® has come to essentialize denim throughout culture due to its timelessness. From seeing our parents wearing it, to collecting it ourselves, to reselling it and finding more value and beauty in vintage finds. There's something irreplaceably timeless about Levi's® denim that's kept us interconnected to each other and our humanity through generations."
Ultimately, what role does personal style play in your life—every day and especially this coming fall?
"My style every day gives me a fresh new outlet for human connection, with others and with my inner self. To tell a story. To ignite a feeling. Especially as we move forward into the fall, and further into a post-pandemic world, I aspire to use my style as a portal for deeper change and social activation. To tell a story of cross-cultural solidarity, unity, and love. Disrupting traditional trends with radical style brings people together from various different backgrounds, generations, cultures, and worlds. That breaks cultural, racial, gender, and all social barriers for that matter—to bring us together in peace and unity—over our forever growing common love language that is fashion."
Head over to Levi's® to shop more fall looks.
Photos: Courtesy of Jeannie Jay Park
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