Own The City: Lean Chihiro
The Marais-based rapper shares what it means to come from a creative home, inspire her fans and rally around football.
Words: Kate Matthams Spencer
Lean Chihiro is a rapper lighting up the Paris music scene with her magnetic flow and freestyling. Instantly recognizable from her ever-changing, often pink hair, she has a unique style combining inspiration from sportswear, kawaii and Japanese animé.
Lean grew up surrounded by music and art in the creative Marais neighborhood. She credits this slice of Paris with helping her become the artist she is today. Encouraged by her mother to develop her own taste, she loves sharing her vision with her community of supporters and aims to create music that speaks to everyone.
Hanging out at the sports ground in her neighborhood, Lean understood from a young age that football was a great socializer. For Lean, Parisians are the most excited and sociable on match days.
How has your neighborhood shaped you?
I moved to the Marais as a child and experienced lots of different styles and artistic scenes from a young age. I got into music, photography and clothes. After living in more working-class neighborhoods, arriving in the Marais was like entering a theme park. It was all so new and so exciting, but also super modern at the same time.
What makes it a unique part of Paris to you?
For one, this neighborhood has an interesting history. It was originally swampland, “marais” means swamp, and it’s now one of the hippest areas in Paris. It has soul; the buildings are old, they don’t stand straight and the streets are narrow. One thing I love about Paris is that from neighborhood to neighborhood, you discover very different landscapes.
What’s your history with Air Jordans?
I loved Air Jordans when I was a kid, and my dad was a big fan. He didn’t want to buy me any while my feet were still growing, so I couldn’t wait to get my first pair when I got to my teens. I got Air Jordan IVs when I was 13, and I still love them.
You’re a self-starter and worked on DIY videos during your come-up. How did you discover and develop your creativity?
I thank my mother for that. She had been a model, but she preferred taking photos and was very creative. As kids, we would draw, paint, listen to music and dance. She wanted to develop our creativity as much as possible. My dad made music, and I used to go to the studio with him when I was very young. I found it all very mysterious. I guess I’ve always been very motivated to do new things. If something didn’t exist for me, I’d create it.
“Football plays a huge role in our culture. At match time, we all party together. ”
Your music is similarly fearless. How would you describe what you’re trying to convey?
I communicate how I see things, in a way that, if someone doesn’t have the same ideas, they can still enjoy it. I got into music to share my ideas, and I love when people share theirs in return or message me to say that it speaks to them.
I really open up in my songs. I think it’s great to be able to communicate through an art form. An artist is nothing without the people who support them, and that’s a huge motivation for me.
What does Paris as a city represent to you, and how do you “own” that wherever you go?
I feel most Parisian when I travel. We have all of these Parisian behaviors that we don’t even realize we have. It’s only when you go away, and people say, “Oh, I can tell you’re from Paris.” Then you get it.
Paris is so original. It’s a big city, but you can bump into people you know, unlike cities like L.A., where everything is so vast, and you’re in the car the whole time. In Paris, we walk a lot, and even though I don’t really like to take the metro, I’m still fond of it. I even love the shape of Paris — the snail-shell layout of the arrondissements.
How have PSG, football and football culture influenced your style and your life?
Football plays a huge role in our culture. At match time, we all party together. We’re not always like that in Paris! Last year was incredible. I’d never seen Paris so open when we won; people were hugging in the street.
I have always loved sportswear. I think fashion has become more liberated in that respect. Now, even the big fashion houses are doing sneakers and tracksuits. You couldn’t go into upscale places wearing sportswear before. Now, if you’re wearing a hoodie, you’re not stigmatized any more.
The Jordan Brand x Paris Saint-Germain Apparel Collection is available starting July 2019 on Jordan.com. The Air Jordan VI is available later this summer on Jordan.com.