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Lim Ai Chiin

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Girl meets boyfriend jeans

It’s fairly uncommon to see a girl in a bow tie, much less while out shopping or having coffee, but it’s that sense of quirk that gets former scientific researcher turned online fashion retailer Lim Ai Chiin noticed at first glance. The bow tie has become something of a trademark, so it’s not surprising that Ai stocks handcrafted versions from London label Rory Hutton at her online store, Cuevolution, which she started up last July. “Bow ties are a new level of awesome,” she laughs. “I also wear them to the office, and so does my dad – I think they make a person look really sharp. Rory’s bow ties are so very individual, and completely reflect his personality!”

“My style is, admittedly, a little boyish. Growing up, I thought skirts and dresses were a real nightmare! These days, while I’m more than happy to be in a pretty skirt or a dress, I still have a preference for trousers and jeans. I currently live in my oversized jumpers and boyfriend jeans,” says the 29-year-old, who had set aside a selection of her favourite pieces for this shoot. “That said, I like to experiment with different looks and have a soft spot for statement prints, especially those by Mary Katrantzou. My small collection of her dresses is slowly growing.”

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In a jewel-print scarf from Cristina Sabaiduc

Her penchant for print was the reason for stocking another London-based label, Cristina Sabaiduc, who’s known for her exclusive digital prints. “Cristina was the first person I thought of when I decided to start up Cuevolution,” she shares. “I’m absolutely in love with her prints! She collaborates with a photographic artist, Jo Holland, and when you see their prints hanging on a wall: simply breathtaking. The prints are unique and unexpected, featuring frozen detergent or wine, and crystallised feathers, and make what would otherwise be a basic pair of trousers look completely different.”

It’s perhaps Ai’s background in science that honed her eye for detail, but it was her natural curiosity and passion that led to her online store. Teaching herself the basics of website design along the way, it was a big change from the cancer research Ai was in the midst of doing when she decided to take a break. “I took three months off, and in that time pondered what I really wanted to do. Back at university [King’s College and Imperial College for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees respectively], a friend and I had attempted to bring a kitsch London brand to Malaysia. While that never really took off as we were too busy focusing on our studies, it was a good learning curve for us,” she reveals. “I decided to revive that dream and started an online store where I could introduce international brands to the Malaysian market, while supporting local design talent at the same time.”

Aiming to offer customers that special something, Ai has even collaborated with local designers on unique creations that are only available on her site. “Azooi’s exclusive piece for Cuevolution is the Electra clutch, of which there are only 10 pieces available. The clutches are hand-painted so it’s like carrying around a piece of artwork.” Launching this month is a collaboration with local designer Cassey Gan, who graduated from London College of Fashion and is known for her clever use of mixed fabrics. “The way she employs print and unique cuts makes her dresses stand out, despite fairly simple silhouettes,” notes Ai. “I’m really excited; the five pieces in this capsule are exclusive to Cuevolution.”

With a couple more collaborations in the works, Ai isn’t sitting still. “I love that fashion is constantly evolving, and how whimsical it can get. When I was a child, I used to doodle and design dresses a lot but it was during my London days that I fully indulged in my interest. That no one conforms to a certain way of dressing is something that is both inspiring and incredibly refreshing.”

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Scarf, Cristina Sabaiduc. Clutch, Azooi. Ring, Valkyrie

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Working layers – in a Chloé jacket thrown over an LBD

Images: Felina Hung/Lensworks Studio.