Devon Aoki — model, daughter of Benihana founder Rocky Aoki, and Y2K style star — celebrated her 40th birthday on Wednesday, leaving us to reminisce on her inimitable impact on early aughts fashion.
As the industry keeps mining the early 2000s for inspiration, Aoki’s name is one that continually pops up. Her work with Jeremy Scott — whose blingy, maximalist designs perfectly captured the Y2K mood — and role as Suki in 2 Fast, 2 Furious (another ’00s cultural touchstone) cement her spot in the era’s history book.
As legend has it, a 13-year-old Aoki was scouted at a Rancid concert in New York and “ended up shooting a story for Interview magazine in exchange for backstage passes,” she told British Vogue in 2017. From there, Kate Moss introduced her to the modeling agency Storm.
As they say: the rest is history.
Aoki’s career quickly took off, landing her gigs for Moschino, Marc Jacobs, CELINE, and COMME des GARÇONS. Karl Lagerfeld even tapped her as a Chanel muse, a coveted title that culminated in her closing the maison’s Fall/Winter 1999 Haute Couture show as the collection’s “bride.”
Like many models-of-the-moment, Aoki took a break from fashion to pursue acting. In addition to 2 Fast 2 Furious, she starred in 2004 action-comedy D.E.B.S and 2006’s DOA: Dead or Alive.
After marrying financier James Bailey in 2011, Aoki decided to step back from work to focus on her family, which now includes one son and three daughters.
Aoki didn’t completely call it quits, though. In 2016, she returned to the runway to walk Moschino’s Resort show. The same year, she made an appearance alongside fellow models Amber Valetta and Angela Lindvall in Fergie’s music video for “M.I.L.F. $.”
As Y2K mania maintains its hold over fashion, we’re due for another major Aoki moment. (Perhaps a Blumarine campaign, or maybe even a — gasp — beauty line?) While we wait, we’re taking stock of Aoki’s best Y2K style moments.
2000 VH1-Vogue Fashion Awards
Devon Aoki walked so today’s it-girls could run. In October 2000, she attended the VH1-Vogue Fashion Awards with a 12-year-old Zoë Kravitz, the daughter of Aoki’s then-boyfriend, the very famous Lenny.
Moschino Jeans Spring/Summer 2001 campaign
Does it get any more Y2K than this?
Jeremy Scott SS01
This is what the kids would call camp.
Christian Lacroix FW01
A look quite literally inspired by Dragon Ball Z.
2 Fast 2 Furious
In a crop top and super low-rise pants, Aoki’s character, Suki, is a picture-perfect representation of early aughts fads.
Baby Phat FW02
One of Y2K’s most Y2K-iest brands, Baby Phat had Aoki hit the tents at Bryant Park (another throwback!) for one of the brand’s early New York Fashion Week shows.
Damon Dash’s birthday party
In a Jean Paul Gaultier tank top, low-rise Chanel pants, and a coat of body glitter, Aoki fêted the Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder in every ’90’s girl’s dream outfit.