The Secrets Behind Kali Uchis’s Singular Sense of Style

    “I think it’s boring when everybody wears the same brands or the same styles and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is the new trend,’ ” said Colombian-American artist Kali Uchis ahead of her performance at the Governors Ball Music Festival. “Do you. Wear what you want to wear. Be an individual. Be unique and live your best life.” Uchis clearly took this advice to heart in this exclusive behind-the-scenes video, whether she was donning kitten heels to walk to the bath, going thrift shopping in a pink-and-black Versace dress, or wearing an iridescent bra and skirt set lined with shimmering fringe—with matching gloves and sparkling heels, of course—onstage at the festival.

    Uchis has always subscribed to this notion of individuality at all costs, even when she was growing up in a small town in Virginia. “I remember the day that I went to school and I saw another girl wearing the same shirt as me,” she says. This was completely unacceptable to the young Uchis, and she took matters into her own hands: “I started to make my own clothes. First, I would just cut the shirts and sew other pieces of shirts onto it—it looked really crazy. And then, it got to the point where people were like, ‘Oh, that’s really cool, what is that? You made that yourself? Wow.’ ” When she was around 15, she started taking pictures of her friends in her creations to craft multimedia collages, which eventually turned into a burgeoning online clothing business before Depop or any of those like-minded sites existed. “I would bring my clothes to school and sell it out of my car,” she says. “One time, I had someone buy something from Germany. That was kind of when I started realizing the power of the Internet.” The Internet took on even more importance for Uchis when she started turning the poetry she had always written into proper songs in her bedroom, where she was completely removed from the Los Angeles music scene that she’s now enveloped in.

    Uchis knew then, too, the potential of the underrated and underutilized (at that time, at least) thrift store. “There was actually designer stuff in there that people didn’t realize that was important back in the day,” she says. “And I was like, ‘Oh, I can take this, turn it into this, do something,’ ” she says. “I feel like fashion is about being innovative and being able to turn something into something else, making it cool, and making it your own.”

    Uchis has built a career on making vintage sounds and styles her own. Even when she self-released her debut EP, Por Vida, in 2015, her aesthetic seemed impossibly well crafted. Her music video for that project’s first single, “Know What I Want,” opens like a scene from one of Anna Biller’s Technicolor-era evoking films: With a pastel sunset in the background, Uchis steps out of her turquoise blue car in a distinctly anachronous vibrant pink floral minidress and knee-high glossy leather boots. And while throwback style references that Uchis has debuted over the past year in the videos for her recently released debut album, Isolation—from the bright blue lounge set fit for a ’50s housewife that she wears in “After the Storm” to the oversize, ’80s-esque baby pink power suit that she dons in “Tyrant”—might look overly curated on just about anyone else, Uchis miraculously pulls off every passé style. “It’s never been a very calculated thing,” she insists. “I’ve done my own videos, I do my own styling, so I feel like I’ve just always been a visual artist . . . I was one of those kids who wanted to make my own clothes and take pictures of everything. Everything inspired me and everything felt like art around me.”

    Uchis soaked up references from the mod ’60s cuts of Edie Sedgwick to the glamour of Brigitte Bardot, and she went through many different style phases, from that “classic emo stage,” as she describes, to an obsession with moon boots. This type of omnivorous attitude extends to her musical influences as well: Her new album starts with a breezy lounge number (“Body Language”) and includes everything from downtempo soul numbers (“Flight 22”) to indie synth pop (“In My Dreams”). Just as Uchis balks at trends in fashion, Isolation stands alone in the contemporary pop landscape, as its title suggests. “When I was making this album, I really didn’t want to be influenced by current music or by my peers,” she says. “Sometimes I was worried that maybe my music wouldn’t be embraced by other people because it doesn’t really correlate with what’s trending at this moment, but I think embracing the isolation of that and tasking the risk of making things that doesn’t sound like anything else right now makes music exciting. That’s part of what makes life exciting. That’s part of being an artist.”

    Kali Uchis in:
    Versace top, skirt, leggings, sneakers, belt, and bag, and Jennifer Fisher earrings. Tory Burch mules, and Area bra top, skirt, gloves, and earrings.

    Director: Rebecca Fourteau
    Fashion Editor: Alexandra Gurvitch
    Hair and Makeup: Jaime Diaz
    Sound: Evan DeVitto
    Editor: Theo Rosenthal
    Music: “Nuestro Planeta” by Kali Uchis ft. Reykon
    Filmed at Café Habana, Search and Destroy

    This article originally appeared here via Google News