Fashion Focus: Ung Yiu Lin of KLutched

We talk to the busy bee Ung Yiu Lin of KLutched about job-juggling, Malaysian fashion scene, and style secrets.

Those who believe Malaysian fashion scene is made up of excruciatingly skinny jeans for the boys and short bodycon dresses for the girls, must have only walked the streets of Bukit Bintang. The multifaceted local scene has seen a good mixture between affordable indie ranges and the avant-garde high-fashion of late – to which we raise our glass.

KLutched epitomizes such breakthrough – featuring atypical exotic skins namely salmon’s and eel’s besides the usual suspects of snake and ostrich skins. The brand offers international-class design and quality with an Asian identity; born in Asia, made in Asia and feature Asian cities in the bag names.

In conjunction with 20 by Two, a fashion collaboration between Malaysian and Singaporean designers, we spoke to Ung Yiu Lin – the woman behind the brand. Coming from business & finance background, Yiu Lin has been in the fashion industry for six years. Whilst her first endeavour ‘ShoesShoesShoes’ gained international buzz for the innovative ‘Dating Shoes’ collection earlier this year, KLutched has gotten nods from big names, having designed a charity collection with Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir last year and is returning to Tranoi later this month. (VB): What’s a typical day in the life of Ung Yiu Lin like?

Ung Yiu Lin (YL): Well it’s definitely not typical and not routine! My life and the nature of my business (and managing both brands Klutched and ShoesShoesShoes) means that I need to perfect the art of multi tasking and time management. I start the day at 9am by getting ready and running to work, whether it’s to the office or to the shops or meetings. I do of course try to have breakfast but even that sometimes is skipped as I cherish my sleep more than anything else.

I could be checking on the stores, going for photoshoots or interviews, or heading to the office to get cracking on designs and production. Being in the retail business (with five ShoesShoesShoes stores and growing) I sometimes am even required on the sales floor to meet with our customers. We also do all our PR and Marketing in house, so that’s an area I also focus on when in the office.  If I don’t have events I usually head home for dinner and then resume work in my home office. We deal with Europe a bit for KLutched so night time is when the Skype calls start. Work never stops!

VB: How do you maintain the work-life balance now that you manage KLutched in addition to ShoesShoesShoes?

YL: Everyone who knows me know there isn’t much of a work life balance with me. It’s always work, and work always is a priority. Of course when I am in town, I do try to catch up with dear friends for drinks or a meal, and catch a movie with my soon-to-be hubby.

However with the opening of two new ShoesShoesShoes stores in Great Eastern Mall and Publika, both on the same day, my days are a tad bit stretched! And with the upcoming Tranoi show for Klutched at end of September, me and my team are burning the midnight oil!

VB: What inspired you to start KLutched? Up to date, KLutched is the only Malaysian bag brand that uses atypical exotic skins, including salmon’s and eel’s.

YL: It was more of a natural progression to move into bags since we were already doing shoes.  And we felt it was high time for a Malaysian bag label to break into the international fashion scene, that means doing something different, using materials that are very accessible to us in the region and infusing our unique Asian culture and feel into bags that have an international flavour. Hence, Klutched was born!

VB: KLutched inserts a Malaysian element to its name, and has undoubtedly done the country proud by being showcased in international fashion events including the prestigious Tranoi. What does being a Malaysian designer mean to you?

YL: Having been in the fashion scene for nearly 6 years now, and having travelled far, I’ve come to realised that Malaysian designers are actually very talented and bold, and can definitely go far if the right amount of effort, focus, time and business sense go into the development of the brands.

Of course it is a costly affair, bringing our works to the international fashion world and get noticed amongst the million of brands out there. Some luck and timing is required, and also partnerships with the right parties such as PR or branding agents. We recently collaborated with StyleLab from London and had a fantastic success at their luxury pop up event in Croatia recently. We hope more partnerships like this would help propel Klutched even further. Wherever we go, we fiercely and proudly state we are a Malaysian brand.

VB: What do you like most about the developing Malaysian fashion scene?

YL: I love that the youngsters are ballsy enough to try to start their own labels and designs. I however do think the Malaysian fashion bodies/associations need to band together and work as one for the good of the overall fashion industry.

VB: If you could choose any personality to represent KLutched, who would it be?

YL: From a business standpoint, Beyonce, as she has the whole world looking at her. From a fashion icon perspective, I’d like Alexa Chung to carry our pieces as she has the knack to mix her get up, from designer to high street pieces, from new to vintage, she always seems to get it right.

From the batik collection of KLutched

VB: What does trend mean to you, as a person and as a designer? Do you keep up or come up with your own ones?

YL: Trends come and go, but they are fun. Life’s short so if you like a particular trend, why not experiment with it? Trends do help the end results of sales numbers, but we do not always follow them. Our inspirations come from everywhere, my travels, my surroundings etc so it isn’t defined by one particular thing.

VB: What are the 3 fashion items you can’t live without?

YL: Fab pair of sunglasses, a cray cray statement bag and killer heels!

Visit 20 by Two exhibition this weekend at The Boulevard, Publika from 4 pm to 10 pm (14 Sept) & 10 am to 10 pm (15 & 16 Sept) to score fabulous items from your favourite Malaysian & Singaporean designers.

For more info on KLutched, visit their website and Facebook page. Also, follow them on Twitter @klutchedbags.

All images courtesy of Ung Yiu Lin & KLutched

Nina Hidayat

Nina Hidayat survives life by heart and intuition (plus a bit of logic). In between voicing out through writing, she daydreams about clothes and shoes. Recently, she started 'Sepatu Merah' - a self-designed handmade shoe line dedicated for women. Life is a fashion playground, after all.


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