Break University: Hannah Taurins

The newest feature for Behind The Break occurred to me after meeting countless Break Babes who walk through our doors with impeccable style, wisdom, and grace. A lot of these ladies, who have quickly become dear friends, maintain part time jobs, internships, attend university all while living in the most chaotic city in the world. I often find myself wondering how they do it while preserving a smile and impressively cohesive wardrobes. Break University follows some of the lovely remarkable students that we have the pleasure of calling customers; giving us some insight into their busy worlds.

First up in her class at Break University is Hannah Taurins. I met Hannah through the wonderful tool called Instagram, immediately falling for her whimsical style and majestically spiraled locks. Together we spent an afternoon at Hannah’s apartment talking about what being a student in NYC is like, her favorite spots, and the best of her vintage collection. Read on to get to know Hannah.


Name: Hannah Taurins 

Born: Houston, Texas

Currently: NYC

School: Cooper Union

Sign: Sagittarius

Follow her: @htaurins


What are you currently studying in school?

The Cooper Union arts program is very interdisciplinary, we all graduate with a general BFA but I gravitate towards drawing and painting. I also have hands in sculpture, casting, and I'm currently tip-toeing around garment design!

What is a typical school day like for you?

Since I live in Bedstuy, it's kind of a haul to get to school. Once I'm there I'm really there, so between classes I spend a lot of time in my studio drawing but honestly I mostly look at clothes online. A lot of my classes are critique based, so I'm always thinking and talking about work with my peers. The one technical class I'm taking is metal casting, and I always get in trouble for wearing heels in the shop (yikes).

Why did you pick Cooper Union?

When I was in high school I googled "best painting schools in america" and Cooper Union came up. The East Village location was ideal, and I was excited by how notoriously selective the program was. I found out about it two years before I applied and it was my dream school since. It's still my dream school actually, the environment is so challenging and it's incredible to be apart of such a historically radical community. 


What was the adjustment like from growing up in the south to living in NYC?

Before I moved to New York I was desperate to get out of Houston, I really felt like I had nothing to gain from staying there. Now that I'm here I miss the space! Growing up in such a sprawling city really defines how you think about space, public and private. There's nothing as sobering as a rush hour J train. I also miss the heat and the Texas vintage.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I had such a clear vision for myself when I started school, I wanted to go to Yale for my MFA and then teach at Cooper. While that still holds true for me, I've been finding myself more and more invested in the fashion world. Right now I'm trying to settle into this weird space I've found between fashion and image making. 


What inspires you most?

80's couture really lights me up! I'm inspired by the excess. Moments where fashion makes the jump from practicality and tact to something almost absurd. There's an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie is wearing a belt around her bare midriff—I think about that a lot. I also think inspiration can come from pain. Clothes and painting offer protection and expression in a time that feels especially precarious for women.

How has living in New York impacted your art?

It has impacted my work in every way possible. I have been forced to grow in ways that were not comfortable or fun, but I couldn't be prouder of where I am now. I am lucky to be surrounded by so many talented thinkers and makers. Things that I could only see from my phone or computer in Houston are now all around me and it's energizing to say the least! 


You have an amazing talent for painting as well as an eye for impeccable style, what does the connection between art and fashion mean to you?

Thank you! It is through garments that people immediately experience each other and the world, it's the first line of defense. Clothes are inherently political. To curate an outfit is to code yourself to be interpreted by an audience, and reading an outfit is almost exactly like decoding a painting. Each element that makes up the outfit or work speaks to a history and context that is inescapable. This is what I'm exploring in my work at the moment (and also why I consider online shopping to be research (lol)).


What is your favorite piece in your closet?

An 80's Thierry Mugler couture bomber with insane Mugler themed patches on it. Huge sleeves, bright red. Perfect.

How did you get into collecting vintage? 

I became interested in vintage in freshman year of high school when I couldn't really find what I was into in malls or popular brands. I just wanted some high waisted pants and quirky shirts. I developed more of a personal style bit by bit as I went through high school. I remember being nervous about wearing a pair of 70's flared khaki trousers to school, and now I barely wear denim because it's not loud enough. I didn't start really researching fashion history until I met a vintage seller in Houston named Olivia Haroutonian. Anything I know that she didn't directly teach me, I learned to impress her. I owe most of my wardrobe to her! 

Best piece of advice you've ever received?

Honestly, I hardly listen to advice the people give me. I tend prefer to learn as I go, which means making a lot of mistakes along the way. Something that I live by however, is that there are no right or wrong decisions- just different outcomes. I am very impulsive though, so maybe I've just adopted that to justify my decisions. 


NYC Favorites:

Mei Li Wah bakery in chinatown for shumai and buns, James Veloria for designer vintage and wonderful company, Juicy Lucy for hot apple cider, the shoe vault in the basement of Totokaelo!

Where do you go to get inspired in NYC? 

I go to the Maryam Nassir Zadeh showroom in the lower east side. It's so thoughtfully curated and a lot of the pieces in there find their way into my paintings. 


Best cup of coffee? 

My own! I grind my own coffee every morning and its become a favorite ritual of mine. Also I started salting it because I read somewhere that I should. It makes the flavor fuller but you have to balance it with the right amount of sugar. I buy Stumptown beans because the packaging is cute and it's delicious.  If I had to pick a place though, it would definitely be Porto Rico in the east village. There's usually a very cute dog out front and the coffee is so good.

Favorite park? 

Not sure if this counts, but I'm always sitting outside the Cooper Union foundation building. It's the best place to catch my friends in between classes and the people watching is excellent. I also like Columbus Park in chinatown for eating my dumplings because usually the restaurants are crowded and I like to watch the little groups that play music on the benches. 

Favorite neighborhood?

Soho is fun when I'm feeling cute, otherwise it can be humbling. Chelsea is fun for the highline and galleries, and Bedstuy for the brownstones and my little apartment of course.  


Favorite train line?

The M by far. I live off the J now, but when I feel like walking a little bit I'll take the M. The train cars are new and the lighting is the best, no green or yellow cast. Plus I always see the coolest people on the M. I've definitely said that it's the hottest line before...

Favorite part of living in NY?

My favorite and least favorite part are the same—it's all about the high energy, fast pace. Some days I really ride it out and others it drags me along. Also, my New York friends. I've really met some incredible people here. 

Use code: BREAKUNI for 10% off our  signature candle  and all vintage

Use code: BREAKUNI for 10% off our signature candle and all vintage

Isabelle Estrin