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Fashion & Interior Design Meet at Yeohlee
“Somehow, Yeohlee continues to fuse both timeliness—what women need and want now—with timelessness. She continues to hone her long-time interest in elemental forms of clothing…These garments offer pragmatic solutions to a universal problem: how to be comfortable, forceful, and elegant all at once.” - Sidlauskas, from "Yeohlee: Work"
Interior Design magazine crossed over into the world of high fashion Tuesday evening with an event at the Yeohlee showroom on West 35th Street called “Cocktails, Conversation, Fall Preview.” The private studio party was conceived by Cindy Allen, editor-in-chief, as a way to celebrate her friend Yeohlee Teng, and to introduce designers to Yeohlee’s visionary work. The gathering and sale drew a glittering array of talent from the world of design—artists, textile designers, furniture designers, interiors designers, and architects were among the crowd on hand socializing and shopping. But the stars of the evening were the garments. On racks, on mannequins, hanging on the walls, and being tried on by guests, were samples from the Fall 2009 collection, along with some of the Spring 2009 collection, and pieces from the archives.
Yeohlee Teng; Cindy Allen with Ali Tayar
While Interior Design is not a fashion magazine, the tie-ins to Yeohlee are strong. The magazine published an article about the showroom space, designed by Joerg Schwartz, in April 2003. Cindy Allen fell in love with Yeohlee’s clothing on first site, and has been a client since. And, as Cindy pointed out when introducing Yeohlee, her work is about materiality and form and function—it is intimate architecture.
Cindy is joined by a host of commentators in noting this connection. Marylou Luther called Yeohlee “an architect who just happens to be working in the medium of clothes, not buildings. Her clothes are wearable structures.” Valerie Steele took the analysis further, saying “as an architect of fluid structures, she understands that the proportions of a garment, its shape, and its structure influence the way we move—and the way we feel.” Yeohlee herself stated that she designs “to clothe, enhance, engage, empower, and entertain.”
Kitty Hawks with Yeohlee Teng; Gisue Hariri
Empowerment is a recurrent theme in the discourse surrounding Yeohlee. Here is how Andrew Bolton put it: “Fundamental to Yeohlee’s application of geometry is its power to impose…The two-dimensionality of Yeohlee’s forms adds to the apparent size of the body and gives the wearer an increased sense of power—a sense of extension of bodily self. This is particularly true of Yeohlee’s capes, which present the viewer with and iconic, simplified form.”
I saw several women trying on capes during Tuesday’s party. Kitty Hawks looked regal, elegant, and impressive in a full-length black cape. I can’t say how Kitty felt—I didn’t ask her—but I think she wound up ordering the garment. Bobbi Van, an abstract artist, also looked impressive in a black and white armless cloak. In a sleight-of-hand, the garment reversed and bunched into a stole. I concur with Valerie Steele in calling Yeohlee’s work deceptively simple—this sort of flexibility and multi-functionality could not have been easy to realize.
Watching Yeohlee interact with clients and potential clients was illuminating, as the energy seemed to flow in both directions. To learn more about Yeohlee, see the 2003 book "Yeohlee: Work" with its artful photography and insightful writing, or visit her website. Yeohlee’s clothing lines can be seen at Takashimaya, Bergdorf Goodman, and Lord and Taylor.
Photography by Larry Weinberg.