Michelle Vilavanh Knows Style Is All About Attitude
Andie Flores Michelle Vilavanh dresses up a sleek, simple outfit with a textured patterned pant.
Michelle Vilavanh just wants to make things look nice.
The 23-year-old graphic designer and Arizona State University graduate is all about simplicity with a hint of pizzazz. Whether it's a new design or a new outfit, she's creating it all on her own terms.
"Everything can be simple," she says. "But there are so many ways of showing your personality. When I wear something, it's pretty plain, but I believe that things like some great patterned pants are a really cool way to add pizzazz."
Vilavanh, originally from Chico, California, looks up to style icons who excel at the art of pizzazz. André 3000, Susie Lau of the fashion blog Style Bubble, J. Crew's Jenna Lyons, and actress Zoë Kravitz all possess a badass simplicity and unique swagger that Vilavanh admires. Her biggest influence, however, is her sister, who first challenged Vilavanh to start paying attention to what she wore.
"I was a little tomboy who wore sweatpants that zipped off when I wanted to turn them into cargo shorts, but my sister was kind of a fashion icon in our high school. She was really methodical. She drew pictures of what she wore each day. She created these flashcards and read fashion magazines to try to find new ways to do her hair. She encouraged me to try things differently."
Amid all her influences, Vilavanh wants to create her own sense of style. Breakaway sweatpants behind her, she now carries a self-described "weird '90s street flavor." Perhaps the greatest gain from her transition from skater girl to indie chick to what she calls "a weird hodgepodge" in her early college years is her new-found embrace of her femininity.
"I think being a female is amazing," she says. "I just try to flaunt it as much as I can and feel powerful at the same time." For Vilavanh, embracing how awesome it feels to be a woman is synonymous with being free to do whatever she wants. "I'm past the stage of caring what people think. I am who I am and it feels great. I like that freedom."
As Vilavanh, like many recent grads with a knack for style, moves away from the college student lifestyle, she's begun to actually own more of the clothes she really likes. With her own outfits, Vilavanh tries not to plan too much, wing it, and satisfy herself. At the end of the day, she knows fashion is supposed to be fun.
"It is so fun to try something new and look good," she says. "This is a short life, and if you want to be remembered for wearing a T-shirt and jeans, that's fine with me, but I'm going to live my life fabulously."