‘I feel like fashion and style are two very different things’

LOTD: Toyosi Oyelola

Name Toyosi Oyelola

Age 19

Hometown Austin, Texas

Location Greenwich Village

Tell me about when you first started getting interested in fashion

I think my interest in fashion is something I got from my  my parents. They were always very aware of how my siblings and I dressed and presented ourselves, so I learned that you when you go out you should care about your appearance, and not look like a total mess. It’s fine if you want to be chill and relaxed, but still it’s definitely important to me to be put-together.

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Did you start to develop your own style once you were allowed to wear what you wanted?

Definitely – more towards middle school. But I was the typical middle-schooler, I wanted to shop where everyone else was shopping, so lots of Aeropostale. I went to a charter school, so I wore a uniform four days out of the week, but then we would have “free-dress Fridays,” and I would go all out. And since I could only wear what I wanted once a week, I always liked dressing well and looking cute. I would never wear sweatpants. Then towards high school I grew more interested in fashion, and started blogging.

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GAP bandana

Did blogging create a new way for you to interact with fashion?

In a way. I don’t know if everyone makes the same distinction that I do, but I feel like fashion and style are two very different things. In early high school I was more into fashion, and then I merged into my own personal style by finding what I liked, in which silhouettes fit me and what makes me feel better.

Do you think of fashion as something that is widespread and trendy at the moment wide, whereas style is more individualized?

With fashion, I think more of the industry, from what’s happening with fashion week, to what are mainstream retailers doing with selected colors or silhouettes for a particular season. It’s great and really interesting because obviously I shop at popular stores, and I definitely play into fashion because I buy what they make and what they think the trends are.

But that’s where I think style is really important because different trends can be overwhelming, and if something isn’t my style or doesn’t fit my personality, it becomes easier to explore fashion and figure out what exactly you want to take into your style, and what you’re going to leave on the table.

Having a solid style is really important. I’m a marketing major, so I’m really into branding. Knowing that if someone sees an outfit or an item and they’ll think “that is Toyosi,” is important to me to really be solid in who I am and how I present myself.

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When did you start your blog?

I started it in 8th grade, and it was just really random. I mean, I was in 8th grade, it wasn’t good. When I think about the outfits I posted, they were all just really terrible and shitty.

What was it called?

It had a lot of different names, but right now it’s called Unmapped Territory, because I’m trying to branch out from just style posts to talking more about life and who I am now. I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know who I am, so I’m still figuring that out myself.

Did that shift in your blog coincide with a change in your style, along with moving from Texas to college in New York?

I think coming to New York prompted my re-branding, which I did last October, a month into the school year. Especially just from being in a different environment, because it gets cold here. A shift in weather, a shift in the structure of my life.

Before I didn’t really do much; I went to school, came home, and occasionally hung out on the weekends. But now I’m going to brunch, I’m doing lunch with this person, I have class and meetings. My high school was small and people dressed well, but no one was trying new things or being really expressive with their style, so living in New York, on 5th Avenue last year, where you see so many different, stylish people really opened my eyes.

I’ve simplified my style now, I know what I like and I don’t really bother to mess with that.

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Daniel Wellington watch, Etsy ring

What inspires you?

As a blogger, I read a lot of other blogs and I follow mainly bloggers on Instagram, but then also certain Insta-famous people who I am really into. I also have really solid brand loyalty, so I think sometimes I pick up the style or look of certain brands, like Madewell, Gap, and Everlane. I think a lot about silhouettes and different cuts, and proportions that I like on myself.

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Converse shoes

Describe your style in a few sentences

Simple, kind of classic, with a good dose of messiness. I can veer into J. Crew, preppy-esque territory with a button down and jeans, but then I’ll wear dirty-ass converse and a bandana. Or I’ll pair a really nice Ralph Lauren top with overalls. So within that juxtaposition between classic, preppy, and put together.

I’m in Stern, so of course you’ll see me in button-downs and slacks, but personally I’m more of a nice top and ripped jeans kind of person, always a mix of two things at the same time.

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Do you have a favorite piece in your current collection?

This shirt that I’m wearing has been giving me life. My friend got it for me for my birthday from Madewell because she works there, which is another reason I like Madewell because she gets so many good discounts.

I always wear skinny bottoms, any sort of loose or flare pants look terrible on me because I have twigs for legs, but I love fun oversized tops and this shirt has a kind of different silhouette and sleeves. It’s a stellar piece.

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Madewell shirt

You’re in marketing at Stern you’re in marketing, could you tell me a bit about your internship this semester?

I’m working for this company called Bombas, which is a really awesome sock company. We have the One-for-One model, which means for every pair of socks you buy, a pair to a homeless shelter.

It’s an awesome internship, because we donate to those in need and the socks are of amazing quality. I’m also really into the fact that it’s a social entrepreneurship, especially being surrounded by finance people in Stern, because it can get soulless really quickly. A lot of people are just concerned about the money, but you can still make money by doing good things and helping people. So, I love that I get to work for a company that is successful, but also has a mission and a heart.

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SXSW tote

Do you want to work with social marketing in the future?

Yes, within the more low-end or fast fashion and retail industry. I don’t have as much of an interest in designer labels because I’m not super into them, but I would love to do social media and lifestyle content particularly with brands like Gap, Madewell, or J-Crew because I think they’re really accessible for most people. But I also want to like start my own business, write a book, and other random things, so we’ll see what happens.

What kind of business do you want to start?

I wish I knew! There are some conceptual ideas already, but I just have the passion to start a business. I’m really into shared value and companies with a moral compass, so I’d love to own a store that’s a more curated Etsy or something, with a whole bunch of pieces and even collaborations from awesome makers.

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Topshop jeans

Do you have any thoughts about the disparity between fast fashion companies and more ethical, sustainable brands, which can often be expensive and not necessarily accessible to the general public?

I value my clothes. I haven’t shopped at places like Forever 21 in years, and I don’t know the last time I bought something from H&M because I want things that are going to last, and for me personally it’s worth it to spend the extra money. But I understand that even places like Madewell or Everlane are expensive for a lot of people, so it’s hard – it’s really hard.

Obviously people need clothes, and to tell someone that they shouldn’t buy something they need because it’s not ethically made is really pretentious, because people are just at different places.

But I would love to see fast-fashion companies thinking more ethically and sustainably, and also to see the trend of fast fashion slow down a bit. The fact that you can go into H&M every week and have a completely different store is really overwhelming.  They’re constantly making new styles and getting rid of the old, which can be exciting to see, but it feeds into consumerism in a negative way.

Occasional fun pieces are great, but brands should focus more on quality. Make a really good t-shirt, sell it year round, and people will know to come for that.

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Any advice you would give someone who is trying to develop their style?

The first thing would be to just try stuff, and don’t overthink it. If you think it makes you look good, then wear it. Noticing things about your body and not giving a shit about what other people think is a good way to find your style because you’ll experiment more.  Be comfortable and wear what makes you happy.

Featuring @toyosioyelola

Photography by @matthew.babcox

@ellcasado

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