Finding the Perfect Pants at Sandy Liang with Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner

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Welcome to Shopping With Vogue, a series in which we sift through a fashion lover’s favorite store. For this edition, we shop with musician and author, Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast at Sandy Liang. 

I listen to Japanese Breakfast as I ride an electric Citibike from Brooklyn to meet none other than Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner in downtown Manhattan. “Savage,” from her third album, Jubilee, is one of my favorites. Like every song of Zauner’s, it ignites a sort of longing that I didn’t realize existed since my first high school crush. In the accompanying music video, she’s playing cards, watching television, dining with The Soprano’s silver fox Michael Imperioli, and strumming a mandolin, all the while dressed in deliciously baroque and rich ensembles by Gucci, Vaquera, Area, Puppets & Puppets, and Patou. She’s absolutely regal.

To top it off, Zauner is a writer. She penned the essay “Crying in H Mart” for the New Yorker, about the death of her mother and her Korean heritage. After the piece went viral, she published a memoir under the same title back in April. This is all on top of shredding a guitar, releasing Jubilee in early June, and going on tour in late July. Zauner is truly our generation’s tatted, chilled-out renaissance woman, with ornate, dreamy stage style to match. 

To shop, Zauner has picked Sandy Liang on 28 Orchard Street, next to Scarr’s Pizza and Larrie Gallery. It’s a hot spot area for dirty skaters and loafer-wearing literati. Zauner has moved to New York relatively recently and is still learning about the city. When I meet her, she greets me in a frothy Simone Rocha dress and Vans. She looks like a slice of lemon cake, standing out among the clientele. 

But being so boldly femme wasn’t always her style. Zauner has had a long road in the world of coming into her own in fashion. A Eugene, Oregon native, she began playing in bands in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania music scene while at Bryn Mawr in 2005, until she started to make it big with her own band back in 2016. In the past, she’d dress in more masculine clothes, like boy’s superhero T-shirts from Target and vintage grandpa button-ups from Goodwill. “For a long time, playing in a band, I wanted to present sort of more masculine because I felt like I had to do it in order to be taken seriously as a player and in the industry in general,” she says. “I used to have to prove to everyone that I could carry an 80-pound amp.”

As she came into her own, music-wise, her look evolved. A signature Zauner look is frilly and punk, with a multilayered, cake-like dress paired with combat boots or Vans. “I don’t think anyone doubts that I can play the guitar or lead a band. Now, I’m able to wear a dress and tread, and that juxtaposition is really exciting to me now. I don’t feel that I have to prove myself in the same way, which is really liberating.” 

For her Jimmy Kimmel Live! performance in early July, she wore a baroque ivory Simone Rocha dress with a ruff collar to perform “Paprika.” The royal rock look was styled by Cece Liu, who Zauner met through the Philly music scene and has worked with for about three years. At the time, Liu hadn’t styled talent—she mostly worked in editorial and advertising—and Zauner hadn’t worked with a stylist. “We were both kind of learning as we went,” writes Liu. “She’s really come to appreciate fashion since then and come into her own style.” Brands have been taking notice, too. “In the beginning, no one would loan to us,” says Zauner. The fact that she can now count Rodarte and Rocha as big supporters is a testament to her rising popularity. “She seems to be down to get more creative the more we work together. our first fitting she was a bit like ‘These looks feel so crazy! I'm not sure,’” writes Liu. “And now she is like ‘Should we go for something crazier?’”

At Sandy Liang, Zauner is going a more tame route, trying on Liang’s Mott dress. She cites Kate Bush, Bjork, and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as her style inspirations. But her late mother was one of her biggest influences, and is the subject of much of Zauner’s material. “She was a really strong proponent of ‘dress so you feel good, and not for other people,’ which I think is probably basic, but from a really young age that was something that she instilled in me,” says Zauner. She still has her mom’s Chanel bag. “I had a very fashionable mom and I was such a tomboy. In my book, I talk about how my mom and a lot of Koreans like designer handbags and finding good deals,” she says. “It was always her dream to have a real Chanel bag and in her 50s, she finally got one. I inherited it when she died, but I never took it out of the box because I’m such a reckless tomboy that I’m worried about fucking it up.” \

By the end of our time at Sandy Liang, Zauner has tried on half of the store. We are still debating what to get, when stylist Miyako Bellizzi, who is responsible for the sleazy-saucy looks in Uncut Gems, walked in with manicurist Holly Falcone. I introduce Bellizzi to Zauner as the latter tries on a pair of tailored, high-waisted trousers and a white tank with a cut out on the stomach. Funny enough, Bellizzi is wearing a similar look. “You look like a model-celebrity,” says Zauner to Bellizzi. When Zauner walks out of the dressing room, Bellizzi tightens the waist of Zauner’s trousers. (I tell Zauner she’s getting a killer New York-styling treatment). Zauner looks great, the perfect amount of polish mixed with all of that downtown coolness. “You just need to take it in an inch here,” advises Bellizzi. “You can take it to the laundromat for $20 dollars.” Zauner gets the two pieces, plus a checked, long sleeve top with a Peter Pan collar called the “Stinging Top”. 

We leave and go to Scarr’s pizza and talk about everything from hometown friends to women in rock ‘n’ roll. We chat about Japanese Breakfast going on tour, which kicked off, after our conversation. on July 21 in Maryland and will go through the United States. Happy with her purchases, Zauner heads off in an Uber back to Brooklyn, while I head back to Sandy Liang to wait for my ride. When I get back, I realize the whole time, Zauner had a calm and amazingly dressed fan, a salesgirl named Ashley (Zauner and I had complimented her pinafore Mott dress when we first arrived). She is a musician who in her off-time, makes alternative indie music for her band Chaarm. For her, meeting Zauner was a monumental moment. “I listen to her every day! It is important to see her on stage because there are not a lot of Asian women in rock so as an Asian woman in music, I felt like I could do it myself,” she says, adding. “I only work Sundays and Tuesdays, so this was meant to be.” 

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