New Yorker Caroline Lin is an optimist – and whilst the times might still feel uncertain, she’s pressing forward with positivity and polish in mind. “Getting dressed up feels fun again,” Lin says and, indeed, the vintage collector and creative director has a neat formula: it’s about embracing classicism in a fresh palette of new neutrals and using fashion as a tool of self-expression, a symbol of living in the moment again. Here, Lin shares her thoughts on dressing to feel good.
Tell us about your style and what ignited your love of fashion?
“My style is so minimal; it’s built around the idea of classicism. I have wardrobe staples that I always go to – such as a blazer, a tailored shirt and man-style trousers – and the idea is that they are timeless and seasonless, the forever pieces. My mum was always interested in design, she used to create dresses for my dolls, and I think that really piqued my interest in fashion and from there I developed my own style by observing the way people dress. New York is such an exciting city, full of possibility, and so it’s inspiring to watch people on the streets.”
Can you talk us through your edit from OROTON’s SS21 season, which pieces were you drawn to:
“I love how clean and minimal the collection is, the silhouettes, the sharp tailoring, the perfect fits. I was also drawn to the beautiful quality of the fabrics – for instance, the Leather Overshirt, in that very soft buttery leather, is just so beautiful to wear and easy to layer. I also really love the One Shoulder Top because it is like an elevated T-shirt and so elegant with the man-style Relaxed Drill Pants, which fit perfectly. I like the play between masculine and feminine shapes. The handbag is also a standout, it has become an everyday essential.”
You were born in China, then spent your college years in New York before taking on a role in finance in Los Angeles. More recently you made the leap to fashion, tell us about that journey:
“I think finance just wasn’t for me, I didn’t find it fulfilling. I have a creative side and I guess I was also really longing to return to New York – L.A. is a sprawling city, you need to drive everywhere. New York feels more intimate, it has an energy that I just love, it’s alive. I also love its cultural diversity and fashion diversity.”
How would you explain your approach to dressing, and did you have to adapt your style when you moved from one city to the next?
“In L.A. I probably didn’t pay as much attention to tailoring, I was less motivated to dress up because there is an ease to the city, everyone wears leggings and sweatpants, I just can't do that every day. Here in New York, you can never be overdressed, and I love that. You can really express your sense of style and people seem to appreciate it.”
You have an interesting formula when it comes to putting your daily look together – it’s a balance between feeling dressed, but with a chic fuss-free aesthetic. What is key?
“Perhaps it’s a subconscious reaction to the times, I’ve never analysed it deeply – I do have certain dress codes, I almost never wear bold colours or prints, instead I’m thinking about how I can keep my style classic. Most often, that means building my look around black, white and neutrals, and I am drawn to strong tailoring and sharp lines.”
Can you tell us about your leap from the world of finance to fashion:
“I had just moved cities and, like so many, I was just feeling bored in quarantine and uninspired. I had time on my hands, so I started experimenting with fashion, posting photos of my different outfits – there was an element of positivity to it, dressing to feel confident and elegant but in a relaxed way, and it took off.”
In that sense, how are you staying charged right now?
“When I moved back to New York, I really wanted to live near a park to be close to nature. So now every morning when I get up, I take a walk and it’s my favourite way to start the day rather than going directly to emails. Getting outside makes me feel calm and it puts me in the right frame of mind.”
Lastly, can you share your tips on dressing with confidence in mind?
“I think the key is to not get caught up in what other people might think, it’s about dressing in whatever feels right for you. When I look back on my childhood growing up in China, I think I probably didn’t feel as free to wear the clothes I wanted to wear. Since moving to New York, that has changed, it is liberating. I think people underestimate the power of fashion in terms of how we can use it to express ourselves, and how fashion can also say so much about the times, culturally. It really does give me a feeling of great freedom.”