Let the wardrobe raiding begin! In this first installment of our Unlocking the Wardrobe in collaboration with Wear Oh Where, we take you inside the home and covetable closet of Yi Lian Ng, former assistant fashion news editor of Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, where we discovered (and drooled over) everything from her Mansur Gavriel bucket bag to her Play Comme des Garçons sneakers and Burberry dress. The founder of Yi Lian Ng Floral Atelier may not be writing about fashion these days since she left the publishing industry to be her own boss, but take a peek into her wardrobe, and you know this girl is not going to stop living, breathing fashion any time soon — if ever.
The super stylish #girlboss took some time away from her blooming flower business to talk to us about her fashion do’s and don’ts are, shopping like a man, and her mad love for culottes right now.
ST: We love your style, obviously, because we’re raiding your wardrobe. How would you describe it?
I’ll take fluid silhouettes and comfort any day. I don’t like to complicate my outfits. I avoid prints and patterns, but I have a soft spot for Dries Van Noten. I like movement in my outfits. I also love fun shoes. It was slightly difficult for my wardrobe to be “functional” after I left my full-time job because the daily life of a florist is not glamorous — it’s 90 per-cent manual labour, so I would look at my white shirts and silk dresses in sadness as I get dressed for the nursery.
ST: When did you discover your love of fashion?
I didn’t think I had any fashion inclinations when I was younger even though I had a lot of fun dressing up in my Mass Communications days at Ngee Ann Polytechnic since I didn’t have to wear a school uniform anymore. Anyway, I was lucky I had former bosses who spotted my knack for fashion and nurtured me. My career began in the publishing business — I was a features writer, but one of my bosses told me I was really more of a fashion person and tried to steer me in that direction. Then came a job opportunity in Hong Kong for Worth Global Style Network (WGSN), a fashion trend forecasting agency from another ex-boss I had interned for at Harper’s Bazaar Singapore.
ST: Growing up, who were your style muses?
I was quite obsessed with Kate Moss’ and Sienna Miller’s carefree, bohemian, devil-may-care style in my late teens to early 20s. Now, I appreciate it when women dress subtly, sophisticatedly and comfortably — nothing too fussy. I like clean silhouettes and quality fabrics, and I like it when women wear their clothes instead of the other way round, when they are not thinking too consciously about what they are wearing, but just wear what they are comfortable in and suits their lifestyles, and just feel confident. The women who wear clothes for the sake of fads? You can tell from a mile away.
ST: In your opinion, who are the designers to watch right now?
I love what Joseph Font is doing with Del Pozo — those architectural shapes and the way he plays with soft fabrics to achieve a contrasting juxtaposition to the hardness of the silhouettes… His Spring/Summer 2015 collection blew me away.
I also like what Alessandro Michele is doing at Gucci so far. It’s obvious he has revisited Gucci’s archives, but he’s given the pieces such a modern twist. I never thought I was a Gucci woman — not even during those Tom Ford days, but Michele is definitely making me sit up and take note.
Then there is Ter et Bantine. It’s not a new brand, but I’ve only been introduced to it a few months ago when a good friend gave me a hand-me-down white dress. It’s an Italian label that was founded in 1992, but they have a new head designer on board this Fall/Winter 2015.
ST: Where do you like to shop — on and offline?
I’m not an interesting shopper. Just last week, my best friend accused me of shopping like a man. I really only shop when I am “exposed” to online retailers and boutiques for work. I’m also a personal stylist, so when I take my clients to the shops or when I trawl e-shops, that’s when I take note of pieces that I like, too.
I hardly shop but when I do, I buy in bigger quantities. I was in New York recently to attend a flower course, so shopping was not on the agenda. But when I entered Club Monaco (I love their basics) in Soho, I snagged eight items. Then, while I was grabbing some Momofuku Milk Bar cookies, I stumbled upon Band Of Outsiders, which was shutting down with a 60 per-cent storewide discount — it was hard to resist and I ended up with three purchases. Two weeks ago, I was at Dries Van Noten with a client. After she left, I bought four pieces. My boyfriend loves shopping more than I do although he would never admit it. When he’s stuff from J.Crew, I’d order a few pieces, too.
That’s how I shop. I would never make a conscious effort to go shopping. I think a lot of women mistake the love of shopping for fashion. I love fashion but not necessarily shopping.
ST: When it comes to shopping, what’s your biggest weakness?
Dries Van Noten, cute shoes and quality basics. Nowadays, I find it hard to drop more than $500 on a party dress, but I have no qualms about paying up to $200 for a well-fitted black or white top.
ST: If you were given only five minutes to pack, what would you grab from your closet?
Can I just open up my trunk suitcase and shove everything in? I can definitely do that in five minutes!
Erm… but if I have to answer this question seriously, I’d grab my Bottega Veneta dresses and skirts, Burberry Prorsum dresses, Dries Van Noten everything, Chanel accessories and my new Balenciaga crossbody bag which I’d been carrying to death lately. (Ed’s note: That’s still way more than five items, Yi Lian. Ok. Fine. Swipe them all into your hypothetical suitcase and run!)
ST: What do you do with past-season items you don’t wear anymore? Do you give them away to friends, do a swap or sell them online?
It’s hard to sell/give/swap my clothes because I’m tiny. Also, I have absolutely no qualms about wearing past-season items. I don’t make enough to be only wearing seasonal clothes and, come on, where’s the fun in that? Wearing clothes that people can recognise instantly because they’ve just seen them on some runway shows or advertising campaigns? Old is gold.
ST: What would you consider to be a major style faux pas?
VPL be the death of me!
Matching the colour of one’s footwear with her bag or an item in the outfit/ Unless it’s neutrals like white, black, navy and grey, just don’t.
Lastly, slutty dresses and shoes. Not showing skin is a lot sexier than showing everything.
ST: Is there a particular trend you’re loving at the moment?
Culottes. I love wearing them because they are ultra comfortable and, their flared silhouette add an architectural touch to my outfits, which I love. My soft spot for it is so bad that all you need to do is show me a pair in any colour, print or pattern — even something I would usually never be caught dead in — I would buy it. I think I’ve acquired over 15 pairs in the past year.
Head over to WEAR OH WHERE for more on Yi Lian’s style, her advice on being a #girlboss, and more pictures of her fabulous wardrobe.
Editorial direction: Karman Tse, Editor of Wear Oh Where
Styling & Art Direction: Camilla Testori, Style Tribute
Photography: Maria Eleonora Graziani (www.boomboomstudios.com)