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What made you start teaching & practicing yoga?
Ashlea: I first started practicing yoga back when I was modeling, purely for the physical benefits – as a way to stay in shape. However, I started to appreciate the practice on a whole other level when I was working in Investment Banking – I was stuck at a desk day and night, and the whole ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ aspects of yoga became very important to me. It’s very hard to maintain any semblance of a work/life balance in the Corporate Finance world, and the yoga mat became my haven. When I finally decided to quit banking, I was reading Deepak Chopra’s ‘Seven Spiritual Laws of Success’ which talks about your Dharma – and how you should use your unique talents to help others, and I thought the best way for me to do that was by teaching yoga. I felt I could relate to people who were stressed out in today’s world, and help them in the same way my teachers helped me.
Your weekly health regimen would be?
Ashlea: Yoga, yoga, yoga! In terms of what I do for my health on a regular basis, honestly the yoga takes care of my physical exercise. I eat well, tending towards foods that are sattvic and alkaline as much as possible, and I meditate daily also. I adhere to the Vedic style of meditation which is wonderful.
The person who most inspires you?
Ashlea: I have a mentor who I try to speak to daily.  She is a very beautiful and spiritual woman who talks me through whatever challenges I might be facing, and she keeps me on track. I feel very lucky to have her in my life, and highly recommend to anyone, in any field, to have a mentor.

How often do you practice yoga?

Ashlea: Yoga is actually a lot more than just asana practice, which is just the physical “limb” of the Ashtanga (“8-limbed) yoga system. You might have heard the phrase “yoga beyond the mat” – This, in part, is about living life by certain Yamas and Niyamas – sort of ethical precepts that allow us to be at peace with ourselves, our family, and our community. Yoga is a way of living for me, so I am constantly practicing yoga (or trying to!).
One of your favourite fashion items hanging in your closet?
Ashlea: My favourite thing to be wearing is yoga pants and a tank top!  I do have a gorgeous full-length Camilla dress that is very colourful and floaty and sexy. Wherever I wear it, I constantly have random people coming up to me saying “That is SUCH a beautiful dress! Where did you get it???”
The way you start your day?
Ashlea: Each morning I make myself a cup of coffee and a superfood smoothie (mixed berries, acai, vital greens, maca powder and goji. Soo delicious!) and I take them out onto my balcony where I sit quietly and do my daily reading from a book of meditations and say a few prayers.  If I haven’t done this before I have to race out the door I tend to not be as grounded for the remainder of the day.
Favourite place in Paris?
Ashlea: Sacre Coeur. It is so beautiful, you take a steep walk uphill from Monmartre to get there, but the view from the top is incredible. It is the highest point in the city, so you look out over the whole of Paris – it’s amazing. For me also, I like to feel spiritually connected, so despite not being a practicing Roman Catholic anymore, I still find going into the beautiful church and lighting a candle a great way to get a sense of reverence and divine union.


When this bag was first placed in front of me at a meeting recently, I was simply taken by its unique style and quality and now since learning more about this newly launched leather accessories label, founded on a collaboration between sisters; Bonnie Davis and Whitney Gilmore, I can see why Dylan Kain are fast …



SA: What made you decide to go into fashion design?
Ying Yuan: When I was 8, I’d always loved making dresses for my doll. One time I cut up an old jump suit that didn’t fit me anymore and made it into a dress for myself. Lots of my friends and family commented on how beautiful it was. Later that year, I was asked to give a speech at my school and used the opportunity to announce that I wanted to be a fashion designer. In China at the time, only 1 in 33 people could get into Uni, so you had to work very hard academically and basically forget about anything artistic or creative. It wasn’t until I had my second son that I started to look at life differently. As a full time mum I began to think about my purpose in life, so when it was time to go back to work I decided I needed to pursue my childhood dream and my passion for fashion design was reignited.

SA: What has inspired this collection?
Ying Yuan: This range was inspired by my trip to Paris in Winter at the beginning of 1999. For me, Paris is the most romantic city in the world but it has a sadness and loneliness. It has a dark side and so much history behind it. It feels to me like the city is haunted by the spirits of those amazing artists of the past that I’d heard and read about. It makes me think about what happened to all those people that made history and what it was like for them. When ever you look, it’s like a scene from a movie. The music on the street or in the underground is always so touching. All the stories, books and novels that I’d read seemed to come to life. But despite all of these amazing experiences, towards the end of the trip what’s really left? And this is a metaphor for life too. All you have at the end is fragments of memories. Like a mosaic, they piece together the whole journey into a fluid discontinuity.

SA: The fabrics you prefer to work with? why?
Ying Yuan:As a designer, Im in favour of natural fibre. It’s much more comfortable to wear good quality fabrics. Silks also give garments a luxurious feel and handle. My range is really focused on tailoring; I use pure silk, wools and wool blends to enhance the structure of the design. I love to use leather as well, because my designs always have a hard edge to them and I feel leather is a great way to express that aspect of my designs.

SA: Who has been one of your biggest inspirations in the fashion industry?
Ying Yuan:Alexander McQueen because he was the most innovative fashion designer of our time, although in some ways he was beyond that. Fashion was his media but often what he created transcended fashion. He was an artist and activist who used fashion as a tool to express his views and draw attention to what he felt was most important and raise public awareness of these issues no matter how confronting.
Dion Lee is no doubt my favourite Australian fashion designer because his designs are original and innovative and I can appreciate his clean, sleek aesthetic. His sports tailoring is very suitable for the Australian climate and style.

SA: Your favourite fashion piece you have created?
Ying Yuan:My favourite is the winged-lapel tuxedo jacket. I love tailoring and this is a very sharp tailored piece. Nothing can show off a tailored technique more than a jacket. I love this jacket because it keeps all of the traditional tailoring technique but its very innovative and also very contemporary. Construction wise, the jacket doesn’t have side seams (I spent an entire month pattern making this single piece). All of the panels are designed to follow the anotomical shape of a woman, so the result is that the jacket has a beautiful fit and is very flattering. It’s tailored to fit around a woman’s body. The beautiful Italian wool has a satin finish, it looks and feels so luxurious. The beauty with this jacket is that from any angle you look at, its very sculptured and edgy, and yet it’s very feminine and sexy at the same time.