New York City designer Yeha Leung has been in love with lingerie since childhood. Inspired by Madonna's iconic underwear-as-outwear looks from the 80s, Leung began designing at a young age and never stopped. Her independent style proved perfect for the internet age, and she initially gained a following just by posting her own daily personal style and inspirations to a
Tumblr page that's still up and running. Once the custom orders for her work began pouring in, she started her own line, Creepyyeha, that has since exploded. Her feminine take on once-taboo fetishes are perfect for Tumblr (and her very popular Instagram), where Leung can share her pale pink and lavender leather harnesses, face masks, chokers and other designs "without having to deal with the censorship of other mainstream image sharing platforms." Now, Leung works with icons known for pushing the aesthetic envelope like Rihanna, FKA Twigs and Violet Chachki, and runs an online shop where pieces are handmade to order. We spoke with the designer about her inspirations, future plans and why feminism and lingerie can (and should) exist in the same space.
I've read that you were interested in lingerie at a young age. What was so appealing about it to you?
My first encounter with lingerie was watching Madonna's "Blonde Ambition Tour." I was intrigued by the entertainment aspect of Madonna's antics, but I fell in love at first sight. Her Jean Paul Gaultier looks sparked my love for lingerie mixed with outerwear ever since.
Lingerie can be seen as both empowering for women and as catering to the male gaze. What purpose do you think lingerie serves? Who is lingerie for?
I think design has the power of changing people's perception. Some of my customers wear it to impress their partners, others strictly for themselves. Some wear it out, others behind doors only. I want to leave it to the customer to decide how they want the product to fit in their lifestyle. In my opinion, lingerie is nothing more than just another thing to decorate our outer shell. Even when I was 5 years old and mesmerized by Madonna's performance attire, I didn't view it as a scandalous thing and wished more people were allowed to dress that way in public. I never understood why society would label lingerie as something that should be kept secret while bathing suits were okay to be seen in public.
Some of your pieces allude to BDSM culture. How does your work shape your perception of sexuality and power, and vice versa?
BDSM culture is one of many of my inspirations. There is something really intriguing about the intersection where clothing, sexuality and power meet. My work is very liberating for me. I like to express my feelings of sexuality and power through materials, textures and shapes. Ultimately I want to create things that give people choices in the way they want to feel.
Some of these same elements (harnesses, chokers with rings, leather) are finding their way into the mainstream. In addition to your own work, what do you think has shifted that made this aesthetic more accessible?
Visibility! People can now share ideas immediately with each other. The tides are shifting in favor of independent designers and mainstream culture is playing the following role of catching up.
Speaking of which, there have been lots of stories lately about small designers having their work lifted by bigger companies. As an independent designer, how do you protect your work?
I try my best to keep the operation very personal. One strategy is to keep the movement organic. By this I mean creating your own production and release schedule. Most mainstream counterfeit companies have to follow a very strict production schedule to stay on top of trends and avoid huge losses. Since we release items randomly throughout the year, it makes it difficult for them to catch up.
As far as protecting the product itself, we use custom made hardware for each piece and we focus highly in quality control. Unfortunately, design theft is something very common in today's information/inspiration age, but quality is not. We respect and value each of our customers highly and we offer them the best quality out there. We keep updating the quality every time we find better sources, making the brand a sort of ever-evolving living organism rather than a soulless fast fashion product.
You've worked with some incredible women. What do you look for in a collaborator? Who have you not worked with that you would like to?
All collaborations are very personal to me. I like to work with artists that I truly respect. Muses from all walks of life that have some type of indescribable magic about them. I do not limit my collaborations to just women but with beautiful talented people who are open minded and also kind hearted. Each collaboration pushes me forward, gets me off my comfort zone and challenges me to move forward. I truly respect and admire every single one of my collaborators.
I would love a chance to work with Ellen Von Unwerth and Dita Von Teese on a personal level.
Are any of your pieces meant to be worn outside of the house? Which ones?
You can wear it wherever, whenever. Imagine how amazing the world would be if people would wear what they really wanted.
How should one care for your pieces?
I like to treat my work as if they were an actual art piece. After every wear, I make sure to wipe all oils/residue off gently with a damp paper towel to ensure its longevity. I always store it away from sunlight as well.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
I will be experimenting more with physical releases in NYC. A mix of classic products for people to try on and in-store exclusives that would only be available on sight. I am in the works of developing collaborations with great people and stores to do so. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that has supported all my NYC pop-ups, from flea markets in Brooklyn to my own studio sales. I plan to keep meeting new people and making friends/collaborators along the way!