If You Don't Know Fashion's Latest It Girl Havana Liu, Here's Why You Should

Socially aware. Unapologetically authentic. Radically open-minded. If you've been paying any attention to Generation Z, you likely know that the late-teen and early-twentysomething set is a serious force to be reckoned with — especially when it comes to issues related to politics, human rights, and gender equality. Hell-bent on using their voices (and Instagram feeds, too) to ignite conversations and motivate others to engage — think: protest, volunteer, or get to a voting booth, for starters — they're going to great lengths to stand up for what they believe in and doing whatever they can with whatever they have to propel society forward.
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People like 21-year-old Havana Rose Liu, a multimedia artist, advocate of body positivity, activist, and entrepreneur, prove it. Inspired by the idea that creativity has the capacity to shape culture, bring people together, and heal, she's intent on finding ways to use art to not only educate but also spread the ideas that she believes in. Together with adidas Originals, we caught up with the multihyphenate (who also happens to be a full-time student at New York University) to take a deeper look at the mindset of young people in 2018 and the issues they're getting behind. Clad in the brand's three latest sneaker styles, below she reveals her fresh perspective on everything from activism to style; why exactly she started Tiny Breast, a line of ceramic boob pendants; and her advice for effecting real change.
So you’re currently in your last year at NYU studying art activism and wellness practices. What’s it like being a college student in 2018?
“I would say it’s great — but I definitely feel like I’m in a bubble. You end up having these amazing conversations; I continuously have to stop and remind myself that it’s an incredible privilege to be able to have them but that taking them into the real world is going to be effortful. I’m going to have to be very conscious, as things aren’t as accessible as they are now. I’m really soaking up the privileges while I have them.”
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Do you have a plan for yourself post-graduation?
“I’m really open. I self identify as a multimedia artist. I sing, dance, act, paint, draw, and make jewelry. Moving forward, I’m really curious to find ways that I can use those different mediums in order to pursue and spread messages that I think are important. Because I’m studying the intersections between art and activism and wellness, a lot of what I look at is the way that those creative mediums can impact others through art — and how others can be impacted through art. Basically wherever the wind blows me.”
On that note, can you tell us more about your jewelry line, Tiny Breast?
“Tiny Breast began as a small art project that I did on my own. I was going through an interesting time when I was reclaiming my body after an assault. Simultaneously, my godmother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, and my best friend’s mother had it, too. I had all of these boobs in my life — of multiple shapes and sizes but also in terms of empowerment and degradation. I understood the breast as this complex symbol. I just started messing around — painting breasts on tiny ceramic pendants. They come in about a million different shapes, colors, and sizes. I make everything by hand.”
Why just the one boob?
“For me, it’s more about the symbol of the breast than having two boobs. In some ways, two breasts immediately becomes sexualized, and while these can be a symbol of sexual empowerment, that doesn’t need to be what they’re for. Right now, they’re $25 each, and I’m donating 15% of proceeds to the Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation this month, but that will be spread out amongst a number of different organizations that benefit women’s health and other issues, like trans visibility.”
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Why did you ultimately create it?
“I started Tiny Breast because I believe that people need to have a way to reclaim their bodies from a system that absolutely dismantled and took that from them — whether that be that there just isn’t enough breast cancer awareness, period, or that sex ed for women is completely invisible in some people’s lives.”
Switching topics for a second, let’s talk about style. You’re becoming somewhat of a fashion authority on the internet.
“I think it’s really interesting I’m becoming a style source. The main idea around the way that I dress and the way I think other people should dress is based on feelings and what’s going to build you up in that moment. I think it’s also a way for others to see what’s going on with you on the inside and, in turn, how to interact with you: to be sensitive with you, to be thoughtful around you, to be loud with you, to not get in your way, and so on. I think of clothing as a means of expression, rather than branding.”
So what sorts of silhouettes do you typically wear? What makes you feel most you?
“I wear a lot of clothes that allow me to express my power. Like these three looks, for example, they make me feel expansive, unapologetic, and versatile — like I could be in class in the morning, take part in a self-love circle around midday, do an early-afternoon public performance piece, run to therapy, read poetry before cooking dinner, and then go dancing. I think they express me feeling unafraid to stand out and stand up!”
Would you call yourself a sneaker girl?
“I love sneakers. I love to dance; I’m constantly dancing everywhere I go. Even if I’m alone, I’m generally dancing down the street. Sneakers to me have always been a really amazing way to move. Plus, I’m tired of shoes that I literally can’t walk in. I need to wear a sneaker when I’m walking around the city.”
You're a true Gen Z'er! Speaking of: What excites you about your generation's forward-thinking POV?
“I think there’s a fluidity around Gen Z that’s really exciting. I think there’s a push around boundaries that comes with having this incredible access to unlimited resources on the internet. We are able to sort of speak about issues that I don’t think were previously spoken about in the light that they are now. I’m excited for Gen Z because I think we’re pushing. I want us to push — I don’t want us to become complacent.”
It’s been said that they value authenticity above all else. Do you feel that way?
“I definitely do. For me, I probably have to have like 17 conversations with someone to determine whether or not I can connect with them. I think it is much more about the complexity of a person, their experiences, what they’re willing to be vulnerable and talk about — and it’s about those choices and the way they are existing in their body and in this world. I think that is most impactful to me, in terms of how 'cool' someone is, rather than their aesthetic. I’m really tired of judgment based on aesthetic.”
Would you call yourself an activist? What does that word mean to you?
“I was just talking to a good friend of mine the other day about what that label means. It’s thrown around quite a bit. I think the word activism is really tough. People use it when I don’t necessarily know if they deserve to be using it; it sets a really low standard for the way engagement needs to be framed. I appreciate the term — I do — because if it can motivate people, that’s great. But I think it’s just our duty. I don’t know how much it should be a label at this point; I think everyone should just be getting involved. It should be a part of our everyday lives and the way we exist in communities and society. Pushing those boundaries, fighting for causes we believe in… that should just be a part of every person’s human consciousness. That’s my hope at least.”
What do you think needs to be done so that this mindset is the norm?
“Educate others. But also educating yourself and being open to being educated by others is almost more important. I think humility is key. I think we have to be humble to the fact that we don’t know everything, there will always be more to learn, and I think if we are open to learning as much as we can, we are going to be able to use our tools better.
“I could not believe more strongly in the fact that our passion and our feelings have a place in action. Personal is political. I think we should try to live in a way that mirrors our values rather than simply saying them. Don’t compartmentalize the love and hurt and vulnerability out of the things you stand for. Many of the issues we are faced with in social justice are deeply painful or emotional and those feelings should be allowed for in activism — maybe even celebrated.”
On that note, what’s your biggest piece of advice for young people wanting to impact their communities and push our world forward?
“I almost feel silly giving advice about how to be an activist because I think I am still learning how to do this better every day, but I guess my biggest advice would be to use the skills and talents that you have and put them to use behind the things you believe in. Use the things you know you have power in or privilege in and put them to the uses that you think need the most care and attention. That could be personal or something you want to be a really intense ally towards.”
Lastly, where do you see yourself in five, 10, 20 years?
“I kind of hate planning in that way. I’m super excited for who that person is, but I think we’re constantly growing and changing, and whoever I think I want to be right now might be too limiting for who I need to be then.”

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