It looks like Yilin Lu has come full circle. Her womenswear label was conceived in 2011, when she participated in the Parco next Next programme (an initiative that nurtured local design talents) at Millenia Walk.
In 2013, she relocated to Shanghai as she was curious about rediscovering her Chinese heritage. At the same time, she also wanted to learn more about designing seasonal collections.
Her business thrived in Shanghai with the many retail opportunities available, such as pop-ups, and boutiques were keen on stocking her designs.
It was only in 2020 that Yilin launched Yumumu as an online store. Her decision to start the online store was also due to a shift in the direction of the brand. Her designs were less experimental and “more rooted in reality”.
“Sometimes, less is more,” says the 42-year-old. “I’m not a hardcore minimalist, but I like designs that appear effortless, even when the process behind is rigorous.”
The onslaught of Covid-19 also meant that the strict lockdowns prevented people from leaving their homes, which impacted businesses across the city. Yilin disclosed that when the lockdown started, the brand didn’t have revenue for almost the entire year.
“The immobility meant that we couldn’t produce for the Fall/Winter season that year as well. It was a major blow. You could say that it was partly the unpredictability of the situation that propelled my decision to come home,” she shares.
She returned to Singapore in November 2022 to set up her very own boutique – just a month later – in December that year.
Despite the bleak retail landscape in Singapore due to the possibility of a recession, Yilin went ahead with her decision to set up a brick-and-mortar store. “I fell in love with the charming shophouse unit on Ann Siang Road when I first saw it, with its century-old history, and knew it worked very well with our brand,” she says.
It’s no surprise that, like many fashion purists, the self-taught fashion designer believes a store is essential to her brand. According to her, the personal experience of shopping in a physical store can never be replaced by online stores, especially when it involves high quality workmanship and fabrication.
Even today, Yilin, who learnt classical Italian tailoring in Milan, takes pride in drafting every single tailoring pattern in her collections. She says: “Very few designers have the technical skills or the tenacity to do that, but I really do think it makes a difference in one’s growth as a designer, and I’ve been both encouraged and humbled by the process.”
Yilin hopes that, with her cross-disciplinary background and knowledge of precise dressmaking, Yumumu will be able to offer garments that are superior in design, tailoring and fabrication, but at purse- friendly prices.
When asked what her biggest achievements are, Yilin shares how she’s been able to maintain a singular devotion to her vision, despite the finicky nature of fashion trends.
“I think the desire to retain this hands-on approach definitely comes from my artistic training. As much as this business requires my attention in many other areas, it’s hard for me to divorce myself from the role of an artisan,” she says.