People June 4, 2015   |  by

Yoyo Cao: “Having Customers Tell Us How Much They Enjoy Wearing Our Clothes is More Fulfilling Than Having 5,000 Likes on an Instagram Post”

Fashion icon, Yoyo Cao, may have seen and worn it all, but through her label, Exhibit, she has a goal and that is to inspire women to dress simply but powerfully.

straatosphere_yoyo-cao
Yoyo Cao, fashion icon and CEO of Exhibit

Yoyo Cao, Singapore-based fashion icon, brand owner and social influencer, is a fashionable force to be reckoned with not only in the Singapore scene but worldwide. She never fails to be captured at international fashion weeks for her bold and exquisite style, most notably by fashion photographer Tommy Ton. In March this year, the media darling was voted one of the Top 10 Best-Dressed People from Fashion Month on The Cut. Have we mentioned she has 94.3k followers on Instagram?

Fresh off the AW15 collection showing of her label, Exhibit, at the Singapore Fashion Week, we caught up with Yoyo at the Exhibit store in Singapore. The style maven tells us more about her brand, her aspirations and inspirations.

How did you get started in the business of fashion?
It started when I was in my last year of uni. I’ve always had a thing for fashion and just wanted to be in the fashion industry, so I opened Exhibit while still studying. At that time posting OOTDs wasn’t really a thing yet, but I posted random outfits on Instagram anyway. I got around 200 likes two to three years back, which I thought was quite a lot. It hit me that actually a lot of people were using Instagram and I thought that I could use it as a tool to promote my brand and that’s more or less how it started. I love photography and traveling as well so I always took pictures of my outfits wherever I went to show how people can mix and match their clothes in different ways.

What have you learnt about yourself from being in the fashion industry?
It’s really all about being yourself and not wanting to be someone else. A lot of people get lost in the industry because of all the glamor that surrounds them. It takes a lot of effort to build a brand and an image.

straatosphere_exhibit-store-yoyo-cao-singapore
Yoyo opened the Exhibit store while still studying in 2010

This is the second year Exhibit has done a runway show. Has the direction of Exhibit changed over the last year?
We actually did change it a little bit. Our first fashion show was more of a trial run to see how the entire process works. Since I do not have a background in fashion design I get designers to execute my ideas, but over the past year I learned a bit more about silhouettes, cuttings and fabrics, which allowed me to contribute even more to the design process. This year was pretty rushed because our show was confirmed at the last minute so we had to get everything up in a month and a half.

You’ve had the opportunity to meet many international brands and influencers, can we expect any collaborations in the near future?
Oh yes, definitely. We have a print collaboration with L’Officiel but that’s all I can say for now so stay tuned!

straatosphere_yoyokulala
Yoyo has amassed about 94.3k followers on her Instagram account, @yoyokulala

Your Instagram handle is @yoyokulala. How does “kulala” come about?
It was really random. I created an account at first to post random things and didn’t give my username much thought.

Who takes your pictures?
Most of the time it’s my staff and sometimes my boyfriend. I started bringing them to shoots and prepared the framing for them but now they are all well-trained and even give suggestions on creative shots.

Speaking of a boyfriend. How would you dress a guy up for a casual day?
Grey Joggers, a tee and sneakers. For a more formal occasion: A simple shirt, pants and a hat will look good.

straatosphere_exhibit-aw15-collection-yoyo-cao
Yoyo showing the key pieces from Exhibit’s AW15 collection

We’ve noticed you have a thing for streetwear and sneakers too.
I’ve always been into streetwear and like to mix around with luxury and high fashion. I don’t really like to sticking to a single style. When the media sees me I’m mostly dressed in high fashion and heels, but that’s not really me. On my normal days I just throw on a pair of sneakers, a t-shirt and jeans.

What’s your favorite streetwear and sneaker brand?
Supreme and Nike! I’ve been buying other brands lately like Vans and adidas but 90 percent of my sneakers are from Nike. I love Nike iD because you will be the only one that has that particular colorway and it makes you feel special. I still buy a lot of Supreme stuff. I love their accessories and clothes. Even if they don’t fit me I still want them in my wardrobe.

straatosphere_yoyo-cao-street-style
We learned that on regular days, Yoyo is a sneakers, t-shirt and jeans kinda girl

What’s your favorite piece in your wardrobe?
It’s a white sleeveless t-shirt from Acne Studio. It is very versatile and really goes with everything. The quality of it is really amazing. No matter how many times you wash it it will not lose its shape.

There’s a particular boldness to your style. What goes through your mind when piecing together your outfit and does this boldness transcend to the clothes you design?
It’s a step-by-step process. I first start by chosing a piece that I like and then see what I can match it with. It’s really just mixing around which is really fun for me, like playing dress-up at home. And yes, definitely, a lot of Exhibit’s designs display a lot of positive vibes and energy. The ideas behind our designs are based on what we will wear.

straatosphere_exhibit-aw15-collection
Exhibit’s AW15 collection is mainly monochromatic in color scheme, but bold in terms of silhouette and exudes an air of stylish nonchalance

Can you remember a time when you were particularly inspired by someone or something?
I think Phoebe Philo’s move to Celine was really inspiring. The pieces Celine has produced in the past couple of years are so amazing. It really thought me that such simple silhouettes can be so powerful. When I wear Celine it doesn’t feel like it’s a piece of clothing but more like wearing confidence. One doesn’t have to wear really fancy clothing to look good and that is one of the things we try to achieve at Exhibit. It would be my dream to work with Phoebe Philo.

straatosphere_exhibit-store-singapore-scotts-road
Exhibit counts Singapore celebrities, socialites, and other fashion mavens among some of their key clientele

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Seeing our clothes on people and knowing that these people appreciate what we do. I think having customers tell us how much they enjoy wearing our clothes is more fulfilling than having 5,000 likes on an Instagram post.

Exhibit store is located at 14 Scotts Road Far East Plaza, #04-115, Singapore.
Keep up with Yoyo Cao on her Instagram @yoyokulala.