When Fashion And Jazz Collide

Taiwanese musician 9m88 shares how her eclectic style is a combo of her education in fashion and music, and her time in New York City.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

WHAT DOES 9M88 MEAN? Pronouncing 9m88’s name requires some Mandarin knowledge. The numerals are verbalised in Chinese as “jiu m ba ba”, which sounds like a combination of her English first name, Joanne, and her nickname “Baba”, which she earned in middle school. 

You’ve probably seen her cover of Mariya Takeuchi’s viral hit Plastic Love, which has garnered over 1.5 million views on Youtube to date, or her latest live set on Loewe En Casa in May 2020, where she performed tracks from her debut album Beyond Mediocrity. And if you’re really a fan, you might have caught her in Singapore last November, when she held a solo concert at The Esplanade.

Buttery vocals aside, Taiwanese musician 9m88 is also making waves with her unconventional fashion style. “It’s a mix of streetwear, outdoor wear and high end labels,” says the 29-year-old.

Known for her voluminous permed ’do (which she has rocked since her teenage years), and a wacky ’80s-inspired aesthetic (think bold prints and colours), she caught the eye of Spanish luxury house Loewe, which felt that she encapsulated the spirit of its Paula Ibiza’s 2020 collection. She’s the first from the APAC region to be featured on Loewe En Casa, an ongoing series of online events where artists from around the world give talks and workshops or perform live on Loewe’s Instagram. 

9m88’s inroads into fashion and music might have something to do with the fact that she holds degrees in both fields. She shares: “I grew up wanting to be a musician, but didn’t have a chance. We don’t have many contemporary or jazz music schools in Taiwan.”

After obtaining a fashion design degree from Taiwan’s Shih Chien University in 2014, she moved to New York City for an internship at Jason Wu. It was there that she turned to music, earning her second bachelor’s degree in jazz vocals at The New School in 2018. “In NYC, I realised that people bring their different cultural backgrounds to the city, and this really inspires me,” she says.

Skilled in both fields, she says that the two are hardly separate and mutually inspire one another. “Music is heavily related to culture and history. Jazz makes me dig fashion styles from different eras,” she says. “You can sometimes tell someone’s music taste by the way they dress.”

So where does 9m88 get her knack for pairing retro pieces with modern streetwear? She cites American singer-songwriter Solange as one of her biggest influences: “She has a very high-end, hip style that you hardly see. It’s elegant yet rock-star-like.”

Her love for polar opposites and unexpectedness largely informs the way she experiments with fashion. “Pattern over pattern is always fun,” she says. “Also, try mixing some really casual items with luxury brand bags.”

But above all, 9m88 adheres to a philosophy that there is no such thing as a bad trend: “I think every trend can look cool if you mix and match it well. Be inspired by the world you live in. Don’t just follow someone else.” – VALERIE WONG 

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HER FASHION INSPIRATION She’s inspired by Solange Piaget Knowles, better known mononymously as Solange, who’s not only a Grammy-winning artiste, but also a fashion icon. She performed at Kenzo’s SS’20 show (above) to commemorate Humberto Leon and Carol Lim’s final collection for the French label.  

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HER FIRST FULL-LENGTH ALBUM 9m88 independently released Beyond Mediocrity in August 2019. Singing mainly in Mandarin, she creates her unique sound by drawing from various genres such as R&B, jazz, neo-soul, and free improvisation. Available on Spotify and Bandcamp. 


1. Chanel 19 bag   

2. Stussy T-shirt   

3. Second-hand jeans (pictured: Levi’s from Vestiaire Collective)

4. Loewe Balloon bag   

5. Nike sneakers 

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