When we launched our Aesthetic fashion feature at the beginning of 2014, Yukimi Nagano was among the first names that sprung to mind. With the concept of exploring the relationship between music, background and personal style, we set out to feature artists for whom sound and image felt synonymous. And as Yukimi rose to the occasion for this ambitious, colour-saturated shoot, we knew we’d found our perfect fit.
With studiously crafted, crystalline electronic textures and infectious hooks, Little Dragon’s playful synth-pop has won them mainstream recognition without compromising their credibility. And while it feels like the band were always destined for the big stage, their backstory has a distinctly bohemian feel, with the longtime friends creating their sound in a kitschy live-in studio in their home city of Gothenburg.
Having grown up as part of Little Dragon – they formed in 1996 when she was just 14 – Yukimi’s individual identity has always been defined by a cross-section of music, art and performance, even since childhood. “I was in awe of people like Prince and Kate Bush, people who didn’t care,” she remembers fondly in a rare moment of calm between frantic costume changes. “I would take my mom’s clothes and get dressed up and play in my own world, and it’s kind of like doing that now as a grown-up but on stage. It’s really fun being an artist, it means you get to be a kid for the rest of your life, hopefully!”
As with any teenager grappling to find their place in the world, there was a degree of trial and error. “I had my gothic moment when I was like 13 or 14” Yukimi laughs. “It was kind of short-lived, but me and my friends listened to Depeche Mode and dressed up and experimented like crazy with make-up. We put purple lipstick around our eyes and stuff like that. My poor dad, when we go through family photos I skip that year.”
On latest album Nabuma Rubberband, Yukimi’s velveteen voice glides across phased-out, contemporary RnB sounds. It sees the band experiment while maintaining that irresistible sugary feel, and Nagano’s lucid eccentricity is a visual representation of Little Dragon’s soft glamour. It’s proof that even after 18 years, the band’s adventurous spirit shows no signs of plateauing. Motion is decidedly, determinedly forward, and it’s reflected in Yukimi’s approach to style. “My style has evolved from travelling and doing shoots and seeing how people dress around the world” she summarises. Like all off-kilter cultural icons, Nagano values “individualism, being yourself” above all else. “The best shows are when you feel as free as possible and when you don’t care about what anyone thinks. You can pull people into your world and hopefully make them feel the same way.”
Creative Direction & Styling: Charlotte James
Photography: Tom Andrew
Makeup: Amy Brandon
Hair: Darren Hau
Interview: Isis O’Regan
Stylist Assistant: Abigail Hazard
Photography Assistant: John Heyes
Nubuma Rubberband is out now via Because Music | Little Dragon play at Lovebox Festival this Saturday 18 July