“I grew up kind of all over… I was born in Newport California, but then my family moved to Tokyo, and then Hong Kong, and then the San Francisco Bay Area, and then San Diego, and then LA. We moved a lot for my dad’s work. I get my wanderlust from him—even do this day he’s been to more places than I have, even with all of the random trips I used to take for Fashion Toast. I definitely inherited that gene from him. For my whole life, there was no real ‘normal.’
That wanderlust sort of affected my personal style, too. I love the surgical and precise Japanese approach to clothing and style, for example. That very clean aesthetic, combined with the California beach thing, that’s kind of where I emerge. I think the best that someone can look is when they’re super casual. You don’t know exactly what’s making them special, or making you stare longer. It’s not what they wear. It’s the way they wear something, the way they carry themselves. That’s what I’m trying to achieve with Are You Am I—those kinds of fascinating [fashion] moments.”
Friend of a Friend: Let’s back it up to Fashion Toast. How did you get started as one of the very first proper fashion bloggers?
Rumi Neely: Ever since I was twelve, I was obsessed with pouring over every page of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, begging my mom to buy it at the newsstands. It was very important to me. I knew that working in fashion was very privileged, a whole separate category in life. When I was living in San Diego, none of my friends were interested in fashion—I didn’t have anybody to talk about it with. So I started a blog.
FOAF: What’s the hardest and the best part about being a fashion blogger?
RN: I think the hardest part is being hyper aware of yourself. It’s not healthy, it’s not normal, and I feel like to a certain degree, that’s the case for everyone these days with Instagram. I don’t even know what it would be like to be in middle school, having to deal with social media. I was lucky to grow up before then, when my attention wasn’t scattered everywhere at every single moment. And as a blogger, you’re always trying to come up with digestible content. It get’s hard to be like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to take any photos today, or have a calculated outfit on.’ At the same time though, I love so many things about what I do…the creative direction, the styling, the designing, the photography. All of the photos on my Instagram are shot with my iPhone.
Are You Am I and Fashion Toast are very symbiotic. I think people that know me from Fashion Toast have always know that I've gone to thrift stores, I've cut thing up, I've tried to make them as much my own. Now with Are You Am I, I’m able to create things that that I can design every last thing on. I think my readers understand that I'm evolving. I wouldn't say I'm just a designer, I wouldn't say I'm just a creative director, I wouldn't say I'm just a blogger, and I think that that’s so acceptable these days to just be a little bit of everything and I think that they’re excited to see all these things that have basically been in my brain for years.
FOAF: What’s inspiring you at the moment?
RN: I like searching for vintage or super old-season Isabel Marant on eBay. But for me the inspo is more about moments in life that I want to make something for. I’m like, ‘What will be the most fun to wear at 9:00 AM when I need to answer the door but maybe look kind of sloppy and cute for my boyfriend?’ I don't know. For me that’s the bodysuit from the line. There’s all these little things that I want to have the perfect thing for.
FOAF: What inspires you about LA?
RN: I kind of like the juxtaposition of everything. In LA, you might have something that’s run down right next to something iconic. I feel like I love the level of care that is appropriate to put into your looks here. It’s so un-done, it's so whatever, but at the same time it doesn't matter. So I feel like it’s the perfect place for our brand to be based because that’s exactly the type of girl that were dressing.
FOAF: Who do you feel is your quintessential girl?
RN: Literally seeing Bella [Hadid] wear our pieces was just like, goals. She just gets it, she gets us. She could not be wearing it more perfectly, it’s just insane. Just seeing girls in general wearing the pieces. I didn’t go to fashion school, but I have an amazing team working with me that can execute things that I'm quite clear about instructing them on and we have such an inspiring, cool crew down here. I still pinch myself, I'm like, ‘Wow, that girl’s wearing something that wouldn't exist if I didn't exist.’ It’s a little weird!