SELINA YEOP JR. : The Carrie Bradshaw of KL
Fashion Designer : Selina Yeop JR. Photographer: Jay Ismail
Dark clouds and heavy rain poured over the city centre as the Monday blues slowly passes by in the evening. Malaysia is well-known for bipolar weather especially when it’s close to the year end but that doesn’t stop people in the city to rush to their destination. Hotel staffs at W Hotel helped a few guests into the building as it gets heavier and I quickly made my way to the elevator to get to the 8th floor. A lady name Wendy greeted me with a wide smile and ushered me to another lift to head to another floor where few workers were cleaning up the last bits of the Marvelous Suite.I entered the wide double-sink bathroom where a woman with long black hair in a fitted dress came to approach me. Selina Yeop never fails to bring her witty sense of humour when meeting people such in my case after complimenting her on how great she looked. “Oh honey this is thanks to the makeup artist and laser over the weekend,” said the Creative Director of fashion brand Romyda KL.
The suite was set up for a photoshoot and Selina was the main star. I had the chance to watch the fashionista pose for the camera in different areas of the room and she made it look effortlessly easy. Each piece doned was from her never-seen before collection in Romyda KL which she will be releasing soon for everyone to purchase. After a few looks and touch up, the lady boss wrapped up the shoot and head down to level 8 for a chit chat over coffee with me to share on her life journey to become one of the leading women in Malaysia. “I started Romyda KL 3 and a half years ago with my friend Ning Baizura, which everyone knew, and we are going to celebrate our third anniversary this year on November 8th.” Selina featured her latest collection at this year’s KL Fashion Week which showcased sleek dresses and embellishments from head to toe. One would think Selina grew up in a fashion background, but this time that wasn’t the case. “Fashion was never something that I associated with growing up. Actually, I was more of a sportswoman. I only started to love fashion after finishing school when I moved to KL.” She then went on to gush about her fabulous relatives. “All my KL relatives and aunties were very stylish! I was definitely influenced by my fabulous and stylish aunties who also taught me the importance of the ‘double C’s”. No, not THAT double C’s, but the double C’s in fashion. “Anything in fashion that involves single alphabets are very important as to what my fantastic aunties have told me - the YSL, D&G, BCBG.
Each brand out there especially in fashion has a history of where their inspiration and ideas came from. Romyda KL is no exception where Selina explains the brains behind the coveted label. “Romyda is a Cambodian fashion designer, the best in all of Cambodia. I’ve been wearing her clothes for 20 years up to the time when I decided to start the brand and I just knew this label was the one for me.”
She added that it took her awhile to start Romyda KL. “10 years! That’s how long it took. I was so distracted with a lot things over the years that it only took me recently to finally do it.” Wondered by what finally triggered the trendy lady to kickstart the brand, she explained that it was all thanks to compliments from friends and strangers. Yes, compliments. “Over the years, I’ve been in almost every fashion magazine, gotten style and fashion awards, and people are always telling me that I look good and is always stylish,” she then excitedly added a backstory to this array of praises she have always received.
“Just in the afternoon I had lunch with the CEO of Nandos and she said to me ‘Selina thank god I did not show up in my slippers!,” she said laughing loudly. “Andrew Tan have told also me that he has never seen me with a bad hair day. One time I was out shopping for stools in Starling Mall when I bumped into him and he said I look fabulous! But I was carrying stools!,” she tells with a big smile on her face. It’s not uncommon for any regular person to be curious on where does one stylish person gets his or her clothing from, especially when it looks great on them. Selina is just one of those fashionable guest one invites to an event to make everything seem much more prettier. You can’t help but wonder where she got her dress from, such as myself being one of the fallen victims to ask where I can get my hands on her beautiful earrings. “Those incidents are just some of the examples of how it ‘triggered’ me to start Romyda KL. Everytime I wear something people are always asking where did you get that or where can I buy this so this made me think about the fact that people are interested in what I’m wearing so why not turn it into a business.”
She took few sips of her iced ginger ale while I had a hot cappuccino to help warm myself from the breezy post-rain weather. In order for one to be called a fashion icon, he or she must establish a unique sense of style and lifelong reign of killer outfits that headline trendsetters. For Selina Yeop, her choice of fashion icon is posh spice, Victoria Beckham. “I love VB’s style. If you look closely at Romyda KL’s pieces you can see it is somewhat following her style in terms of length such as our pants that are long and baggy but with a fitted cut.” She then went on to talk about her eating habits and healthy lifestyle which may be a shock to some but can also be applied in daily life depending on how discipline you can be. “My body goal is also Victoria Beckham! But then again I can’t live off six slices of sushi a day,” she said jokingly. “Therefore I eat clean. I am very health conscious and I despise mamak food! Never to mamak. Ever. I don’t eat chicken rice or fried kuey teow. I don’t eat anything fried or any refined carbs,” she tells me in full seriousness. How can a Malaysian not like mamak you ask? I took a few seconds pause too to process her response but then again let’s face it. You would be lying to yourself to say mamak food is healthy and in order to reach the body goal you want, you know that’s the first you’ll be ditching. “That’s why I cannot live in my hometown Ipoh for too long. It’s due to the difficulty to attain the kind of food I live on.” She added,”Even though it’s my hometown I just cannot be there for so long. I would retire either in Penang or KL.”
This made me more curious to find out how this woman could live on such a healthy, moreover, clean lifestyle. “If I had something carby, I will then not eat it for a few days or weeks and I also workout at least 5 times a week. You need to understand that I am 49 years old,” she said calmly leaving me speechless. I had no idea she was 49 as her looks did not translate to her age number at all. “I have three sons that are ages 15, 18 and 21. Hence, how I look now is all thanks to the clean eating I’ve been following.” As a young adult trying to fit in 8 hours of sleep and avoiding cheap junk food at midnight, I was low key embarrassed. A woman at 49 years of age, with three sons and a business was looking much better than me. How does she stay sane? “To me, it’s not so much of balancing life and work. The challenge I see personally is the fact that people think I’m an active socialite or fashionista where all I do is just attending one party after another,” she expressed with a slight frown. “A lot of people fail to see that underneath all these so-called glamorous events, I am personally one of the most hardworking people out there. I sit on a board of a public listed company, THS Resources Berhad. I have a PR company, a talent management company, a clothing and handbag company, and a single mother to three boys.” I had nothing but utmost respect for this woman. Being a woman in the 21st century is difficult, let alone as a businesswoman in a male-dominated universe. Lucky for Selina, this savvy triple threat knows what to do when things get a little overwhelming. “Sometimes I do feel like fainting, but I manage it by breathing. I breathe and I meditate. You need a good head on these shoulders to maneuver yourself through all these things. I practice meditation before I sleep so that when I wake up in the morning I make sure to empty all my thoughts from the previous day so that it won’t be carried to a brand new day.” Selina believes that positivity and good vibes is the best thing to give out when trying to handle life. “You are what you think and you attract what you believe in. I truly believe in giving out only good vibes to everyone I come in contact with. I wanna bless everyone.” Going back to the topic of fashion, I had to know how an individual like Selina Yeop describes her own personal style when everyone she came across wants to look like her. “My style is guided by how I feel on that day. I love that edgy kind of chic. It’s like a sharp but feminine type of dressing. Essentially, how I dress everyday depends on what made me feel good on the day itself,” says the full-time working mama.
Simply put like any other women, Selina follows the mood chart of dressing up. One day you’re feeling girly and feminine as a Barbie then the next you’re jamming to Rihanna in the morning feeling edgy and tough. There’s no in between. “There are some days where I would feel very slouchy. So my slouchy look can be a very loose sweater with a knitted top and some embellishments. If it’s a plain top, I’ll pile on some pearls and jewelries.” She then added what seemed to me is true to a certain point.
“To me there’s no such thing as bling is only for the night. Bling is all day for me. And personally to me, if you can’t see it, don’t wear it. I can’t wear those tiny studded earrings with small blings where you can only see when up close.” Selina admitted there are days where she just didn’t feel like waking up from the comfort of her bed.
“Sometimes I do have that do-i-really-need-to-wake-up days. For me, my clothes and how I dress is my pick me-up.” She then started singing to a familiar tune with her hands up to her face that got me singing along. “The moment I wake up, the moment I put on makeup - that’s my anthem!,” she laughed. “Like how Carrie Bradshaw or Sarah Jessica Parker would say, ‘when people ask where do I put my money? It’s in my wardrobe.” When getting to know someone new, it’s often than not to associate them with a familiar character. It’s only after her quote of the Sex and The City’s leading lady that I found similarities between Selina and the fictional NYC Vogue writer. It turns out, she even had a birthday with the same theme! “When I was 37, my birthday party was themed Sex and The City! People thought I was Samantha cause she was a sexy siren and maneater, but nope! I am Carrie Bradshaw. She was always wearing these poofy dresses and skirts which I also did and I had each table at the party labelled according to each character, it was so much fun!”
She added, “I am a cross between Carrie and Victoria Beckham”. The clouds in the evening were slowly clearing up to leave some shine before the day ended and I didn’t realize how fast the time has passed. I had to know if a successful woman like Selina Yeop has someone in her life whom she looks up to. “I don’t specifically look up to anyone. To be honest, I look up to any stylish women out there. Reason because I know that she takes and put in a lot of effort to look that good. Believe me, I know and I understand.” “Women are multitaskers. Helen Gurley Brown, whom is a famous author of the book ‘Having It All’ taught me that women can be doing a hundred different things at the same time and still make sure everything goes well. We’re that good.”
While Carrie Bradshaw had Mr.Big to lean on to when she couldn’t find the perfect outfit to a Vogue after party event, Selina Yeop Jr had only one piece of advice when it comes to dating: “Have no expectations when it comes to men”. She finished her iced ginger ale and head to the lobby where her driver awaits to take her to her next destination. We ended our fabulous girl talk with a warm hug and best wishes in hopes to see each other again.