TEXT BY SOPHIA JENNINGS ('16), CREATIVE DIRECTOR
PHOTOS BY BEN VELAISE ('18), CULTURE EDITOR
I’m writing this article from bed, hungover. And it’s Rowan Hyland’s fault. The interview, like the photoshoot, did not go exactly as planned. What began as a “quick chat” before my Middlemarch paper became an evening and a Bota Box, the paper saved till the following morning.
Nothing, it turns out, is ever what you plan with Rowan Hyland.
On the day of our photoshoot, the 20 year old South African arrived already drunk. It was 4pm on a Wednesday. “I wanted to take the edge off so I had a bit of wine,” she said. “Then a bit of vodka.” With Ben Velaise (’18) at the wheel, the duo arrived dancing to the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” blasting from their car radio. As we pulled out of Albritton, Rowan bid adieu with a parting cry of “let’s go bitches!”
Our first stop was Indian Hill where Rowan paired black shorts with a blazer and small-heeled boots. “I’d wear this outfit pretty much anywhere, anytime,” she says. “I wore this to Usdan dinner on Tuesday.” She accessorized with a pair of her mom’s earrings, which she calls her “ninja star earrings” from the 80s. “She was a punk and had just the most incredible style,” Rowan says. If you look closely, you’ll see the same bangles in every photo. These too, are her mom’s. “I never take them off,” she says. “Some are South African, some are from Burkina Faso.”
While the jewelry may remain consistant, Rowan's style has certainly evolved over the years. As a high schooler at the American International School of Cape Town, Rowan was bleach blonde and president of the Spirit Squad. “Looking back, my style was fucking whack,” she says. “Like it was great at the time, but it was great because no one else dressed like that.”
Between this Rowan and the Rowan of today two important things have happened. First, she moved to Barcelona for her sophomore year of high school. “It was totally wild and very different to Cape Town cause of public transport,” she says. “ At home my mom had to drive me everywhere, whereas in Barcelona I could go anywhere on my own.” There, she started buying Spanish Vogue and reading it on the bus to school, shopping regularly at Zara, H&M, Mango, and local second hand shops.
Second, Rowan decided to come to Wesleyan. Her first year was hard. “Honestly I was like, what the fuck, people here don’t find me as funny as people in South Africa find me.” As a freshman she wore flannel shirts, black jeans, and Timberlands. Going out she’d wear what she called ‘high waisted poofy skirts,' “I thought they made me look thinner.”
Since that first year, Rowan's grown to love Wesleyan, and as a result, her style has changed. ‘I only wear stuff thats super comfortable,” she says. “Like all my jeans are stretchy so I can do high kicks in them. And everything high waisted, obviously.” Her clothing is either from a major high street store or related to one of the women in her family, like the pair of second hand sandals she wears from a “sister trip” to Portland, Oregon. “Now that I’ve dyed my hair black,” she says. “Black sheer is my new look. The tighter and more see through, the better.”
As if to defy any lazily-set expectations, Rowan next pulled out a leopard fur coat from a German vintage market in Cape Town. “There was a power cut in the city bowl and all the ATMs were down,” she says. “I found one eventually, though. I had to have this jacket. It’s like stepping into a flamboyant character when I put this outfit on. Especially when I have to sit in the cold doing a shift at Eclectic.”
Rowan's third look took place in Froyo World. Changing with an audience on Main Street, she chose a vintage Calvin Klein shirt dress of her godmother’s and a jean jacket her mother found in a dumpster in Barcelona. “She saw it sticking out from across the street and instantly knew it was Levi’s,” Rowan says. “She’s like a hunting dog.” For Rowan, this outfit reminds her of walking down the stairs in Cape Town and finding her father laughing. “He looked at me and said, ‘That….is a really weird outfit, Robi.”
Between Rowan’s third and last outfits, the three of us got lost. Making a left at O’Rourkes, we found ourselves in a town Google Maps calls 'Portland.' We then attempted a U-Turn and ended up at Brownstone Adventure Park. There, Rowan chose a pair of green jodhpurs from American Apparel and an African wax print shirt her mother made using fabric she bought on the Lower East Side, the same day she met Allen Ginsburg on a park bench. It worked.
When I first met Rowan in an Art History course her sophomore year, she reminded me of the girls I knew in London. By Halloween, I found her in Russian House chugging champagne and throwing glitter with a freshman boy. A year later, we finish our interview and roll a cigarette out the window. From outfits to photo shoots, things might not ever go as planned with Rowan Hyland in the room, but eventually, they go as expected: last minute saves, bold choices, and a thorough commitment to enjoying the ride. Especially if she’s wearing bangles.