Welcome to the garden of love. For this series, designer Icelynne Yeo transports us to a new world, entering a dreamlike wonderland filled with rapturous beauty. Here, the earth is fresh, flowers grow tall and humankind works in harmony with nature, evolving and decaying as one.
Yeo herself is a designer with global history. Born in Malaysia, the artist now resides in Melbourne, Australia, where this series was conceived. Her work incorporates her personal experiences with her observations of the world around her; for the piece featured in this series, a selection from her Beauty in Death collection, Yeo found inspiration in death itself, utilising her personal history with the topic to create works that recognise, make peace with and ultimately beautify the process. Assisting in this journey is the accompanying photo series, shot by photographer Ravin Li with Justin Hwang as creative director. Here, Schön! catches up with Yeo and Hwang to discuss fashion and inspirations.
How did you get started with fashion?
My fascination [with] fashion started when I was young. I was always fascinated by art and cartoons, especially the ’90s cartoon Totally Spies! It was then that I realised that I was in love with style and art. I began my journey by drawing anime girls with crazy outfits that didn’t function or made sense. Through my sketches, I later realised that fashion would become a medium for me to express my art.
You were born in Malaysia but are now based in Melbourne, Australia. How does your experience in each country influence your designs?
Due to the multiracial demographics in Malaysia, we would have various traditional wear based on different races or cultures. Malays have the elegant “Baju Kebaya;” for Chinese, there is the beautiful Cheongsam; Indians present themselves in colourful Sarees; Ibans wear the mighty yet classy “Marik Empang.” All these different races and their beautiful and vibrant traditional wear have always grounded me, becoming a constant reminder to always remember my roots no matter where I go in life. Hence, I always try to incorporate my culture into my work.
The artistry and creativity in Melbourne are otherworldly. The society here does not cage or limit the creativity of designers. Not only does this inspire and influence my design, but it allows me to unlock my full potential without being judged by society. With the fusion of my culture and the freedom of creativity in Melbourne, I was able to create something unique, something that is me.
What were some of the inspirations behind the piece featured in this series?
The Beauty in Death collection explores an admiration toward an unconventional idea of death. In this collection, I mainly focused on the process of decay that occurs when a human dies. Emphasis on this process can be seen throughout my collection. The inspiration came to me when a close relative of mine passed away. The warmth and support given to each other during the mourning process help shed light as to how death could be sad, yet beautiful. It was during that moment I experienced an epiphany that death is somewhat beautiful.
What story or mood were you looking to convert with this photo series?
In this photo series, Justin came across my work on Instagram, and he knew that this dress was perfect for the eerie mood.
Turning to Justin now, what were some of your inspirations for this series?
Recently I’ve seen creatives in the fashion industry utilising locations and studios, but no one I’ve seen has combined both together. This is where my concept arose, and I manifested this idea into a final image. Many thanks to my team for achieving the full potential of this editorial.
What instructions did Icelynne give you, and how did you integrate that instruction into the shoot?
Icelynne didn’t give me any instructions. She trusted me, and I told her I would showcase her garments in a marvelous way to show the full potential of her dress.
What was the most challenging aspect of this shoot?
Although this photoshoot had many challenging aspects, the hardest for sure was creating a “nature” set design in a huge studio with a small budget. I adapted and used my garden to create a surreal garden in the studio space. I spent days and days digging up soil for the foundation of the ground and chopping down trees and plants before transferring them into a small van to make the set. It was definitely a rewarding challenge, and I overcame it as a stylist and creative director with the help of my parents.
Back to Icelynne, what can our readers look forward to from you in the future?
As a designer, I believe there is a gap in the fashion industry. That gap is the lack of incorporation of technology into designs. As the world progresses with science and technology, I feel that fashion should evolve as well. I aspire to use modern technology to help further push the boundaries of fashion.
Make sure to follow Icelynne Yeo on Instagram to be on the know about her future ventures.
designs. Icelynne Yeo
photography. Ravin Li
creative direction + styling. Justin Hwang
model. Ciena Lahanis + Basil, the bird
set design. Stella Lim , Eric Hwang + Justin Hwang
hair + make up. Sarah Meilak, Jolie Nguyen, Cindy Cwok + Shakila Rahmi