Trudging around the Pitti Uomo tradeshow, I often feel like an errant five year old being let loose in the grown-up’s area as I take in a blur of ties, suits, brogues and yet more suits. There are limitations to the ways in which I admire a three piece suit, a lovely bit of tweed or a properly tricked out sole. Wandering aimlessly around the main Central Pavilion area, a face caught my eye. Drawn out with rope and looking a little like Picasso’s dislocated faces, it certainly stood out in amongst the suited and booted set.
The abstract face-off is the creation of Yii Ooi, a young designer based in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, who studied at Raffles Design Institute and proceeded to set up his own line Yii after working as a hair stylist. His clothes come with the tagline “We Never Grow Up” but his Peter Pan syndrome doesn’t necessarily equate to naivety as his starting points are are often the darker facets of growing pains. His S/S 16 collection, presented as part of L’Uomo Vogue and GQ Italia’s the Latest Fashion Buzz in Pitti was inspired by Mary Ellen Wilson, the first reported child abuse case. His A/W 15-6 collection is about the bogeyman of our childhood nightmares. And for his first foray into womenswear, Yii delves into the mind of an autistic child called Pito, imagining what artworks he would draw.
“I’m a kid at heart! Most of my ideas are generated through a child’s eye, it’s always from their perspective.”
Yii approaches his clothes with the workings of a child’s mind and so everything feels exaggerated to the point of being absurd in some instances. And yet, I’d refrain from calling his work cartoonish. There is a level of refinement to the stiffened fabrications and stylised graphics and the way they are combined with oversized and pronounced silhouettes. Yii’s inner child allows him to create his own world where headless chickens, a child’s foot stepping on insects or a black and white stripy 3D banana can grace his clothes without fear of being chortled at. Yii’s references might be creatively wayward five year olds but his work is anything but childsplay.
YII S/S 16 ‘Mr Jones’ collection:
YII A/W 15-6 ‘Boo!’collection:
YII womenswear S/S 15 ‘4 Years of Pito’ collection: