The soulful, relaxed vocal stylings of Malaysian rising star, musician, and fashion entrepreneur Yunalis Mat Zara'ai, a.k.a. Yuna, have been captivating me for some time now. Last year, I was having a look at my friend's clothing label, Meme Gold's blog. Whilst perusing her hand finished, bespoke urban wear, a beautiful and uplifting song played on the blog's audio player:
"Find your light. Don't hide from what you are. And rise before you fall. And hope for something more. Live if you really want to."
The song playing, "Live Your Life," felt like an effervescent ode to self belief and ambition. Unlike other belting girl-power anthems, Yuna's musical mantras are soft with a jazz-like chilled out vibe. Her voice is feminine in a balmy and breezy manner — it's strong but vulnerable, relatable. Her songs are empowering, but don't follow the diva crowd.
Yuna's strong sense of self is translated in sartorial projects also. A law graduate and acomplished businesswoman, Yuna owns and designs for her own fashion and lifestyle brand, November Culture. The company has its signature store in her home country of Malaysia — a texture rich and vibrant, and an eclectic store full of playfully patterned pieces — but also sells its eccentric wares online on a global scale.
What I find so inspiring about Yuna is her inner self confidence, which is projected in a quiet yet definitive manner. She inspires, leading by example, rather than having a diva-like attitude. A practicing Muslim, Yuna's self presentation is modest as a personal religious choice. However, she is still very self expressive through her attire. Her refusal of shunning her very personal cultural traditions to "forward her career" is extremely uplifting, and reflects her motto of, basically "You Do You."Although I am not Muslim myself, I am really inspired by fashion that's body dynamic doesn't rely solely on the exposure of flesh, and that is comfortable to wear. Yuna's long, flowing, floor-skimming skirts, long sleeved tops, layers, and headscarves are beautiful and express her inner personality in a way that is akin to a work of art. Whilst I would never say that women should have to cover their bodies, it is lovely to see a representation of modest beauty in our sex-saturated media. I'm all for a diverse representation of female beauty, and I admire Yuna for perpetuating that.
So, if like me, you're inspired by Yuna's print mash-ups, and relaxed, playful approach to fashion, take a look at these picks.
The Long-Sleeved Turtleneck
"At the end of the day, I'm just a normal girl. I have my own beliefs just like everyone else... it's important to be true to yourself... being a musician it's my job to be real and true to whoever I am. Hopefully that will inspired other people. I hope it inspires people to be themselves and be comfortable in you're own skin."
Black Turtleneck, $9, boohoo.com
White Turtleneck, $32,
Arrow Print Turtleneck, $43, motelrocks.com
Yuna's beautifully layered outfits usually start with the same base: a long sleeved turtleneck. Most high street stores have some lovely, soft turtlenecks in, due to the nostalgic '90s fashion trend at the moment. Motel also has a few quirky printed turtlenecks, perfect for some Yuna-inspired layering.
The Layering Tees
"Be as comfortable as you can with your clothes. Treat it as a second skin."
Sequin Crop Top by Sparkle & Fade, $44,
Gold Sparkle Crop Top, $24, yimoutfitters.com
Farn Top by A Detatcher, $583, Make like Yuna and don an oversized tee over your turtleneck to keep you cozy this spring. The contrast between the figure-hugging turtlenecks and voluminous shapes in Yuna's wardrobe is a sartorial delight! I love Yuna's sparkly pieces, and you too can get glitzy in these lavishly sequined or shimmering numbers. Her brightly colored clashing prints, too, are spritely and playful. Experiment with color, pattern and texture for an unconventional layered look.
The Statement Necklace
"Be loyal to yourself. You don't need other people's approval... It's really important to speak your mind and be firm with your decisions."
Handmade Indian Necklace, $59,
'Uterus' Mixed Media Necklace by Elifus, $137,
Turkish Silver Necklace, $29,
Yellow Glass Bead Necklace, $49, Chunky wooden beads, jewel tones, metallic ethnic necklaces from India to Africa... Yuna's jewelry collection is a bohemian anthology of style. Keep it oversized, intricate and diverse. Always be on the hunt for an exquisite and unique statement piece. Try markets, the high street, and charity shops alike.
The Maxi Skirt
"I kind of wear whatever I like. I just wear prints, then pair it with another print and people would think 'Oh, it's just creepy to pair these prints together,' but that's how I've always been. For me it's a trial and error thing..."
Reversable Skirt by Ace & Jig, $350, couvertureandthegarbstore.com
Taffeta Maxi Skirt, $60,
Printed Maxi Skirt, $68,
1960s Lurex Woven Skirt, $85,
Green Pleated Full Maxi Skirt, $39, Yuna often sports her signature skinny jeans, but I am more intrigued by her collection of maxi-length dirndl skirts. Dirndls are traditionally folk costume-inspired in shape — circle cut with a little waistband, often constructed by stiffer fabrics — cottons, taffetas, linens. They have a traditional and classic vibe.From vintage to high street to handmade, maxi dirndls are out there is you have the patience to dig. Be on the look out for bold tones, culturally inspired repeats, floral patterns, and painterly pieces. Keep it floor skimming or ankle length.
Mermaid No 1. Perfume, $50, mermaidperfume.com
"Whats's your favorite scent/smell?""Coconut cream pie! It's what my apartments smells like now."Inspired by Yuna's love of coconut (she is often spotted sipping on coconut water too!) I discovered this sparkling and feminine fragrance by Mermaid. Self described as "mysterious, romantic and ethereal," Mermaid's signature scent features orange blossom and coconut, for a tropical but subtle, optimistic fragrance.
The Hair And Makeup
"I feel like beauty has a lot to do with confidence. The reason why I was getting into the topic a lot [on Twitter] was because a lot of girls feel shy talking about their own beauty... I feel like I can maybe change that perception of beauty. Beauty is not just about being physical appearance. It's about what goes on inside."
Lipstick in 'Sashay Away', $12,
"When I first started playing music I was already covered... wearing headscarves [Yuna's own choice]. And, like, normally, people would expect you to change, toss this part of your life away so that you could be a pop star. But I just wanted to make music, not really be a 'pop star' pop star. And there's always people who wouldn't necessarily agree with what I'm doing right now. But... I'm really happy with where I am right now, you know. I'm a Muslim. I don't try to hide it. I'm also a girl who loves music. And I don't try to hide that as well."
Yuna's makeup look, like her philosophy, is all about the natural. Lipstick features often in Yuna's facial experimentations, however, to highlight her naturally full pout. I particularly love the dusky mulberry colors she often wears. This smooth and earthy lipstick by TopShop is cheap and cheerful but a perfect copy of Yuna's soft berry look. It also comes in really cute packaging!
Gold Turban Headband, $20, Yuna's hair, however, is hidden, she wears a hijab by choice. That doesn't stop her experimenting with beautiful headscarves — particularly her turbans. Whether you cover your hair for your religious beliefs or to hide a bad hair day, a turban or scarf can be stylish ways to hide your locks. They also make wonderful accessories with your hair down, or a quirky alternative to a hat on a cold day.If you aren't brave enough to try tying your own hair accessory, try a vintage '60s turban hat, or a replica — like the gold one above. Turban hats can also be picked up on the cheap from markets often.
Sparkle "Caramel Love" Scarf, $14, If you're a bit more experimental, try tying your turban with a prettily adorned scarf like this one designed by Yuna herself for November Culture. Check out the video below and choose from 15 different ways to style up your turban.
So layer up and love yourself this Spring (actually, love yourself regardless of the season!) á la Yuna and make this your anthem...
"She don't need no rescuing, she's okay."
As this week my Style Muse is a singer, I thought it only right for her song to be her own. This anthemic pop song sums up Yuna's glittering and boast-less self confidence. Play it and bask in your wonderfulness, beautiful woman!