yi ng was plucked from the explore page by samuel ross of a-cold-wall*
Hard work, research, and good manners: how 20-year-old Yi Ng turned a hero into her colleague.
Yi Ng, by her own admission, is a sort of accidental stylist. "I just kind of just fell into it," she tells i-D. "My friends were photographers and often asked me to bring along pieces; I never knew what I stylist really did." By traditional industry standards, Yi's still very green. Still, she helped style one of the most anticipated streetwear shows on the LFWM calendar: Samuel Ross' A-COLD-WALL*. She described the experience as "quite surreal." Perhaps nerves didn't have the chance to catch her amid the madness: before the show the team also shot their lookbook, a short film and two editorials.
Yi didn't submit a CV for her position. She was hired, by and large, off the back of her Instagram.
Her page, 28k followers strong, is a pastiche of streetwear staples, garments from graduate collections, and pieces from her own wardrobe, collaged together with this sort of hyper-styling. Everything is re-contextualised, flipped inside out, worn upside down, layered, then doubled, then tripled. Depending on how you look at it, Yi either uses every trick in the book, all at once, or throws it out entirely. Either way, Ross is a fan.
Her success speaks to a landmark change in the fashion industry — perhaps it's not a shortcut, but there's certainly a new path being tread, an alternative to internships and years spent assisting. A young cohort of stylists work independently of established structures; publishing their work not in magazines, but on Instagram — an outlet they have full creative control over. There are thousand of these kids; maybe hundreds of thousand of them. They've all perfected their feeds, their aesthetic, theirs brands. But they're still outsiders. At least until the right insider comes along, and invites them in.
That's the dream, anyway. For Yi, it was a reality. Here she tells the story — by the way, luck had nothing to do with it.
I think it's quite clear why your work is so engaging to so many people: it's very well timed — you've captured a feeling of now. "Trends" isn't my favourite word to use, but it's apt.
That's the thing, you do have to pay attention to trends: to commerce. You don't want to be that artist struggling along by yourself, because nobody understands your work. It's all ego; to think that other people don't understand the complexity of your own vision. It's more likely you need a reality check, you have to be acknowledging feedback. The Internet has made it very easy to quantify that feedback in an objective way.
Let's talk more about the internet, because I feel like that's where you were sort of made — or where you made yourself.
Instagram is the easiest way to get people who I admire to see my work — and that's all I think about. I see it as a way of connecting. It's your portfolio, really. You can tag a brand you're wearing and they can immediately see how you worked with garment.
Your connection to Samuel Ross of A-COLD-WALL* is the perfect example of that in motion. Walk me through it.
It was at the beginning of 2016, I styled a look with A-COLD-WALL* shirt. Samuel commented through his personal Instagram, and I thought "oh cool, sick." The next week, he reposted the image on his personal Instagram and then the week after, he posted it on the brand's Instagram. I was stoked. I knew I was going to London in July, so I thought, I'll give him an email and see if I can intern while I'm there. From there on out, I would send him moodboards, and when I arrived in London I met up with him almost straight away — we just got along.
It's hard to predict whether you'll have that face-to-face chemistry.
You can't manufacture a great working relationship, it just has to be the right person at the right time. With Samuel, from there on out I would go over and assist — I helped style a shoot for Vogue. Eventually when the time came for me to go back to university, he offered me a job over there instead. I took it.
Let's unpick some of that process more, because I think you handled it well: parlaying an exchange inside of Instagram into something very real.
I think you've got to do your research. Read, listen, absorb and understand. Art is a privilege. Research your idol's work. Because we're good friends now, I was recently showing Samuel a folder I had on him. I really had every interview he's done — every inch of video. It's a lot, but it meant I really understood the brand. People can tell if you have a real awareness of the brand, or if it's more one dimensional. Ask yourself why you're reaching out in the first place. If you can answer that question, then that's your email done.
There are a lot people out there with great ideas: the difference between them isn't whether or not they're brilliant, it's how professional they are. You're always gonna favour the person who meets their deadlines, the person who's a pleasure to speak with.
Yeah, I think you're always going to pick the person who is nice, and I would rather be called hard-working than talented. People can be super competitive where they shouldn't be; I really believe the industry is big enough for everyone. There is no competition. You just need to understand that if you want it, it's not going to come easy. My Dad always said, "always be the underdog."