Model and Author Naomi Shimada On The Power of Words, Self-Acceptance and Finding Her Voice

The Aje Insider talks career, her creative inspirations and capsule wardrobe must-haves.

 

Naomi Shimada is a woman on a mission. Multiple, actually.

 

Entering the fashion industry as a model at age 13, today, the London-based creator counts author, writer and broadcaster amongst her titles, best known for driving critical conversations around beauty standards and social media to encourage practices of care and tenderness with ourselves and the world around us.

 

Influenced by her own multicultural background—Japanese, Dutch and Canadian—to encourage others to embrace their uniqueness, she is also a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion in fashion, both in front of and behind the lens.

 

To discover more about her how she kicked off her career, her creative process and approach to style, The Aje Report caught up with Naomi in the scenic surrounds of Lake Como and Milan, where she wore and captured looks from 'Pre-Fall 23, ‘Nowness of Then.

 

Continue reading for our conversation with the ever-inspiring, Naomi Shimada.

 

Naomi Shimada wears the Colorado Denim Midi Dress

The Aje Report: Take us back to where it all began: what inspired you to become a model, writer and activist, and how do you juggle these roles?

 

 Modelling is a job I’ve been lucky enough to have been doing since I was a teenager. When I started it was a whole other game in a truly different pre-social media world. It’s a job I’m still grateful to be doing as it supports and sustains me, but it’s not the thing that inspires me these days. I am inspired and moved by our capacity to heal and transform, first ourselves and then the world around us.

 

I really do not consider myself an activist or see what I do as activism. I feel like we use that terminology so frequently but often don’t stop to question what we really think activism is in this current moment in time. To me, caring for our planet and the others we share our one home with just feels like the most natural and embodied way of being in the world. I consider what I do and my purpose here more as lifting the veil on the subjects that keep us disconnected from the things that make us human. The yearning to feel loved, seen, and cared for.

 

Acknowledgement of pain, of our mortality. The importance of connection and how we actually cultivate those things. Writing is a modality that helps me do that. My newsletter Tender Contributions is a place where I work out all the things I am seeing, learning and trying to put into practice on paper. Writing is a modality that is magic, it’s a form of channelling and a sacred art form that means a lot to me. It brings all my practices together. Words create worlds, and so we have to be mindful of how we use them.

 

Can you discuss your journey towards body positivity and self-acceptance, and how do you continue to prioritise your mental and emotional well-being?

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve berated my body. I do not judge myself based on how I look anymore. My weight may sometimes still fluctuate, but I see it as a mirror that is showing me signs of what I am living and going through. I have not owned scales for over 15 years. I am comfortable in my body, and I am grateful to have my health, as there were times in the past few years when I did not. All our bodies our sacred vessels for our souls, it’s a tragedy how so many societies have raised us to feel ugly, not enough and full of shame.

 

Prioritising getting to know myself by following my curiosities and diving deep into them has ultimately given me a quiet confidence and has mostly stopped me from comparing myself to others, as I know I’m on my own path. That I may have wobbly days, but overall I trust in the process of listening and trusting my inner voice to lead me exactly where I’m supposed to be.

 

Naomi wears the Echo Bubble Body Dress

“Writing is a modality that is magic, it’s a form of channelling and a sacred art form that means a lot to me. It brings all my practices together. Words create worlds, and so we have to be mindful of how we use them.”

Naomi wears the Cresent Knit Midi Dress (Arriving next week)

What is your creative process like when it comes to writing?

 

My creative process for ideas is just being very present when it comes to being in the outside world, I find inspiration and stories that tenderise the human spirit everywhere, but if I am on my phone or distracted I miss them.

 

Making the space to write is another thing, I have so many ideas but sitting down to honour them while working other jobs is my main thing I’m trying to work on. When I’m stuck, I like to remember this quote by Hemingway: “All you have to do is write one true sentence,” and try to start from there.

 

You captured looks from Aje’s from Pre-Fall 23 ‘Nowness of Then’ against the backdrop of Milan and Lake Como, Italy. Which pieces do you feel most drawn to, and where do you see yourself wearing these pieces?

 

Both Lake Como and Milan are chic and elegant places. People dress well. By ‘well’, I mean they really care about garments, their quality, and their heritage. There is a deep sense of the expansiveness of time here. I really love that about this place. I feel like the piece I will wear the most is the green knit dress. It’s definitely chic but also easy to throw on and comfortable. It’s one, two, three—chic!

'Nowness of Then' is partly inspired by the notion of nostalgia. Which memories come to mind when we evoke...

 

... your first true experience of fashion.

 

Standing in my parent's vintage store watching my father help put together looks.

 

...the most life-changing moment in your career.

 

When I decided to use my voice.

 

...the day your book 'Mixed Feelings: The Emotional Impact of Our Digital Habits' was published.

 

I was a moment of wonderful surreality.

 

 How would you describe your personal style, and what is your process for putting together a look or a capsule wardrobe?

 

These days I am doing less but more. I am doing comfort, cosy classics. I still love colour, but I’m playing with it more, with accessories and little touches like shoes. A capsule wardrobe to me now is just great simple things like white tees and good denim but mixed with fun jackets, shoes and accessories.

 

I’m trying to have less but choosing great quality and craftsmanship. Really asking myself how much wear I can get out of something over having lots and lots of things.

 

How has your identity and background influences your work and activism, and what message would you like to convey to others who may e struggling to find their own voice?

 

Both my identity and background have made me who I am. Our society is organised by identity and how we choose to identify. I am an amalgam because I am so many different things. That has freed up how I think about myself, and it’s given me permission to embrace so many things, and that isn’t just because I am of mixed ethnicity. We are all not just one thing, every one of us is truly unique. Make space for quiet, so you can listen, feel and remember who you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naomi wears the Cresent Knit Midi Dress (Arriving next week)

“We are all not just one thing, every one of us is truly unique. Make space for quiet, so you can listen, feel and remember who you are.”

In your opinion, what role do social media and technology play in shaping our perceptions of beauty and self-worth, and how can we use these platforms in a positive way?

 

Social media and the presence of technology in our lives have changed us in ways we are only at the tip of starting to understand. They have definitely changed our perceptions of beauty and self-worth.

 

The technology itself isn’t inherently evil but the programming often is. These apps are programmed to addict us to them, and they do that by kidnapping our attention, making us less able to make our own minds about things. They exacerbate a culture of productivity and competition, creating an epidemic of anxiety and unworthiness.

 

I feel less and less hopeful that these platforms can be used in a positive way. I find myself less and less able to spend time on social media, and most of the time choose to delete it from my phone because I feel overwhelmed by the noise. I try only to follow profiles that share beauty and a breadth of knowledge I am inspired by.

 

All I can say is, remember to take time off. Take breaks so you can be aware of the role they have in how you think and feel. If we don’t take control of the technology, it takes control of us.

 

What is next for Naomi Shimada? What does the future hold for you?

 

I am in a quiet moment of deep study, in the soil, not yet above ground! I’m hoping to be able to share and support more embodied healing ways of being in the world soon.

 

And to finish, a couple of quick-fire questions…

… a piece of clothing you’ll never part with?

 

A Hawaiian shirt with this beautiful Gaugin print from my dad's special collection of oneoff shirts.

 

… a city that has your heart?

 

Tokyo forever.

 

… the word you would want to describe your legacy?

 

That I was love.

 

 

 

Shop the 'Nowness of Then' Edit by Naomi Shimada

Crescent Knit Midi Dress
*Arriving next week

Explore the latest looks from Pre-Fall 23 'Nowness of Then'.

Aje Insider: Naomi Shimada