"I try not to be too…what’s the word? Surface-level or airy. I grew up in L.A. and Manhattan Beach, the latter of which had a formative impact on me because of all of the surf culture there. Although I was an angsty teenager, I was always very creative and expressed myself through clothing. That’s actually how I got into fashion. When I was in college, one of my friends landed an internship at W. When she came back, she raved about it and was like, ‘You wear funny outfits! Maybe you would like it.’ So I went there for an internship. It was the heyday of W—Alex White was the fashion director, and Camilla Nickerson was Senior Fashion Editor. We would literally receive 15 feet by 15 feet cubes that would carry one Alexander McQueen couture dress, and we would be responsible for opening and checking it. It was magical, but also really hard work and long hours. Being in New York was tough. I was lonely and homesick and I partied a lot to relieve the anxiety and stress.
My first full-time job was at Self in the fashion department—I was a stylist assistant, but after about a year I started craving high fashion. I worked as a second, third, fourth assistant at any shoot I could get onto and then I became Edward Enninful’s assistant. I was with him for about a year and a half while he was the Fashion Director at i-D, and a contributing fashion editor at Vogue. He was the first stylist that really encouraged me to express my opinion. After that I got a junior styling job at Glamour, followed by a fashion market director role at Nylon. That was the first time I had the opportunity to style covers and celebrities. I wasn’t there that long—just when I was getting my stride, I left. I went to Style.com—rest in peace [laughs]—as the fashion market director. Then I went to Allure to be their fashion director. I was so honored and humbled. My job was to focus on creating a modern version of the brand that was aspirational yet approachable. To have that moment where I received something back for everything that I sacrificed—like up until that point I had no life for 10 years, I couldn’t be in a relationship, my friends knew that I was pretty much never available—it was like the heavens opened up and rained sunshine on me. I got to collaborate with the best people in the industry.
I started going to protests at the end of last year. I went to Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. When I came back, this wave just came over me of like, ‘What am I doing?’ I needed to have a bit more freedom in what I was working on, and I wanted to take time to prioritize my relationships with the people closest to me. So, I made the very hard decision to leave. Who does that? Who leaves a fashion director job at a Condé Nast magazine? But I did it out of knowing that it was no longer serving me, and I was no longer able to serve in the way I wanted to. I decided to go freelance, and Allure’s editor-in-chief, Michelle Lee, was super supportive. People came to me with opportunities to collaborate, and no matter how small or big they were, I took them. That was like a year ago. I’m getting to work with brands that I’ve always wanted to work with, and I’m able to support messages and ideas that I really believe in. It’s been a dream come true.
I have always cared about holistic health and well-being—I guess that comes from my mom. As I became more educated about the environment, I decided to go vegan and my skin changed as a result. Now I don’t really have to wear makeup, which I understand is a privilege. I’m not a junk-food vegan—I focus a lot on the range of vitamins and minerals and proteins and fats from the foods that I eat. I take B-12, which helps the body function overall. I’ve been taking some mushroom powders because they have some B vitamins and iron. Other than that, I’m not super obsessive.
I’m not scared of wrinkles or aging. I went to Mongolia on a personal growth trip after Style.com closed down. Just being there and seeing people age and the beauty of age was so inspiring. My mom has never worried about aging. She is growing old gracefully and is so joyful and I want to be like that. My one vice is the sun. I’m really sensible about it—I don’t lay out and bake for hours and hours—but I do believe in daily sun exposure. I find that it makes me feel happy. I’m olive-toned because my dad’s Chinese, but I do tan very easily. My father lived in a different house when I was growing up, so Chinese culture is not a part of my upbringing. [Not wanting to get a tan] is an old, classist thing in China, and I wanted to rebel against that. I really prioritize individual beauty and just feeling proud of one’s heritage, one’s body shape, and one’s skin color. I generally believe in covering myself if I’m going to be in the sun, but if I’m at the beach, I want my vitamin D!
My skincare is just a few steps and I try to use natural products. In the morning I wake up and splash my face with cold water. I don’t wash it with soap because I think our body knows what’s best, and the less we do the more it manages its own oil production. I’ve been using this Circumference Vital C Antioxidant Day Serum—I don’t know if it’s doing anything—I just started using it about a month ago. I really like their Pure Balancing Botanica Face Oil. I do both—I spray with rose water, just the cheap, basic one from Sweet Essentials, then apply the vitamin C serum, then dab on like two drops of the face oil and do a kind of face massage with that. At night, if I’m wearing makeup, I’ll use coconut oil to remove all my makeup. I have this Eye Bright Makeup Remover and Treatment Oil from Farmaesthetics that I really like. It’s gentle and doesn’t irritate the eye—it’s also easier to travel with than a giant tub of coconut oil.
My favorite thing to use on my face because my skin gets so dry is Immunocologie Night Protection Cream. Obviously it’s meant for night-time, and it’s really good in the winter. I use it when I’m traveling on planes—I spray my face with the rose mist first, and apply a pretty good amount of the cream to my whole face. I find that it holds the moisture close to my skin. I don’t really cleanse at night—I use warm water, and if I’m feeling particularly dirty I’ll use coconut oil to cleanse. I exfoliate my face in the shower every other day with a washcloth, hard. I also dry brush. I have two—one for my face and one for my body. It’s actually pretty harsh, but it brings the blood to the skin’s surface and also flushes toxins. I also exfoliate with mitts that I just got from Whole Foods every other day. I feel like that does a lot of the work that a product would do, but I’m just doing it manually.
I don’t really get my hair cut. I’ve had every kind of haircut and style, but the most recent dramatic hair I had was several years ago, when I had a platinum bob for about a year or two. It was super cool, but ultimately I’m not really a salon girl. Besides, it was so expensive and I was frying my brain with chemicals. Since then, I have been growing it and just cutting little bits off. My typical daily hair routine is this: I part my hair down the middle when it’s wet, put in a Rahua Leave-in Treatment, flatten it out with a comb, put an elastic at the base of my hair, and then braid it. I don’t really touch it after it dries. If I’m going to wear it down, I don’t do anything. I only wash my hair once a week, and I don’t condition it. AG Balance is really good. I have really fine hair, or thin—I think it’s fine and thin. If I’m wearing it down, I wash it but don’t condition it because I like the natural texture of my hair, which is a little bit wavy. When I wear it down I don’t want it in my face, so it’s always tucked behind my ear. If my hair’s looking very flat, I use Lavett & Chin Sea Salt Texturizing Mist on the bottoms, and kind of scrunch to bring out the natural wave.
I use this Erbaviva Organic Deodorant, which I really like because I’ve tried a lot of natural deodorants and this one actually works. I’ve been playing around with different body oils I can use after the shower, and I’ve found that the most effective way to apply them is to not towel off, and to apply a small amount. Because your skin is wet, it blends easier. I really like Esker because it’s an all-natural body care oil, but it also has specific antioxidants to help reduce inflammation. I also really like Lauren’s All-Purpose. My hands get really dry—I just have dry skin in general, so I have to moisturize every single day. My hands and feet get really dry and cracked, so I use Lauren’s at night for that. I’ll sort of lube up my feet and put on socks, and sleep with them if it’s really bad. The smell is great—I think there’s lavender, peppermint, and patchouli in it. It kind of has that ritualistic experience of putting it on, but it’s a blend of lots of oils—shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba, hemp oil, blah blah. It’s very moisturizing but can be greasy.
In the shower I use Dr. Bronner’s on my whole body—I feel like that’s a cure-all for everything. Then I have this Herbivore Coconut Milk Bath Soap and it’s really moisturizing. I try to travel with it, and when I do I try to draw a really hot bath after being on the plane. I also love this product from Cap Beauty called The Love Bath, which smells great.
Makeup adds time to my schedule, and truthfully, I’d rather prioritize sleep. When I do wear makeup, I like to play around. I love lipstick—I recently did this whole intensive search for vegan red lipstick because it’s hard to find a really good pigmented one. I landed on Too Faced’s Breakfast Club and Tarte’s Miami Vice, which is a bit of a deeper red. They both look great with tan or pale skin, no [complexion] makeup, and mascara. I’ve been trying to find a good natural mascara, which is kind of always the never-ending saga. I don’t curl my lashes—I’m a little bit dysfunctional when it comes to that. Every time I try to do it, they end up flatter. Mascara makes me look a little bit less tired, but I hate taking it off—also, natural mascaras are always a little bit drippy. I do like the RMS one if I’m not wearing a lot of face oil. I’ve also been playing around with the W3ll People Mascara, which seems to be a little bit drier and doesn’t drip as much.
My eyebrows are microbladed—I flew all the way to Vancouver to visit Shaughnessy, who is like the master of microblading. If you don’t know, microblading is like temporary tattooing—it eventually will fade if you don’t get it touched up. Now I just use Boy Brow to make my brows look more natural—I actually layer the Brown and the Black on top to have all the hairs stand up and blend better with the microblading. And then I use lip balm from Too Faced for anything—it’s my favorite lip balm. You can use it for everything.
RMS’s Living Luminizer is like my favorite product of all time. It feels good, it’s easy to put on, and I like the highlight on my cheekbones or the lids of my eyes. I really like this Noto Multi Benne Stain—it’s just a red cheek stain. It’s funny because I never really liked blush, but recently, I don’t know! I’ve been interested in a healthy rouge on the tops of my cheeks, so that’s been fun to play with. I don’t really use concealer, but sometimes I use this Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer, which has a little bit of sunscreen in it. It’s nice when I have a zit or something because it goes on sheer. I love that it leaves a dewy finish, and it blends easily.
I love fragrance—I love playing around with oils, and all of that. I’ve been so busy, though, and haven’t had time to put together custom oil blends to make a signature fragrance. So... I’ve just been using Byredo’s Mojave Ghost. It reminds me of California."
—as told to ITG
Rachael Wang photographed by Tom Newton in New York on June 18, 2018.