Rachel Nguyen is an Orange County fashion blogger. But don't hold that against her.
"People think everyone here is like, 'Oh, my God! Let's go buy Prada!'" the 22-year-old says in a faux valley-girl voice, mimicking the shopping-bag-toting gals of TV shows such as The O.C. and Laguna Beach. "It's so not like that. Orange County style is casual and very cool—not overdone. It's just right."
On her popular site That's Chic (www.thatschic.net), Nguyen chronicles her own style, which is edgy, vintage-inspired, androgynous with feminine touches and, well, so difficult to sum up that she's given up on trying. "It's like being in a bad relationship," she says, wearing a scarf-print top, leopard skirt and ankle boots over white socks. "You would never know it unless someone from an outside perspective told you. That's how I see my style. I can be in a very bad relationship and not know it."
However you'd define her aesthetic, people want to see more of it. The UC Irvine grad has gained a devout following of fashion worshipers across the globe (the site gets about 100,000 hits per month). Teen Vogue called her an "Internet 'It' Girl." Lucky magazine flew her to New York City to help style a photo shoot. Interior and fashion designer Kelly Wearstler invited her to dinner at her Hollywood Hills home. Last year, Nguyen signed with Next Model Management, the same agency that represents Lana Del Rey and Alexa Chung.
The blog began in 2007 as a way to combat teenage boredom. Nguyen, who attended Beckman High School in Irvine, would perch her camera on her dresser and snap photos of her outfits assembled on her bedroom floor. (Fun fact: She never won Best Dressed but did snag the title of Best Smile.) She says she began building her trademark look when she'd venture off to local vintage shops and flea markets. "I try to stay away from 'fast fashion'—H&M, Forever 21—where all the styles have been curated for you," she says. "To really find your style, you need to find your own gems in a crowd of nothing."
Every morning, Nguyen starts with a blank canvas. "Yep, I'm one of those girls who'll stand in front of the mirror with five different outfits before leaving the house," she admits.
How does she finally decide? "I know it sounds cliché," she says, "but it just has to feel right."
* * *
• Disneyland. "It's my No. 1! One of the main reasons why I don't want to move out of Orange County is because Disneyland is here, and I have a strong, fiery passion for it. Every time I go, I'll do something different. Did you know they have plays at California Adventure? They have this Aladdin play that's amazing and so funny—it's like a full-on Broadway show. Check the show times." 1313 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 781-4565; disneyland.disney.go.com.
• Nguyen relies on Sassoon Salon. "Tani does the best hair. I don't trust anyone else. She's a little pricey, but she's so worth it, especially because with short hair, you have to have a great cut or it'll look terrible." 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-5673; sassoon.com.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
• "I always get the Monkey Mocha at The Lost Bean. It's banana syrup and chocolate, and they blend it. I add a shot of espresso." 13011 Newport Ave., Tustin, (714) 544-2584; thelostbean.com.
• "Back in high school, we used to go in the cove [at Thousand Steps Beach] and look at sea anemones and sea urchins. It was so cool. To get to the beach, you have to walk down hundreds of stairs. Climbing back up is hell and a half." South Coast Highway and Ninth Street, Laguna Beach.
• Laura's House Resale Store is "my favorite vintage store. People donate their clothes, and all the proceeds from purchases go to Laura's House, a home for women who have been in abusive relationships and have no place to stay. I've found Marni, Phillip Lim—oh, and I just got this Miu Miu coat that is just amazing." 23635 El Toro Rd., Ste. F, Lake Forest, (949) 472-8800; laurashouse.org.
• "I'm such a huge fan of shabu shabu. SWSH at Diamond Jamboree is probably my favorite, and Mokkoji in Irvine is also very good. At Mokkoji, ask for Chris. He'll show you around. SWSH Shabu Shabu, 2710 Alton Pkwy., Ste. 213, Irvine, (949) 474-0888; swshshabu.com. Mokkoji Shabu Shabu Bar, 14041 Jeffrey Rd., Irvine, (949) 451-0011.