Yeohlee Teng – uncompromising designer who makes zero waste a way of life

The designer Yeohlee Teng was committed to zero waste long before sustainability became a buzz word. For her it has been a company ethos as well as a way of life.

Yeohlee was fresh on the fashion scene when, back in 1982, her work was chosen for a game-changing exhibition at MIT.

‘Intimate Architecture: Contemporary Clothing Design’ highlighted the work of the likes of Georgio Armani, Krizia, Issey Miyake, Ronaldus Shamask, and Gianfranco Ferre – but it was the young Yeohlee who was honored with the catalog cover and the exhibition poster as the invitation featuring a YEOHLEE back-button coat photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe and modeled by Lisa Lyon, the pioneering female bodybuilder. See Yeohlee: Work material architecture.

“That was the exhibition that really put me on the map,” says Yeohlee. “The curator, Susan Sidlauskas, felt my work really spoke to what she was thinking about as clothes being the first shelter that you build around yourself. 

"Architecture and fashion both function as a form of shelter, 'intimate' comes into play in its proximity to the human form as in the interstitial spaces that exist between your clothes and your body."

Forty years on, the timeless pieces from that exhibition are as relevant today as ever. And a bold, hooded raincoat is still a bestseller, recreated for fall/winter 2020 in a dramatic monochrome palette. Like a lot of Yeohlee’s designs, it’s a zero-waste pattern, using just about every scrap of fabric.

In YEOHLEE’s current collection is a series of scarves and shawls, hand painted by Yeohlee, with aliens encouraging people to vote. Made a softest blue fabric cool to the touch, they are remnants upcycled to today's needs as well as scraps of recycled white cotton sheeting.

Fashion is a mirror of the times we live in,” says Yeohlee. "It's a reflection of where people are at, what is happening around them and how they feel about the future.

"The painted eye that says #bearwitness reflects this moment in time that we are bearing witness to where a paradigm shift is occurring."

Share this post