Q&AZN: Taylor Okata Talks Multicultural Creativity With Banana Mag
In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, editors Kathleen Tso and Vicki Ho of Banana Magazine are taking over Milk with eight different features, highlighting some of their community’s best and brightest creatives. Next up? NYC creative Taylor Okata.
Taylor Okata is a stylist and creative director based in NYC and raised in Hawaii. His portfolio spans everything from editorials in Vogue Italia to Hypebeast magazine, Adidas campaigns, N.E.R.D live performances and even the ultimate baesian, Steven Yeun. Okata has a certain knack for effortless cool in everything he does not only in his work, but his own personal style. We’ve been a huge fan of Okata since his limited run of ‘Catching Feelings’ tees (that we secretly wish he’d bring back), and can’t wait to see what he does next.
Read on for more about Taylor Okata and how heritage plays a part in his identity.
What is your heritage?
I actually had my DNA tested and received my results the other day. I’m 50 percent Japanese, and the other half is made up of Portuguese/Spanish, Irish/Scottish, French and tiny percentages of Jewish, Native American & Polynesian. So many layers, lol.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Hawai’i, and now reside in New York City.
Who is an APA creative that you look up to?
Growing up, Chad Hugo from The Neptunes / N.E.R.D was one of the first APA creatives I looked up to. In college, I attended talks with APA figures like John Jay and Lisa Ling, which influenced my studies. I look up to actors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson & Keanu Reeves, who both have cultural ties to Hawai’i, as well as Steven Yeun.
How has your heritage played a part in your passions and in your work?
It plays a major part in my work, and my work ethic is heavily influenced by my cultural upbringing. As a consultant & stylist, I wear and work with brands/designers that come from a mindset I can relate to. I also do my best to make sure I work with creatives/talent from all cultural and racial backgrounds. Growing up in Hawai’i, I was raised on Hip-Hop and R&B, but also Punk, Ska, Skate, Surf and Tribal references. All of these things have had an impact on my perception of style. I tend to reference various cultures of mine—Japanese, Hawaiian—in a lot of my work as well. There’s still a lack of APA representation in our industry, which is why I’m passionate about being an encouraging example and voice for our community—it’s really important for me to make the APA community proud!
When was the first time you realized, through your career or your passions, you connected with your heritage and felt that sense of pride?
[In Hawai’i], you’re already raised to have a strong sense of pride for our heritage. Being multiracial, I always grew up with this tug-of-war between my cultural identity—I was never local enough, or Asian enough. However, when I moved to LA at the age of 18, I realized how truly connected I was with my heritage and how my customs and values were undoubtedly APA. This was further heightened when I moved to Tokyo at the age of 20, and even more evident when I moved to New York at the age of 23. All of these cities, and the jobs I undertook, gave me a further sense of self—therefore, a stronger sense of identity and pride for where I come from. This awareness made it very important for me to always represent being an APA in every aspect of my career and passions.
What are you gearing up for right now in your career? Plug in what you got going on right now!
I am working on a couple of projects for Men’s Fashion Week in Paris next month. I’m also developing a social documentary series covering identity & style, so stay tuned!
Featured image courtesy of AJ Feducia
Stay tuned to Milk for more from Banana Magazine.