There is one designer who is quietly and stylishly making her mark on the American runways these days. She is Malaysian and she is Yeohlee. For the trendsetters and the style watchers back home, the couture buzzwords in the last 15 months have been DKNY, Calvin Klein's CK line, Emporio Armani, Versace's Versus, and of course Gucci. Few have taken note of a tiny discreet corner of Isetan's Designers' Gallery where Yeohlee's stark, modern, and impeccably tailored clothes are presented. Yeohlee designs like no other designer on the map today, international or otherwise. Her clothes are androgynous in philosophy, if not in looks. The women's line is long and lean in silhouette this Fall with a purity of line that is inspired by Japanese culture. Yeohlee's men's collection is inspired by her women's, with velvets and techno inspired stretch and double faced rubber fabrics being featured prominently. The motif of androgyny, however, revolves around the jumpsuit which she calls the uniform of the future. Different variations on the jumpsuit theme are shown in each fabric group.

JOURNAL ONE was privileged to talk to Yeohlee from New York recently as she and her team were gearing up for her show on October 28. The pages which follow our interview with Yeohlee is a preview of her Fall/Winter 1996/97 collection soon to be seen here in Malaysia.

J1: What do you think of the phenomenon in the fashion designing world where more male designers dominate the scene rather than female designers? Is there something about the aesthetics of haute couture which appeals less to one gender?

YL: Men once had a stronghold in the fashion design world, however, that is no longer the case. There has been a tendency for men to be more assertive in the fashion industry, but this is not an isolated phenomenon. Male dominance has been pervasive in most vocations.

J1: What are some of the personal and business obstacles you have encountered when setting up your own career?

YL: My greatest obstacle has been time. It is the one luxury of which I seem to have the greatest scarcity.

J1: Can you tell me why you have chosen to make your mark in New York rather than in Malaysia? Do you find New York culture more inspiring for your creativity?

Yeohlee and model Tasha TilbergYL: I have chosen to make my mark in NYC because I wanted to make coats, and the climate in NY is conducive to that.

J1: What do you like best and least about New York?

YL: I am attracted to NYC by virtue of its tolerance level, and this is key in allowing for talent to grow.

J1: How would you describe your designs, and what does the ideal female figure for your designs look like in your mind's eye?

YL: My designs are simple, functional, and all-encompassing. As a designer, I am interested in making clothing universal rather than specific.

J1: What are your favourites fabrics and colours, and could you tell me why?

YL: Fabric and colour are constantly evolving. Essentially, change is how one stays true to fashion, in the ideal sense of the word.

J1: How did you get interested in fashion designing as a young person and where were you formally trained? Was there anyone in your girlhood who inspired or encouraged your interest, a flamboyant relative, an elegant mother, a family member who was into dressing up?

YL: I attended Parsons School of Design. I've always harboured an undying interest in fashion. All the women in my family were very glamorous. My grandmother who was from Burma has always been an outstanding inspiration to me.

J1: What would you consider the ultimate pinnacle in your career? What does Paris mean to you? And what do you consider the fashion capital of the world?

YL: New York represents the fashion capital of the world. All the European designers are showing American sports wear on their runways.

J1: Do you like buttons, scarves, accessories, low-heeled pumps or stilettoes?

YL: It depends upon the moment. The question is only applicable to me in the context of a specific situation.

J1: Who are your favourite designers?

YL: I like different designers for different things.



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