Aynouk Tan on appearance

I was lucky enough to give a hand to a friend of mine the other week, when she asked me to interview one of the most interesting, and, as I found out, inspiring, persons in Amsterdam’s creative scene.

Have a look at what I wrote on the basis of a well-spent 45 minutes on Skype with Aynouk Tan. The brief was to write a short piece on how she feels about the importance of appearance in today’s world – here’s the result.


The Amsterdam-born journalist Aynouk Tan is more than what meets the eye. Besides being an awarded fashion icon, she is a multi-tasker in the heart of Amsterdam’s creative buzz and sees appearance as much more than a fancy set of fa-fang outfits. We caught Aynouk Tan for a brief chat over fashion, modern-day identities and looking beyond what one sees on the surface.

Aynouk Tan, perhaps best known for her two year-long column for the Dutch newspaper NRC Next, is today freelancing with full force. She is writing for L’Officiel and its Hommes-brother, but is also busy with various styling tasks. Lately, moreover, Aynouk has made a serious step towards the world of arts. Combining her passions for arts and writing, she is currently finishing an essay on the rise of the amateur. The essay, that focuses on the changes in the cultural and artistic climate brought about by the amateur, is accompanied in Aynouk’s CV with work for the acclaimed Mondriaan Fonds, the fund responsible for the governmental subsidies for various fields of art. Next to being in the know of the up-and-coming artists, she is fascinated by the latest theoretical developments in the arts, communication and society. Hence it comes as no surprise that it often is the up-to-date, thought-evoking character that shines through her work.

Shining through her view on fashion, then, is the focus on modern-day identities instead of simple pieces of clothing. Aynouk Tan often aims in her own outfits for combinations between ”something that is generally considered as aesthetically pleasing” and something peculiar. With the help of this mix she is able to get the viewer intrigued and hence raising questions about her identity. Who is Aynouk Tan, on the basis of what one sees? This is exactly what the journalist aims for: to start a dialogue about modern-day identities.

Identities are, according to her, explicitly interwoven with one’s choice of clothing in today’s society. ”The clothes we wear are seen as the ultimate truth: he is a skater, he is a punk, and that’s it”, says Aynouk. She, however, wishes to raise awareness of what she consideres extremely important: one’s appearance does not say much about what lies inside. Inside are the fluid and ever-flexible identities, that can only be reached with looking beyond the cover.

Seeing beyond the known – expanding one’s horizon – can be done with the help of an experimental attitude towards fashion, the journalist recommends. By wearing something that does not feel ”100 % me” and stepping out of the oh-so-safe comfort zone, she is left with her character – the naked truth, as it were. This truth is far from the one on the surface, and requires effort to be visible: ”It really takes courage to feel good about yourself if you wear something that you don’t feel good in, as you only have to rely on what’s inside”, concludes Aynouk Tan.

photo: onesixtynotepad


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