Over the last two years, hip-hop and R&B artist Audrey Nuna has been making quite the name for herself. Born and raised in New Jersey, the Korean-American musician has developed an avid following for her amalgamation of haunting R&B melodies, catchy techno, and smooth rap. But for Nuna, her style has become every bit as much of her brand as her music: Her effortless mix of formal and street styles echoes the collision of culture in her upbringing (Sade, Thundercat, and Korean media are all influences in her work). And modern accessories pay homage to the glitchy, experimental sound in every track she releases.
Lately, Nuna has been gravitating towards pre-professional wear — “Button-ups, collared shirts, stuff I would never actually have to wear because my job is not very corporate” — and drawing heavy influence from her Korean heritage. But Nuna’s attention to fashion has long played a big role in her music videos. A transparent vinyl jacket with embedded paper money bills stole the show in “Paper,” for example, while flannels and loud acrylic chains were the focal point of “Comic Sans (feat. Jack Harlow).” Her most recent release, “Damn Right,” put Nuna’s unique, futuristic aesthetic front and center with eclectic looks reminiscent of characters in a video game.
To dive into that further, we asked Nuna to discuss three of her favorite looks. Read on to learn more about her favorite brands, how grandpas are one of her biggest inspirations, and who her fighters would be.
How would you describe your style?
I’ve been going with futuristic dad-slash-grandpa. I’m very into minimalism and neutrals with pops of color. I love when there’s a middle ground between high and low fashion, like futuristic stuff but also nostalgic shit. Also been into skatewear, as well as pre-professional wear lately. That’s the whole she-bang-bang.
How do you bring all these different styles together?
I just try different shit, and if it feels good, then I’m like, cool. It’s kind of like making music, you don’t really know what you’re doing but you just try shit. And then if it feels good, you kind of know. And if it doesn’t, then you should just change. [Laughs]
What brands have you been into lately?
I love a lot of South Korean designers. Hyein Seo. She’s based in South Korea and she does a lot of futuristic, really interesting silhouettes. Really interesting, strappy, almost anime-style clothing which is really fire. I also love IISE, which is another brand based in Korea. They do a lot of modern clothing that ties back to ancient Korean times.
I love how you’re tapping into your roots for fashion inspiration.
I never really thought about it when I was a kid, but as I’m growing up, I’m like, oh…there is actually a whole country of people who look like me. That blew my mind. When I went to Korea for the first time as a young adult, I was like oh shit, the entire country — everyone’s faces are similar to mine. That’s wild.
I really gravitate towards what they’re doing over there. Someone told me South Korea is, like, 7 years ahead [in terms of fashion trends]. Then Europe is like 3 years behind them. And we get all the trends last. [Laughs] But I believe it, they’re just on some other shit.
Outside of fashion, where do you draw inspiration?
I actually take a lot of pictures of strangers. I know that’s really weird. I’ll be walking on the street, and I’ll see a construction worker, or a grandpa. A lot of grandpas on my photo roll, just random grandpas I’ve never talked to because they go so hard! And they’re so underappreciated. Definitely a lot of industrial — I have photos of certain hard hats that are really cool. And it’s so funny because I literally just sneak photos all the time. People think I’m taking selfies, but I’m never talking selfies, guys — I’m taking photos of you.
I think Asian grandmas honestly go the hardest.
Yo, my grandma, she sent me this photo the other day and I was just like, “What the… you’re so hard.” She’s flashing a ring that she made me — it’s all gemmed out — and she didn’t want to show her face, so she’s just [covering it] like this. That should be a single cover. I think it will be actually.
What’s the relationship between style and music for you?
I definitely think they come from the same part of my brain. I know that I have a song that I love if I start to see a visual in my head because they’re so linked to me. I’ve also thought about maybe doing something where I pair up with an illustrator or visual artist. They’ll make the visual art first and that will be my north star in terms of the sonics. I’m curious to see how the music would be affected if I were to do visuals first.
Look #1: “Housewife Who Makes More Money Than You”
This look is from the “Damn Right” video. What were you thinking when you put this together?
First of all, I was trying to get a stylist for the video but no one responded in time, so I ended up just being like fuck it, I’m gonna do it myself. The fit is kind of what we’re talking about actually. The collared shirt paired with the streetwear, paired with the tennis skirt. The tennis skirt is definitely a new thing for me, but I wanted to do something that felt a bit domestic ‘cause I was gonna be vacuuming.
And the cliiiiips, the hair clips! I saw a meme on Instagram where this girl had all these straight bobby pins in her hair, being like “2020 so far” and just making fun of her hair. So I thought, what if it was even more disorganized and used bejeweled clips from eBay?
I noticed the skirt because I feel like you don’t really wear skirts. There’s such contrast to me between the masculine energy of the vest vs. the super girly skirt.
Actually, that’s so funny because it definitely did feel like a pivot moment for me. I was like, wait, I really want to wear a skirt for some reason. I get really bored of myself easily, so I always want to switch shit up. That was kind of the impulse behind the skirt, but also that weird middle ground between masculinity, femininity — I love exploring that. Genderless clothing is fire to me.
If I were to start a brand, I would want anyone to wear it; it’s not a women’s or menswear brand. I think there are so many societal norms about how a girl should dress. I’m just bored by it.
Look #2: Modern Chosun Era Bodyguard
What’s your favorite part of this outfit?
I love the bucket hat. My grandma actually made that for me. My grandparents came to the states to do clothing manufacturing. That’s also what my dad did instead of — he wanted to be an architect, but he was kind of forced into what his parents were doing. So I grew up in that space a lot. Every “take your kid to work” day, I would go with him; I loved doing that stuff.
My grandma makes a lot of my — we collaborate a lot, actually. I also love the [Asos] bag. The plastic messenger bag goes hard.
What was the inspiration for the hat?
I used to watch these Korean Chosun-era ancient dramas. In them, there were these female ninjas who wear hats with veils that cover them, and their job was to protect the queen and murder people who tried to murder her. So the hat was inspired by that…I would call it like a “modern Chosun era bodyguard.”
Look #3: Korean Gangster Grocery Shopper
This look feels the most different to me from the others.
Yeah, this is just a random day in my life. Casual wear.
But even then I see elements of subtle coordination. Like your necklace colors kind of mimic the stacking that’s happening in your outfit.
I love those pearls. They’re fake. Everything is fake; I’m very shameless with that. I’m just honestly not that bougie. There are a lot of clothes that I like that just happen to be expensive, but I will rock anything. Even the Crocs. Everyone was begging me not to get crocs, but I was like fuck y’all — I’m getting crocs. And those shits are so comfortable too! The pants are from IISE. The shirt is from MISBHV. They’re one of my favorite streetwear brands. This is just kind of simple — I would call this one my grocery store outfit.
I think this is a pretty swaggy grocery store outfit.
It’s crazy because I never realized until speaking with you, but I really do draw a lot of influence from Korean culture. Because I was gonna say there’s a lot of Korean gangster movies I’ve seen as a kid. And this is how they dress. They got the Cuban shirt, with some corny colors that somehow go hard. This is like the “Korean gangster grocery look.”
For more of Audrey Nuna’s style, check out her upcoming merch collab with community-led digital and retail space BOBBLEHAUS near the end of the year.