Hey, I Like Your Style! Inside the wardrobe of model Tariq Junaid Ismat

Words by Kate Streader

“I like to wear the most impractical yet stylish clothes I can.”

We know personal style is a journey (I’m looking at you, Tumblr years), so we’ve introduced a new series Hey, I Like Your Style!, diving into the fashion psyche of our favourite creatives. We’re talking the good, the bad and the 2007.

While the internet has made our fashion icons feel closer than ever before, even the most effortless of outfits came from a closet with some (well-dressed) skeletons. Clickable product tags, photo archives and lives chronicled in 30-second clips just don’t tell the full story.

For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section.

These are the stories behind the wardrobes, exploring how we develop our own personal style. There’s a brilliance behind the way we choose to express ourselves and at FJ, we know every outfit has a story.

This week, we’re exploring the fashion evolution of model Tariq Junaid Ismat. Growing up as a conservative Muslim, Tariq’s early style was shaped by religious tradition and gender norms, the latter of which continued to influence how they dressed for much of their adolescence.

Even as he began to experiment with his style, Tariq felt pressure to present “a little more heterosexual than I was”. Now, they have found a sense of freedom in the way they dress, embracing clothing that makes them shine while embracing their Pakistani and Aboriginal heritage. Read on for their style journey.

Who are you and what do you like to wear?

My name is Tariq Junaid Ismat, my pronouns are he/they and I’m 21 years old. I’m a barista, a newly signed model with Giant Management and a third-year secondary teaching student. I like to wear the most impractical yet stylish clothes I can. I’ll wear heeled boots to pull espresso shots and run oat flat whites to tables – though very gingerly.

What has your style evolution looked like? Do you feel like you’ve gained confidence in the way you dress? 

For the first 15 years of my life, I lived as a very conservative Muslim, often with very strict clothing and hair choices. My father is Pakistani, and my mother was Aboriginal. She passed when I was young, and my father remarried to a Pakistani woman who was like a mother to me. This may not seem very relevant, but I find that many young people of colour with immigrant parents feel a constant pull from the two different worlds that they live in.

In terms of style and how I dress, a lot has changed since I became a person of my own narrative. After 15, I realised (quite happily) that I had to create a style for myself. The early years involved strangely cut clothes, skinny jeans, suspenders and random graphic tees emblazoned with movie art from films I’d never even seen.

I grew up in Geelong yet made a nice little group of friends from Melbourne, so the influence of thrifting that resurged with the teen community there made its way to me. I was never good at thrifting – I’m still not – and often picked out strange clothes that never truly made me shine. I gave that up rather quickly and as 16 rolled around and I started my first job, I decided to fulfil my love for shopping. This is where my style took a real downfall.

Caught up in the pressure to seem a little more heterosexual than I was, my frequent haunt was Universal Store. There, one might have found me flicking through racks of muscle tees, Wrangler, Barney Cools and Guess shirts. Think of those shirts that you see straight guys wear at the club, right before they say something horrendous to you as you wait to order a drink at the bar. 

My style found its peace when I learned how to channel my passions into my clothes. I don’t know why it took so long, but it was a journey. As a young adult in love with the wistful tunes of the ’70s and club classics of the ’80s, I decided to dress as though I belonged there. It’s essentially where my style sits now.

You might see me clopping along Swanston Street in double denim, low-rise flares and toting my brown Oroton handbag. I most definitely feel and look a lot more confident than I did as a teen – unless I’m breaking in new-heeled boots.

Personal style is a journey. Have you ever felt like you needed to fit into a particular fashion box?

That’s exactly how I grew up. The gender and social norms that were heavily placed upon me as a child, influenced by fashion then, lived through my teen years and will continue to impact my fashion choices for the rest of my life. The difference comes from whether you choose to ignore it or not.

Even after 18, when my parents kicked me out and I found myself homeless and living in youth housing, I knew that the expectations of what I should wear based on my gender would stick around. Although I find that I’m at peace with it now.

I take certain parts of my culture, such as wearing headscarves, kohl (an ancient Arabic eyeliner) and putting on clothing in a certain order (in Islam, you put your right limbs into clothing first) to respect my culture but also respect myself and how I want to live my life. In a very beautiful way, it allows me to remain connected to my heritage but at the same time remain true to who I am.

Take us back to those awkward teenage years. Do you have any fashion regrets? 

So many… I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m glad I made those choices because they were honestly tragic! Bubble from Absolutely Fabulous dressed better than I did. None of the clothes I wore worked together cohesively. It was just a whole mix of garments that didn’t have any rhyme or reason. Perhaps it was a reflection of who I was at the time… Perhaps I just had terrible style!

What are the most expensive and least expensive items in your wardrobe?

The most expensive item of clothing I have is a $290 jumpsuit from Free People – The Driftwood Farrah. I’d always wanted a jumpsuit and I love wearing double denim, so I figured it was the best way to go all out.

The least expensive items I own are probably my staple pieces from Uniqlo. They’re always my go-to for when I need something nice to wear in a pinch. I love their T-shirts, they’re usually around $17 and they have the perfect fit.

What is the most meaningful fashion piece you own? 

A necklace from my mother. It’s a gold heart with a ruby in the centre. She was wearing it when she died and because it happened so suddenly, I couldn’t be with her in her last moments. My aunty (who is an angel) gave me this necklace and funnily she said to me, “I don’t know if you like this kind of stuff”. I gasped and said it was beautiful. I’ve worn it every day since then and it sits along my sternum at the height of my heart. 

What’s in your cart at the moment? 

The Snow Gum Silk Scarf from Ngali ($275). I volunteered at ten PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival runways this year and during the First Nations Runway I fell in love with their pieces, so when I recently saw this scarf, I knew I had to save it! My goal for 2022 is to collect more pieces from Indigenous designers to proudly display our culture and support fellow mob.

What fashion piece are you saving for right now? 

The Wah-Wah X Kaylene Whiskey sweater ($265). It’s a gorgeous sweater made as a celebration of the beautiful women in her life and in pop culture. This sweater is also ally-friendly, so anyone is welcome to share and live in her beautiful artwork. 

What are the wardrobe items you wear on repeat?

Levi’s 560 mid-rise flares and a Levi’s Type 1 western style jacket. They’re both the same wash so I like to wear them as a set with a white button-up shirt and some heeled boots. It’s like my ‘character outfit’. Otherwise, any other flared pant with a Uniqlo blazer and some nice boots, paired with my little Oroton bag, of course. I don’t have many handbags, as I’ve only recently felt comfortable using them, but my Oroton Alexa Medium Satchel is a perfect fit for my double denim moments.

Who are your favourite local designers? 

Cassie Byrnes of Variety Hour, Bel Sorrentino of Sorrentino Studios, Peter Strateas and Mario-Luca Carlucci of Strateas Carlucci and Erik Yvon. While I don’t own designs by them, they inspire me to continue to be bold in all areas of my life and to not be afraid to step out into the world as my authentic self, not shielded by past feelings of a false personality. 

See more of Tariq’s killer looks here.

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