YOU CAN’T help but notice Daren Yeap if you were to cross paths with him, as he has a recherché yet appealing style. He does not mind being quirky when it comes to expressing himself through his appearance, and he acknowledges that his style sense is not everyone’s cup of tea.
The 24-year-old fashion designer recently launched his own brand, Ugly Pretty, where he injects his unique touch on vintage clothing and accessories.
Some would wonder, why Ugly Pretty as a brand name?
“During college, my designs were usually labeled either ‘pretty’, as in nice, or ‘ugly’, as in weird and impractical. So, only certain people knew how to appreciate my designs. I don’t mind people calling my designs ugly and I take it as a compliment,” Yeap explains.
“It’s kind of quirky, and I would say, avant-garde. Unlike normal clothing. For me, I like to challenge the norm. I don’t like wearing something too simple at times. I like to experiment with different looks. I know that there are people out there who are like me, who don’t have the chance to get their hands on these styles of items.”
Yeap’s reworked pieces started out as a hobby, but eventually turned into a small business venture when he took the leap of sharing his masterpieces on social media.
“I actually started [my] Instagram page just to share my creations. I didn’t plan to make it a business. People started to ask me: ‘Where did you get this? Who is the designer?’ My designs are actually a reworking of vintage and second-hand clothing.
“At first I was quite nervous because I had planned this for the longest time, and I did not have the guts to put my designs out there.
“My friends kept on telling me: ‘What is the point of you keeping these designs to yourself? Why not just share it? Why are you so worried about people’s judgements?’
“Then one day, I was like: ‘Whatever, I am just going to post it on my social media.’”
The ability to fully express his unique creativity through fashion is what keeps him going; however, he has come to terms with the fact that in order to sustain his passion financially, he has to meet the conventional demands of fashion consumers.
“I wouldn’t say that I am able to make much money out of it, but it does leave an impact on our local fashion industry. There were some local designers or stylists who borrowed some of my creations for their photoshoots or music video shoots.
“However, in terms of business, it is not doing as well, because not everyone would like to wear this style of clothing.
“Sometimes I question myself: ‘Should I design items that are more mainstream?’. Then again, that is not what I want to do, but I have to think in terms of my own financial situation.
“I am trying to balance it out, maybe create more commercialised products while injecting my style into those items. Especially during the MCO (movement control order), I am trying to figure this out and experiment with different styles that might be relatable to a larger audience. On the side, I am still working from home for a shoe company as a part-time job.”
As a fashion enthusiast himself, Yeap is aware of the costs for fashion merchandise out there. With that in mind, he tries to make affordable pieces that would stand out in a crowd.
“I am trying to make it affordable as I want everyone to enjoy fashion! When I was in high school and college, I loved fashion but financially I was not able to afford designer brands.
“I know that younger people would face this issue when they want to express themselves through fashion. Hence, the reason behind my creations and the brand.”
Since Yeap is essentially a one-man show, he sets realistic goals for the brand, and does not take on more than he can handle.
“For the current pieces that I rework, I do it all myself. I make one piece for each design, so it is one-of-a-kind. I sew, find the hardware, and take the product pictures on my own. Therefore, I am able to cut costs. If I am planning to do more than that, I would need a whole team.”
It is no surprise if Yeap is not the only fashion designer or artist struggling to make ends meet in our local creative industry
“It is actually a struggle for local designers … I feel like our local fashion industry is improving, but we have a long way to go. Those brands who want to challenge the local fashion norms, people like us, if we can collaborate with other artists, where we can merge the art and fashion industry, people might actually appreciate our creations.
“People don’t really see the importance and I hope to change the mindset of our local people.”