As soon as Yi Ng accepted my friend request on Facebook, I clicked on her profile picture and found myself side-eyed by a modern day, Rei Kawakubo. On a recent night in October under a waxing crescent moon, I found myself mentally trying to keep up with her brilliance . In a very 21st century exchange via Facebook chat, Yi spoke to me about things both conceptual and tangible. Her name appeared first months ago, in a hardly broken-in Moleskine notebook under a heading that read, “Pitches” drawn out in grisly, bubble letters. I wanted to interview this stylist about an aesthetic that seemed to weave itself effortlessly into the lines of 90s anti-fashion with twenty-four carat artistry. Little did I know Yi was only 20 years old and only on the cusp of committing to a full time career as a creative. Below you will find our Facebook conversation, almost verbatim, with links and visual references. For in conversation, there is both a Yi N(g) and Yang.
yes i'm ready :)
Yi missed a video chat with you.
possible to do it typing
i'm actually at uni library haha
hahaha too funny! yes definitely <3
okay well hi, thanks so much for your time! i'll just jump right on into it
can you tell me a little bit about your background?
you're in australia correct? i'm in hawaii and i think the similarities are between the two is with this whole mess of "beach culture" we find ourselves in. yet, the cultures are flip flopped. hawaii is dominantly asian and australia is seemingly very "white".
how did you find your aesthetic in that whole mess?
you seem like a frickin modern day Rei Kawakubo (http://www.elle.com/fashion/a33802/rei-kawakubo-interview/)
Well i'm studying economics and law and in my second year of university (https://www.facebook.com/sydneyuni/?pnref=lhc)
Moved around quite a bit as a child and lived in singapore, hong kong before sydney for the past few years for school
I went to a heavily mathematics and science oriented high school, and so i never really did anything creative and was quite frustrated as i didn't know where to channel my energy
Wow i would've never guessed, thought you would've been studying art history or something of that sort! Law sounds really intense?!
How did all the moving around affect you?
How and when did you get started with styling in the mix of all that?
growing up was quite nice, my parents i would say are quite 'liberal' and are hoarders although my dad says that it's not hoarding if it's with good taste. My dad has one of the largest collection of original pop art furniture in singapore so growing up i was used to being aware of what pants were allowed to sit on the Corbusier to the Mies van der Rohe to do a marcel breuer (http://breuer.syr.edu). i remember vividly being 5 or so, and counting the number of chairs in my house it was like over 120 or something
so their appreciation for design translated to fashion, my parents have probably the best style i know. I remember whenever we would travel we would always only go to second hand designer stores or designer warehouses or just flea markets. Like that was their thing, and i remember sitting outside as a kid with an ice cream and just waiting for them. Now they have so much vintage issey miyake, raf simons etc
they were always so thrifty and i think that's what's translated to me. My dad still wears different issey miyake pleats trousers and a white shirt to work everyday
no way that's amazing!! so all the moving around was kind of due to his career essentially? my god girl, all this is so phenomenal. truly.
so where did your decision to study law and economics come in essentially?
Moving around, made me very independent at a young age especially moving when you're like 9 or 10, those adolescent years where you're just confused. I think it has defined certain aspects of my character as i'm very strong in the sense that i am so comfortable with myself, my tastes and preferences that i never feel pressured when my style is and has been since i was young always been labelled as 'weird'
Well graduating high-school, despite having an enriching upbringing, school was always a priority and it seemed normal to do a 'safe' course. I liked the aspect of having the agency to implement permanent change and address an array of social and political issues, so chose law.
It's only now getting quite difficult balancing full-time uni and styling, i never thought law would be so intense...and time consuming...
i started styling probably like january this year and when i say that, i probably like only did a handful of shoots until july. It was mainly working with my friends who were photographers and so it happened quite organically.
I'm still very new to this sphere
but i see it as a way of becoming an editor which is my dream lol
preferably of a publication that uses fashion as a platform for addressing social and political movements
a magazine editor? no way! hmm yes that is a very interesting dynamic in the sense where fashion seemingly has more cultural/political relevance in today's world than ever before. It now it seems and feels like the time where dressing, and all these couture houses, have a chance and the weight to actually make a statement that people are going to want to listen to and value
I think that it's always been like that, but definitely on a larger scale now with an ease of technology
i don't really like the idea of fashion as just presenting something beautiful,
that's so boring to me
like okay it's beautiful but what's next? what else? i think everything has to have depth
definitely, i just listened to a mizrahi interview where he talks about the importance of being bored, (https://www.ted.com/talks/isaac_mizrahi_on_fashion_and_creativity) and even to add to that, not following trends, not getting so sucked into pop culture, the fucking kardashians
it seems like you have a strong interest/collaborative spirit with many underground type houses, vetements, a cold war, HBA etc. -- yet to me it's also mind blowing how HBA can sell a box tee for like $400?! (https://www.hoodbyair.com/pilgrimage/meat-box-tee-s-s)
what's your take on this whole new realm of "street wear" and the "hype beast"?
definitely, i don't think i believe in the idea of trends. i think the hardest thing for any creative is to be really honest with his/her work, and creating from that genuine place is what will make your work transcend time. Defying the boundaries of the norm (lol) Like we are all on our own path, and i don't really see the idea of competition, yeah in an economic sense but not in the sense of making your mark
I GET IT LOL
i think that there’s quite a beauty in the kardashians and a definite appreciation for the way they have garnered a following from such a large population of the world. Performance art??!
haha yeah i used to have a tumblr called norm addict, it was playing on the idea of the irony of the word: both on the beauty in the normalcy of things and also i guess my teenage anxiety of seeking originality
yeah i've never thought of it like that i guess. the kardashians to me seem like they also perpetuate trends tho, this "look", this way of being, of doing things. performance art as superficiality seemingly -- but yet, they are people, with private lives, thoughts, feelings, seemingly, even tho they just seem like robots almost lol anyway…
In terms of high price points for streetwear brands, i think it's important to note that isn't that a greater challenge? To be able to sell a piece of item that is deemed as luxurious? It might not be couture and the price doesn’t reflect the fabric, but the graphics are labourious and an insight into the designer's mind. We all would buy a painting for more than 400 but why not on a t-shirt? I think that it’s definitive of a new wave of modern luxury. What's the point of owning a couture piece when you can't wear it vs buying a streetwear item whose price reflects the graphic designers genius?
definitely, it's like in the 90s, it seems like a resurgence of it almost (https://m2m.tv/watch/antifashion)
there's quite a genius to desire
a manipulation of the consumers midn
and excelling at that
definitely. even just tonight i was debating on buying $420 sweat pants lol (https://www.hoodbyair.com/pilgrimage/cargo-sweats-5354)
and the fact is why should it be seem as not a worthy investment, if you're going to wear it all the time?
yeah, i think it's more of a treasure. especially today in the face of all this "fast fashion", it feels like the only way these more couture houses etc. can really win, is thru making their product feel like worthy investments by turning them into art
to what extent do you think fashion is/should be art? i mean even in your styling -- i've heard part of the stylist's job is to make people feel good/comfortable but yet the other side is making art, making someone a piece of art
it all comes down to an appreciation. I hate the idea of fashion as frivolous or vain. For me, i will spend a lot of money for a piece because it's an insight into a designer's mind, a part of their brain i can take, wow sounded less morbid in my head
I think that fashion is art, definitely. I think that you can achieve both, it comes down to working with people who are like minded and believe in the overall project. The two definitely come hand in hand
My god Yi, you are blowing my mind right now. So what changes do you think need to be made in the industry today? There are interesting motifs of gender neutrality, acceptance of sexuality and a fight racism in the world surrounding fashion, how can fashion hold even a more hard hitting role in this scape?
I think that it's the muted and subtlety of fashion in addressing these issues and that is its best asset -- infiltrating the masses to slowly question the different boundaries that become less defined. It can be done through a motif of a design, representation within the media etc
right, so still being "fashion" while indeed, HAVING an opinion and not just being this vain thing that exists outside the world of these current, pressing issues
so without the "art", the "intent" behind fashion, does it then become "vain and frivolous" -- basically fast fashion, so essentially luxury houses could become fast fashion if they lose their essence?
Exactly, and it's not a new thing to artists. it's this challenge of breaking down perceived, defined notions of identity and sexuality subtly and quietly that i find so exciting
yes while still appealing to the masses
or causing the masses to think at least
why do you think society has such a hard time breaking down the latter notions you mentioned?
I think that fashion is large enough to encompass everyone's perception of “fashion”. I just happen to hold fashion as a form of expression that has the power to shift social norms and mores.
I think that society in large likes to be comfortable and to feel safe. Nobody likes being challenged as we all have this ingrained notion of fear within us.
Which is why when points of difference or a shift in the social landscape occurs, the general public feels uneasy. when the reality is that all these safety nets of defined notions of beauty, sexuality etc. never existed
so what are you yourself afraid of/
I don't think i'm scared of anything, i blame my philosophy class focused on existentialism (http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/existentialism.htm) when i was 15 and jean paul satre (http://www.iep.utm.edu/sartre-ex/) for this. But, if i'm not scared, then i'm not excited. As bleak as it sounds, like Steve Jobs said, “death is the greatest gift to humanity, because it makes everything count, it gives everyone a lightness to be and do what they want.” I think that it's liberating to know that you can achieve what your idols have.
I want to live forever; in the sense that my work lives on. It's kinda like when they say you only die when someone says your name for the last time, and i just think i want to effect change for a long time after i die
Definitely. Death is the only thing that is promised. With that being said, what are you hoping to achieve? What do you want people to remember you for? What about your work?
Especially in the publishing realm where it seems like there is an over saturation of magazines nowadays
i don't think i know exactly what specifically i want to achieve. I just want to be respected by my idols, and i think in doing that i would have created something worthwhile.
who are these idols you speak of?
figures of influence
I think the neat thing about "influence" is the fact that its meaning is going to be relative to each individual, how have they moved you? especially when people like to talk so much about "inspiration" -- i think inspiration is a very personal thing and the latter essentially marks an individual as such
do you ever find pop culture to be "inspiring"?
i respect Nick Knight so much for what he has built with Showstudio, empowering youths and still staying so true to his original vision
Jefferson hack for being revolutionary in my opinion of challenging the nature of publications
I think view pop culture almost through a lense of intrigue. specifically, i don't think i can pinpoint anyone in particular, but i think that anyone who is a culture icon should be appreciated in terms of how they've conquered that hollywood dream
it's just not mine
definitely, it seems like a blend of nick and jefferson is the epitome of what you are hoping to achieve/be known for. it's interesting that you mention the empowerment of youth, being a young person in this day and age is vastly different than in decades before. we have access, we have the internet, we can learn how to do things on our own with ease -- can you speak more to this theme of youth empowerment?
and what are your thoughts on social media?
I think that there's no better time in history than to be able to just get out and achieve what we want. We all have the ability to exhibit our work to people all over the world.
I think that social media is for the most part a good way of connecting with likeminded people around the world, and as a young creative, booking jobs from around the world. I do however, think that it breeds a form of insecurity and social anxiety. The amount of times i've heard people talk about the anxiety and pressure they feel to post something 'good', i think it's good that i'm really apathetic to it. You really have to live like your social media accounts can be deleted at any second.
But i also think that social media and the ease of communication has bred a sense of impatience, but not in the best way. It pushes especially young creatives to not want to put in the humbling work and to focus on the progress rather than the final product.
yeah i think the latter is what breeds the anxiety honestly, it's all about where you want to end up, you want to take a photo at the finish line without even being on the course
yeah, and it encompasses the need to create for an audience and not for curiosity
or even create for oneself, out of a need for expression and to affect change
what is the best advice anyone has given you?
how are you doing on time? i just have a few more questions <3 thank u so much again
probably my father, he lives by 'always be the underdog'
all good, i'm actually procrastinating my work so it’s perfect! haha
i don't want to cut this conversation short, you've got so much to say that we all need to hear
haha i hope it’s okay my mind is a bit all over the palce i've been at uni for 7 hours
haha it's beautiful! it really is
so what does "always be the underdog" mean to u?
It means to never have an ego, to work tirelessly and stay humble. The fact is, as much as i value artistic pursuit and innovation, if you have a big ego or are just rude, then i don't really want to work with you, because your art doesn't cancel out your integrity and character, and i probably don't want to be apart of that.
yes and i think that's exactly what the "problem" per se is with pop culture and when social media messes with people's minds' in the sense where it all becomes a thing of self validation and sharing/posting photos for the approval of others
ego is such a funny thing
so with your whole collaboration and stuff with ACW (A Cold Wall) (http://a-cold-wall.com) and getting to have that on a platform like Vogue and such, how do you stay humble? where has self doubt manifested most in your career thus far?
I think even though i'm starting out i see my work in the long term. i am in no way creating the work i want to create yet. I live by the phrase 'work hard until your idols become your competitors' and i think until i get there, we'll see maybe, i'll be a narcicist. Joking haha but i guess art is still a luxury and even though i mentioned figures in art, there are so many figures in history that have led revolutionary changes and stayed humble, so what makes me different?
yes i think staying humble is what really allows people to continue to grow, once you become content and proud, your spark fizzles
what is missing in your current work that makes you say that you're not yet creating the work you want to create yet?
and does being a revolutionary simply mean doing something differently?
well styling to me is all about problem solving. The thing is that i don't have access to designers who i respect, so it's all about working around that. However, it did lead me to think, why not contact graduate designers at my university and form a community through that? Why not pull one of pieces that have never been shot and through that build a community? Horizontal integration, always
i guess i should have been clearer, i was thinking about individuals like gandhi
making change where there is no alternative
ir the luxury of articulating that through art
sorry did you mean "is" or "or" in the last bit? think it makes 2 different statement
beautiful. so the creation of the community you mentioned above, can you talk about that dynamic a bit? it's always funny when collaboration seems like such a concept
yeah it's such an organic process as soon as you start a conversation with like minded individuals. Basically, through pulling from designers around my age, we all just naturally connected, and with the realisation of mutual friends, organically kept working together
what were those conversations centered around?
and what does your daily schedule look like with such a wide variety of things on your plate?
anything really, mutual artists we admire, gigs we are going to on the weekend etc
i normally try to get out and go to the library and from there work on pulling for shoots, go to meetings for upcoming projects, and try to make it to class, emphasis to class
i mean law must really make your brain work in such an interesting way with everything else going on
it really seems like a necessary thing almost for the two to be so united
okay, i think last question <3 what is your favorite piece in your closet and why?
I'm pretty detached to everything, like i'm constantly rotating my closet and few things have lasted, but i guess, issey miyake pleats i steal from my mum and just a big white t shirt. oh, and my balenciaga derby boots i wear when i go out which has destroyed them haha
and okay LAST ONE, what else are you interested in? favorite music? movies? like to go to museums often? basically what do u do in your spare time lol
oh god you're going to kill me, and why the move to london? DONE DONE DONE
I'm definitely the type of person that gets stressed when i don't have anything on my plate, so i normally overplan and then dig myself into a hole of stress. I am that friend that is always busy but will randomly show up at my friends art show or gig. But i guess what makes me rejuvenated is researching people's careers, watching commencement speeches, every video on showstudio
i can't wait to get old, i feel like being 20 and young is a bit overrated. Like the whole idea of being reckless for recklessness sake. It also lends to this notion of peaking when you are young, and it's probably the same people that hit a mid life crisis. I can't wait for my work to get better and wiser lol
Well, i just got a 2 year working visa in the UK and london has the basis for all the publications i want to contribute to, so that. So, i'm moving in 3 weeks, but i haven't told my parents haha so THATS BREAKING NEWS. and i'm differing university too haha. Just going back to be on the team at a cold wall, and have some other projects there and just continue to scare myself
i lied before, i am scared.
OH MY GOD
That is thee perfect ending to this interview hahahah
so what are you scared of then? your parents? starting out in a new place?
you are not scared, u are human
all of the above, but not failure.
done. done. done.
thank you so much.
haha i just have never given myself a good shot at trying this creative thing full time, like it's always been a side thing and only in the past two months
but like if all goes bad, i come back in two years and i'm 22
WELL GIRL YOU ARE BRILLIANT
you will do just fine
22 wont be too old to restart my law career haah
haha you aren't going to be a lawyer and if you are, you're going to be the best dressed one out there
i wrote down that i wanted to interview u back in may actually in my notebook before this whole sukeban thing even came up so i'm really excited that i got the chance to, thanks again love
i'm really excited for you