WOMAN OF NOTE:
Lily Yeung | Environmental Activist
Sustainability was never a question for Indigenous model and environmental activist, Lily Yeung. At the age of 11 and beginning of her vintage clothing store, Lily’s mission to create a positive impact on the fashion industry was already in motion. Upcycling pre-loved pieces was a lesson in design and craft that would later serve in creating her own made-to-order clothing line.
With Native American heritage, travels to the Navajo reservation and her indigenous tribe has motivated Lily’s commitment to protecting their lands from environmental injustices. As a Chinese and Navajo woman, Lily has grown up learning the crafts and textiles of her culture with connection to her natural environment. A constant source of inspiration informing her passion for environmental activism and creative practice, woven through each artwork she creates.
Lily recently made the move from New Mexico to London, finding connection to home through creating art that pays homage to her land and culture. We spoke to Lily about her new made-to-order clothing project and environmental passion, wearing the 01 set in oatmeal in her London apartment.
Date: Nov 10th
Where is home for you?
Home as of late is London.
But I will forever find home in the ocean of Southern California and the earth in New Mexico.
What is your cultural background?
I am Chinese and Navajo (Diné), I was born and raised in Southern California.
Can you describe the view from your home?
From my bed in the morning I get to see the blue grey sky at sunrise through the windows. I like to enjoy that view first thing when I wake up, just lay there, before I need to get started with my day. I think it is important to have moments of stillness like that.
Are you a morning or evening person?
I am an evening person, I love taking time for myself at the end of day to nourish and rest my soul.
You are an environmental activist; can you tell us what led you to this passion?
I think my upbringing, playing and having a love for nature led me to feel the need to protect. But to me It seems imperative in the world we live in to be proactive about the environmental issues we face, I don’t really see another option, if we want to have a future on this planet.
What environmental issue are you currently researching and feeling passionate about?
The environmental impact of the fashion industry is something I will always be passionate about as someone who has decided to start a career in fashion. I don’t want to be a part of the problem, researching and implementing sustainable practices in my work is a necessity.
You started a vintage store when you were 11 years old, can you tell us how this came about and how it has impacted you today?
I have grown up with a love of old things, my parents would bring me to flea markets every month as a kid, and at a point in my life around 10 or 11 I decided to stop buying new clothes. The store came about as a way to channel that love for old clothing and circulate the things I was amassing. Being around old textiles and wearing and collecting vintage/antique clothes has served as a hands-on lesson in fashion history and learning a sense for textiles and the craft that goes into them. That appreciation for that craftsmanship is something that’s influenced the way I make, and my love for intricate and delicate handmade textiles.
You create made to order hand-crochet garments. Where did this project originate?
I learned how to crochet when I was very young and I began returning to it over lockdown as the familiar and meditative motion of it was really comforting during an uncertain time. My style really started to evolve through this new medium, and allowed me to express myself creatively in a way that felt so intuitive and natural. After sharing some of my pieces on social media, the positive response inspired the launch of my first small line of one-of-a-kind pieces.
What is your approach to choosing materials?
Color and the tactile quality of materials is really important to me, which Is why I love silk and wool so much, they both have such distinct comforting feelings on the skin.
I always try to use natural fibers, deadstock, regionally grown fibers, and naturally dyed materials. Going forward my goal is for all my pieces to be made with deadstock fibers and indigenous made yarns like Navajo Churro wool.
Where do you turn to for creative inspiration?
The process of making my garments is very intuitive, I get very inspired by the act of making. The land always provides so much inspiration to me as well, memories of my time in New Mexico and California are something I always return to in my work. Lately going to museums, exhibits, meeting new people, and exploring the new city has been so creatively inspiring.
You’ve recently made the move from living in New Mexico to London. How does it compare from your last home?
It's been such a huge change, I went from living in the desert surrounded by open space and nature to a studio apartment in east London, the pace of my life is so much more accelerated which can be exciting and also exhausting at times. I’m trying to make my home this space to feel safe and at peace. My last house was very lived in, I definitely nested during the pandemic, and I had a lot more stuff, I was only able to bring a suitcase with me when I moved to London and the apartment was completely unfurnished so It’s been a good feeling to not have so much in the space and be super mindful of what I do add in.
As a Navajo and Chinese woman living in London, in what ways do you find connection to your culture?
Through food, talking to my family, connecting with nature, making art that pays homage to the land, through materials.
Has there been a significant moment of your past that has informed where you are today?
I definitely think my childhood of playing outside, being close to the ocean will stay with me forever, and has definitely informed my passion for environmental activism and my creative practice.
Do you have any rituals you begin or end the day with?
I always begin the day with a coffee and writing down what I want to accomplish, creatively or emotionally, little goals to keep in mind as I start the day.
I tend to treat getting ready for bed as its own ritual, skin care and washing the day off, a nice cup of Navajo tea, talking to a loved one on the phone about my day.
How do you unwind?
Making myself a beautiful meal, watching a beautiful film, dancing around my house.
What is comfort for you?
Comfort is surrounding myself with things that I find beautiful, having day to day objects in my home that bring me joy.
What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
Here is a playlist of things I’ve been listening to lately:
How do you prepare for a good night’s rest?
Navajo Tea, my skin care routine, dancing.