The energy around Hollywood is palpable. As I drive westward down Sunset Boulevard, I’m confronted by a plethora of billboards announcing Stranger Things’ much-anticipated third season (streaming on Netflix July 4) that rise out of the horizon like permanent fixtures on the landscape. We’re less than a week away until the new season airs, and despite the long day of doing press for the show that she’s just had, Sadie Sink greets me with an air of untainted excitement.
As we settle into the unusually calm lobby cafe of a prominent West Hollywood hotel, I can’t help but allow myself to be mesmerized by her big blue eyes, which, by the way, hardly dim throughout the course of our conversation. Sink gushes as she speaks. While describing the custom green Stranger Things sneakers she wore during our shoot—”those were so sick”—I happened to peer down below the table to find her not in the beat-up sneakers she dons on screen, but instead in a pair of blush-hued Gucci platforms that must have been no less than four inches high. The irony wasn’t lost on me. Although her character Max identifies squarely as a tomboy, Sink is content not to be tied down by any singular aesthetic. "I don’t think I’m defined by one style,” she boasts. "I’m not just edgy and I’m not just into a tomboy look and I’m not just girly. I do what I want, and if I like something, I’ll wear it.”
Her Stranger Things role aside, Sink has long been a student of style: "I’ve always been interested in fashion ever since I was little, and obviously I didn’t have access to the brands I do now," she gushed. "I’d always just look at Chanel and Kate Spade and think how incredible these brands were.” Her blue eyes twinkled as she recounted a recent "pinch-me” moment: "To see that the campaign I did for Kate Spade is on the homepage, that’s insane. The number of times I’ve logged onto this website and just dreamed about all these clothes and now I’m in this campaign—I’m so blessed.”
The 17-year-old breakout star is both dreamy and yet grounded. She’s quick to express her gratitude for it all, but she also has no hesitation when it comes to what she likes and doesn't like, a dichotomy I find to be nothing short of precocious, considering that at her age I was consumed by high school, popularity, friends, and boys. But here is Sink starring in Miu Miu campaigns and attending the CFDA awards ("Virgil from Off-White was there. I kind of fangirled when I saw him.”); she's sitting front row at fashion week and working one-on-one with a celebrity stylist.
Before I can even ask about her favorite designer looks, she races ahead to tell me how the brand Hiraeth, Rooney Mara’s vegan collection, feels 100% like Sadie. "It represents my style a lot because, like I said, I’m not defined by one style. Her collection is so feminine—there are a lot of flowy, beautiful pieces—and then she has all of these tough elements that she adds to it like leather harnesses that just toughen up the look a bit. That’s my favorite thing to wear, I like to combine styles. If I’m ever wearing a super-flowy dress, I like to toughen it up with a boot or something.” I nodded along as she described what basically everyone with really good style knows intuitively to be called high-low dressing.
Moments later, when she’s answering my question about the current trends she's drawn to, I start to sense a theme with Sink’s taste in clothes. "I think utility is really in right now.” She continued, "I like that one because usually when you think of summer, you think of nice florals, which are the classic choice, but I like the idea of toughening it up and wearing all those utility looks, which I think are all pretty sick.” Yep, a Virgil Abloh fan, wearer of dresses and boots—Sadie Sink cannot, will not, be put in a box, sartorially speaking. She'll take a little bit of everything, thank you very much.
Defining—or rather, circumnavigating—her style isn’t something Sink is going at alone. She credits her stylist Molly Dickson with helping her to develop her own personal style "without pushing anything on me.” Again, she’s oddly mature when it comes to defining this ever-changing form of self-expression we call clothing. Dickson, who dresses such notable Hollywood starlets as Scarlett Johansson, has granted Sink access to her dream brands as well as introduced her to newer labels like Hiraeth. "What’s so great about fashion is that you can express yourself through clothes. And, sure, some people don’t understand what it means, but for those who do,” like Sink herself, I'm starting to believe, "that’s how they express themselves.”
Sadie may have a strong sense of style (and sense of self for that matter), but for her Stranger Things character, Max, season three is really the beginning of her interest in fashion. "A big part of this season is Max teaching Eleven how to just be herself and find a style that’s authentic to who she is,” she explained. It’s clear that Sink possesses the knowledge of fashion’s transformative nature that the teenage girls of Hawkins High School don’t necessarily have themselves. "They go shopping at the mall and do a bunch of girly things like that, but it’s a lot more than that. Max teaches her how she should use fashion to become Eleven and not just this lab experiment, to become her true self. So really it’s a lot about female empowerment.”
Max goes through a similar transformation to Eleven this season, letting her very California skater kid vibe give way just a bit to something softer. "My final outfit was this super-sporty look. I had these braids in and these sporty track shorts and a striped tank top. I felt like it was so Max because this season she kind of plays with her girly side but still had those sporty tomboy elements. I think that last outfit just captures all of it.”
Tougher or softer, sneakers or heels, Max or Sadie. It would be easier to identify squarely as one or the other. In fact, that’s what the world expects from a rising star like Sink, but she's not interested in conforming to other people’s standards. The unexpected, according to her is "what makes it so exciting and what’s so fun about fashion, really.”
Photographer: Amber Mahoney
Stylist: Doria Santlofer
Hair: Tommy Buckett
Makeup: Nina Park
Don't miss last month's cover feature with Allison Williams.
Anna is an editor on the fashion team at Who What Wear and has been at the company for over five years, having begun her career in the Los Angeles office before relocating to New York, where she's currently based. Having always been passionate about pursuing a career in fashion, she built up her experience interning at the likes of Michael Kors, A.L.C., and College Fashionista before joining the team as a post-graduate assistant editor. Anna has penned a number of interviews with Who What Wear's cover stars over the years, including A-listers Megan Fox, Issa Rae, and Emma Chamberlain. She's earned a reputation for scouting new and emerging brands from across the globe and championing them to our audience of millions. While fashion is her main wheelhouse, Anna led the launch of WWW Travels last year, a new lifestyle vertical that highlights all things travel through a fashion-person lens. She is passionate about shopping vintage, whether it be at a favorite local outpost or an on-the-road discovery, and has amassed a wardrobe full of unique finds. When she's not writing, you can find her shooting street imagery on her film camera, attempting to learn a fourth or fifth language, or planning her next trip across the globe.
The Top 11 Celebrity Stylists Right Now and Who They're Dressing
The best in the biz.
By Erin Fitzpatrick
With Masters of the Air, Actor Kai Alexander's Career Takes Flight
We get to know the rising star of TV's most anticipated show.
By Jessica Baker
Liza Soberano Makes Stunning Hollywood Debut at Lisa Frankenstein Premiere
Meet the breakout star everyone will soon be talking about.
By Jessica Baker
Lauren Chan's Collaboration With Universal Standard Is Redefining Luxury
"People look like they feel powerful in these garments."
By Ana Escalante
Dakota Johnson Wore the Fashion-Person Legging Outfit That's Perfect for Flights
Love a good legging outfit trend.
By Allyson Payer
J.Lo Wore a Completely Sheer Top and Controversial Accessory for Her SNL Arrival
In true J.Lo style.
By Allyson Payer
Olivia Rodrigo and Madison Beer Both Wore This $12 Nail Polish to the Grammys
It's a classic.
By Kaitlyn McLintock
These Are the Only Grammys After-Party Looks You Need to See
From Sabrina Carpenter to Selena Gomez.
By Eliza Huber