International designer turns Rockwell Hall stairs into runway

Jessica M. Kanalas

Dinner fashion show honors Yeohlee Teng

International designer Yeohlee Teng poses with her models at the end of her fashion show in Rockwell Hall Friday evening. Models wore designs from Yeohlee’s spring 2009 collection. Jessica M. Kanalas | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Eleven tables covered the floor of Rockwell Hall Friday evening. Guests, dressed for the occasion, sat in front of the long, double staircase to eat, socialize and enjoy the fashion designs of international designer Yeohlee Teng.

Yeohlee, who is known by her first name, is a designer from Malaysia. Her techniques, use of fabrics and source of inspiration have helped to make her well-known throughout today’s fashion industry.

“Lots of my inspiration has to do with architecture,” Yeohlee said. “I’ve gone to every building I’ve drawn inspiration from. I experience the architecture.”

More about

Yeohlee’s designs:

Yeohlee Teng moved to the United States from Malaysia to attend the Parsons School of Design in New York. Since her career started around 1981, she has done numerous shows around the world – and even under it by holding the first ever subway fashion show under the streets of New York City between 40th and 42nd Street.

One of Yeohlee’s design theories is called “one size fits all.” It doesn’t only incorporate the fact that those who are size zero and those who are size ten can both fit into the same garment, although this is part of it.

Yeohlee explained that, in a way, it’s her attempt at “going green.” She buys fabrics and only cuts once. This maximizes the use of fabric.

“I view one size fits all as efficiency,” she said. “You save time and energy.”

With this theory, less fabric is thrown away and less energy is used to sew different sizes, she said.

When designing for a customer, she said she likes to create something multipurpose and useful.

“I always think about what she needs. How does she move?” Yeohlee said. “I really think about the human form.”

The designer said she started off wanting to make clothes that would empower women.

“I think everything evolves,” she said. “You have to adapt your thinking to the times.”

And today, when so much is made in other countries, Yeohlee said she has to succeed.

“If we don’t succeed, I think the industry itself will go,” she said. “It has to do with our values. Do we value people that make things anymore?”

Yeohlee’s show in Rockwell Hall was just one of three events she was part of this weekend, which also included a speech to the public and an appearance at a Fairlawn boutique that sells her clothes. The events were put on by Friends of Fashion to benefit the School of Fashion and Design.

Museum Director Jean Druesedow opened the presentation by welcoming the designer to the university.

“She conceptualizes clothes,” Druesedow said. “There’s a certain wonderful sense of structure to them.”

Druesedow has known Yeohlee since she met the designer at a show called “Intimate Architecture: Contemporary Clothing Design” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982.

Druesedow said Yeohlee’s designs were classic and she used very interesting geometric shapes. This use of shapes spilled into the fashion show Friday evening when models, after walking down the long staircase, walked amidst the tables in square patterns where guests sat.

Jack Ryan, one of the guests for the evening, enjoyed the set-up of the show.

“It’s elegant,” he said, “a mini New York plaza.”

Donna Lange, mother of one of the models, Monika, attended the show with her husband to support her daughter.

Monika, a sophomore fashion merchandising major, was one of eight models to wear some of the 56 pieces from Yeohlee’s spring 2009 collection.

She was excited to get the opportunity to wear such an important designer’s clothes, Donna said.

“Monika has come home and spoken of the designers she has learned about in class,” she said.

With white, cloth-covered tables adorned with candles, flowers and silverware wrapped in black, the $100 per person tickets sold to almost 60 people.

Yeohlee sat among her guests for dinner and otherwise to mingle, but as the show began, she ran upstairs to help the models get each garment ready for the runway.

“The most inspiring aspect is who I dress,” Yeohlee said, “and beyond that, the lives we live. If I can make something that has broad appeal – that is the most satisfying thing.”

Contact fashion reporter Jessica M. Kanalas at [email protected].