You might recognize her name from the countless catwalks her designs have graced, or you might know the woman from her Instagram notoriety. Whichever avenue you’ve taken to come across fashion designer Kittie Yiyi, one thing is certain - to know her is to love her, and her inventory of designs that are jam-packed with a signature blend of cuteness and finesse.
Kittie approaches the world with uninhibited childlike wonder. Her highly anticipated latest collection is inspired by Malaysia’s bustling wet markets. Zeroing in on the trademark clamor and swarm of colorful food & fare, Kittie infuses the lush colors of tropical fruit and intense energy of local markets into her SS20 collection. The line-up features boxy suit sets that are equal parts pajama and business, and cascading layers of ruffle and ribbon, all in bursts of delicious technicolor or washes of soft pastel.
Kittie is wearing Ace Sandal
“I try to take my time and be inspired by the world around me” says Kittie about the creative process. She then sources fabrics and assembles a color palette before exploring silhouettes with her team. For Kittie, the key aspects of design are color, shape and proportion. Her playful point of view is the marker of her aesthetic, and this has catapulted her onto clouds above her peers.
Kittie’s spirited nature has been a part of her since childhood. Playtime often involved neighborhood adventures with her male cousins. “I was a bit boyish and rude in my mannerisms” says Kittie, tongue-in-cheek. “We used to cycle around the kampung area and play at the drain after rain to catch tadpoles.” Around the same period, her mother worked as a babysitter, so Kittie spent plenty of time around babies. She attributes this to her penchant for childish whimsy.
“Sometimes I feel like I’ve never grown up because I always talk to babies. I feel more comfortable talking to them”
Pretty soon, Kittie became acquainted with the world of fashion. At the age of 6, Kittie used to cut up her curtains and pillow cases to stitch together outfits for her Barbie dolls. A few years later, she stumbled upon a television program about runway models. She was tantalized by the glamor on screen, and quickly realized that this was a tangible way for her to turn her playtime fancies into a real life vocation. She maintained her dream throughout high school, and enrolled in a design course as soon as she graduated.
Kittie’s aesthetic is an outpouring of personality. She is unapologetically “a childish girl”, and wears this proudly on her sleeve. Her arsenal boasts kitsch motifs, bold pattern-mixing, oversized shapes and crayola colors. Spattered in between are romantic fabrics and hues for good measure.
When styling herself, her outfits are always extravagant, with pints of quirkiness and fun. For more casual looks, she makes sure to always include an element of surprise. “I like to wear things that not everybody would understand,” says Kittie, describing her style, “I am often attracted to things that are unique. I’ve just got an eye for it.”
Since launching her label in 2015, Kittie has carved out a large hunk of the pie for herself in Malaysia’s fashion industry. There is no mistaking Kittie’s original ideas, as she consistently adds a twist to classic cuts. Think skirts that look like blazers in candy pink, and pantsuits of spray-paint ombréd leather and plaid. Of all the garments she has created, Kittie has the most fun designing outerwear, enchanted by their ability to elevate any outfit: “It’s the best thing to turn your daily look into a stylist look,'' she says. She also enjoys statement dresses that don’t require much styling before stepping out the door.
When asked about the projects that she keeps closest to her heart, Kittie recalled the first collection she released under her label. She fondly remembers simpler times where creativity took precedence in all aspects of the production process, and business was not yet in her purview. “The collection was created in the most comfortable time frame and work environment. I didn’t have a proper business plan and used all of my brand for the creative side.” This was the beginning of sticker book bumblebees and loud and proud prints. Compared to her current work, the designs are tamer, but the kitten steps towards her current body of work are boldly apparent.
Kittie is wearing Galaxy Sandal
Kittie’s personal icons are Alexander McQueen, whose work she has admired since her time in school, and Anna Dello Russo, for her over-the-top get ups and inner confidence. If she could style anyone in the world, she’d doll up glamazon Beyonce: “She’s cute and a feminist at the same time. I wish I could dress her in one of my quirkiest looks.”
Building her brand hasn’t come without its challenges. At the start of her career, Kittie dealt with people underestimating her abilities and questioning her direction: “I had a hard time making everything organized due to an overflow of work, but it’s catching up now,” shares Kittie. “Sometimes I’d see people doubt me. But I will continue to show them that nothing is impossible”. Kittie has epitomized this message with her brand and each daring design she brings to life.
Kittie is wearing Galaxy Sandal
For a young creative in a grueling industry, Kittie has fearlessly left her mark on the fashion world. Her positive demeanor and approach to life through style reminds us all to be a little more silly, to break the mold in any way we can so that there’s just a little more sweetness in our everyday experience. With each delectable new collection and her personal style gallery visible on her Instagram page, Kittie continues to excite the industry and her followers alike. Never dim and always bright, Kittie Yiyi is on a wild ride and we know it’s one we don’t want to miss.
Hear what Kittie has to say about Yoke & Theam’s latest collection:
Which pair of Yoke & Theam is your favorite?
Galaxy Sandal is my favorite pair! It’s so easy to wear with its buckle.
How would you style the pair?
I would definitely style these with my daily look, especially an oversized t-shirt that makes everything look effortless.
What are 2 essential footwear styling tips that compliment your lifestyle and personal style?
1. A little bit of platform
2. Easy to match color (white) to go with all my outfits.
I’m quite a lazy person who pairs every outfit with the same shoes.
Text: Billie Blue Blackstone
Photography: Clash Donerrin
Styling: Saerah Ridzuan
Wardrobe: Kittie Yiyi
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