Irreverent, eccentric, and OTT—these are the words that come to mind when you are in the presence of founder and creative director of Kittie Yiyi. “As a fashion designer, I let my personality shine through my designs. It’s all about having unconventional fun with patterns, prints, and a riot of colours,” Kittie explains.
The 27-year-old designer graduated with an advanced diploma in fashion design from Raffles College of Higher Education Kuala Lumpur alongside accomplished new-generation Malaysian fashion designers Jonathan Liang and Tengku Syahmi. “Dressmaking has always been a passion of mine. As a child, I would make outfits for my Barbie dolls by cutting the cloth from old pillowcases and curtains. That was when I decided to be a fashion designer,” says Kittie. “Fashion is an art that keeps on giving; there is always something new and interesting to discover.”
The urban streetscape of Kuala Lumpur makes a fitting environment for the shoot, as Kittie showcases her graffiti-meets-off-kilter style, as well as her delightful outré persona. Naturally, her first look is curiously kitschy, an ensemble put together with her latest collection. An oversized printed tee is worn effortlessly beneath canary yellow dungarees, styled with McDonald’s-inspired takeaway-cup earrings and multicoloured platform sneakers. “I have always been self-conscious about my height, so I often find myself buying and collecting platform shoes to help give me that much needed lift and confidence,” she adds.
Between shots, Kittie speaks highly of designers that she has looked up to all these years, specifically Alexander McQueen. “I know it might come across as cliché, but I have always been inspired by his journey and how he pushed fashion’s limit to a different extreme. Even after his death, he continues to be a legend and his designs live on,” Kittie explains with admiration. On top of that, the homegrown designer names Björk as one of her style icons, who coincidentally, frequently collaborated creatively with McQueen for her out-of-this-world costumes. “She is living proof that there is no right or wrong way to do fashion. Remember when she wore the swan dress to the Oscars? It was considered outrageous, but she committed to the look, and now it’s iconic!” Kittie exclaims.
A style chameleon and a complete natural when it comes to posing, Kittie’s next maximalist look is a mix-and-match of top-to-toe pinks and prints in the form of a vintage vest and bright Moschino stilettos. “When it comes to shopping, I naturally gravitate towards one-off pieces, especially from vintage stores. I love the mystery and the story behind each item of clothing,” she details. “One of my personal favourite spots for thrift shopping is Chatuchak market in Bangkok. It’s a fashion goldmine. Currently, I am obsessed with statement sunglasses and earrings. The right accessories help elevate the simplest of outfits.”
Attributing her surrounding environment as inspiration for her body of work and style, Kittie says, “Fashion inspirations come in all shapes and sizes and in the most unpredictable way, whether they’re in the form of art, film, music, or life experiences. Most of the time, it just pops out of nowhere.” These unexpected occurences are clearly translated into her day-to-day style.
As the shoot draws to a close, it is evident why Kittie has a distinct and prominent presence in the Malaysian fashion scene. Along with a vibrant personality to match her designs, she continues to encourage others to step out from their comfort zone and experiment with what they wear. When asked about what sets one’s personal style apart from everyone else, her foolproof advice is simple: “Stop chasing trends and keep it original.”