The brain behind design phenomenon Creepyyeha, Yeha Leung, started off in a basement in Queens, NY. Alongside her partner Alejandro, Creepyyeha have now custom designed nymph-like crystal embellished latex lingerie sets for FKA Twigs, Solange and red leather for Meghan Thee Stallion. As a brand they have been growing organically since the brands birth in 2011, on Tumblr. Embracing the heart and detail that goes into slow ethical fashion, Creepyyeha leaves everyone wearing their pieces feeling seen, true, confident and if they want sexy.
Creepyyeha and I explore the complexity of confidence, the power of fashion as an expression of the self and where her high-fashion kink wear brand fits into a wider conversation around sex-workers, sex-work and societal boundaries.
Yeha Leung welcome to METAL! We are beyond excited to have you! For readers who are meeting you for the first time who are you and what is Creepyyeha?
Hello and thank you for having me! I am the brainchild of the brand Creepyyeha. I specialise in custom accessories and clothing that are made to order and measure in New York with my partner Alejandro. Since the beginning, we have been a small team of two running this brand independently. Creepyyeha was originally a name I imagined for a blog I started over a decade ago. The word creepy stemmed from my love for horror films. It was a curated space where I shared images and art that inspired me but it later became the origin place of where I developed my brand slowly over time. Upon revealing my work on this social platform, I discovered a high demand for what I was creating at the time. Tumblr was where I heavily devoted my time to satisfy the niche market I have resonated with. It is also where I learnt to run a business online through trial and error. It all happened pretty organically and aside from hard work and dedication, I believe good timing had a lot to do with it. My work has always been an attempt at finding the sweet balance in combining soft and harsh textures together. The fun is discovering the ugly in the pretty and the pretty in the ugly. I think true beauty forms through that mixture. Sheer ruffles with heavy hardware, spikes with flowers, pastels with leather. These days, I am mostly known for my signature strappy leathers that are adorned on people all over the world whether it is on stage, in the streets or in private.
Looking at your work and aesthetics, it gives off: high-fashion, BDSM, sexual liberation and most importantly confidence. Is the Creepyyeha style different from your own personal style?
Thank you, I am glad it comes off that way, it is definitely the direction I strive for.
I’ve always found it challenging to describe my style because it is ever changing. I stopped trying to define it a long time ago. I treat clothing as my second skin, a mask or even a cape! Dressing my outer shell is the only real thing I feel I have full control over. I view each new day as an invitation to transform myself into whatever I please or whatever feels right. Not forcing it is the key. I allow my emotions to drive my style choices because they seem to serve me well. It can protect me or bring new life into me. Red is my absolute source of power so when I feel small and soft but don’t want to reveal that, I step into full red and it helps shift my persona. It is instant. Like a superpower. There is something very intimate and private about that. Like a little secret for doing what I do. I am naturally very curious and like to try new things so it gives me plenty of room to explore and experiment! I don’t like to put restrictions or limit myself to only one thing. I need options and constant stimulation. The reason I am sharing all of this is because I treat my work the same way. It moves and evolves with me and I hope to provide something that other people can also resonate with at their own pace. So to answer your question, yes. The world I have developed for Creepyyeha is different from my personal style but not always. I only create things I want to wear. Maybe not for everyday but when the mood strikes, it’s there and in some personal ways, it has saved me and I hope it has the same effect on others. It is like armour to me.
2011 Tumblr is where you started your business, what’s your relationship with social media like and how did you react to the demise of Tumblr?
I think I started at the right time. I felt free to express myself and treated it like a public diary. There weren’t a lot of restrictions back then so coming across nudity or anything considered lewd was normal on that platform. It even encouraged me to explore my own limitations of what I was willing to share. For me, it felt like a safe space for a short while. It was a great place to connect with like minded people and I initially grew my following there! So I always thank Tumblr for those reasons. I have many mixed emotions about social media in general. Sometimes I wish I never existed in it and other times, I am so grateful for it. Due to the nature of my work and how it is perceived to the world, I try to be more cautious with the content I choose to share and follow guidelines as closely as possible. I catch myself feeling entitled to it sometimes, I’m not sure how I feel about that but I think it is important to remind myself that the majority of these platforms are [supposedly] free so when I get censored or banned, I try my best not to take it too personally but it is difficult when it affects my business. It feels unjustified sometimes. The same goes for many others who depend on social media for business. So to be safe, I made myself available on many different platforms so people can always find a way to reach me if needed. Mainly, I use social media as a tool of communication. I have been fortunate to meet friends and collaborators from all over the world. As far as Tumblr goes, it is quite unfortunate what happened to it. I lost many archived memories and images there. It is a bit scary to realise how sometimes our world seems like it is regressing.
Not dwelling on the past too much but 2011’s style and aesthetics were brash and colourful, today sees a rise of minimal, muted tones, how have you as a designer evolved from these times and looks?
Trends will always come and go. Some good, some bad but I am not in the business of following them or re-inventing the wheel, that has never been my goal. I mainly focus on my own emotions by trusting my intuition and creating what makes me happy. I find it way too easy to get distracted so I don’t source inspiration online as much as I used to when I was younger. The majority of my inspiration has a beating heart or is a place I can set foot in. I always keep my ideas and thoughts within me until I can make sense of it. Then comes the journey of bringing it to life somehow. I have shared it briefly before, my work evolves with me as I rediscover myself each day.
Your target audience, consumer and production since 2011 has evolved from personal, custom attire to include performance pieces, have you had to make any major changes brand-wise or incorporated new ergonomics?
I am almost never satisfied when it comes to work. There is always room for improvement or ways to keep elevating my brand. It is constantly evolving but I have always kept at my own pace. The brand has grown consistently in terms of reach, but the approach remains the same. We always make it work by utilising as much as possible, with the things we have at hand or in reach. I want Creepyyeha to remain independent and to keep catering to those who enjoy custom made goods that are made to measure. We always talk about expanding and we will continue to do so in the most organic way possible for as long as we can. I started Creepyyeha in my parent’s basement in Queens. I’ve never really revealed too much of how it all comes together behind the scenes because it was never as glamorous as it seems. Just imagine a small nude lady with a bad posture surrounded by a hoarded mess of materials, sewing while listening to Fiona Apple on repeat. Not the visual I fantasised for Creepyyeha, unless you are into that. Right now, our main project is finishing up our showroom. We have always dreamt of a place to properly house Creepyyeha and we are finally taking the proper steps in making that happen. Once it is ready, I will make it available for appointment-only visits and shopping. It will serve as the official place where I can have sales, meetings for projects, do fittings, photoshoots, display my work and even a place to curate and share works from other local designers. This has always been my goal and for the past decade, I have been slowly working towards it!
To date to you’ve worked with stars and performers making them custom fits, such as: FKA Twigs, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, Solange, Lizzo, City Girls and Rihanna. Working with Black women in the industry and having an inclusive brand with models and clientele of colour, who are hypersexualised in a white cis-hetero-patriarchy, do you debate the idea of perceptions?
If I am understanding the question correctly, I believe you are asking if I allow other people’s perception to influence the way I work? If so, no. A hard no. How and what I choose to create is the same as how I choose to dress myself. It is the only thing I have where I feel like I am in total control. I operate with creative freedom in mind. If I allow others to influence me into doubting my work or myself, I have already lost. I am fully aware that no matter what I do, I would never be able to please everyone so I only care to pay attention to those I am serving. My intention is for that sentiment to permeate through the work, collaborators and whoever can resonate with that sentiment.
On that note, you celebrate sexuality, sex and the feminine body but within a society that traditionally opposes such things being acknowledged and revered, how receptive is the high-fashion world and community to your work?
I want to believe that I built something that could fit into many different worlds, at least that is what I strive for. As far as the fashion industry as an institution goes, I do feel welcomed to an extent but never fully. I feel grateful to have some sort of recognition with fellow peers in the industry by having the chance and pleasure to collaborate with them. The Blonds and Chromat were gracious enough to open that door for me. I have always struggled to find my place in the world so I desperately wanted to create my own. Sometimes, when I feel open to it, I enjoy exploring other worlds different from mine and meeting interesting people along the way. Some are more inviting than others but I know for a fact that without the support I have, it would be very difficult for me to have access to these worlds. I try to never take things for granted and enjoy them as they come. I believe a strong community is built through transparency, sharing, communication, openness, grace and patience, and I feel lucky to have found communities that accept and support what I do.
You design BDSM wear, garments that can also be worn as kink or fetish sex gear, in a society that stigmatises sex work and vilifies sex workers. Do you get push back against your designs and what you’re designing for?
Sure, it is inevitable in the society we live in, especially for sex workers. It isn’t fair at all. It would hurt me unbearably but now, I understand it is usually people projecting their own ignorance or insecurities [through] what they consider right or wrong. I do not focus on what others think anymore, for the most part. Specifically those who do not offer constructive criticism. It doesn’t serve me or make my job any easier to do so. There are many people in the world, it is naive to think that you will be revered by all. I am just grateful for those that get it and support it. Another thing I wanted to note is that I understand why my work is always boxed in as BDSM or fetish wear but my intention has never been to cater strictly to that. I try my best to showcase it as fashion and an art expression as well. Mainly, I design for the individual and I’ll continue to focus on that.
How do your designs contribute to the conversation around normalising sex worker, fetishes and kinks for modern-day female sexual and socio-political liberation because they are claiming their bodies?
Perhaps visibility. There’s only so much I can do but I do my part by collaborating and creating with different types of people I am genuinely inspired by. I wholeheartedly only want to use and share my platform to showcase my work and people from all walks of life wearing it and I will only do so if it makes sense or if a relationship was developed organically or mutually. If I feel I have the power to open the door for someone, I will do just that with what I possibly can because I was given the same opportunity by many others. Again, I believe that is how strong communities are built. What I am mainly saying is, I hope I am able to provide something for someone that allows them to feel heard, seen, understood and appreciated no matter what their title is. I hope that makes sense.
Arguably, your target market is quite niche, does that inhibit your space for growth?
I would like to believe that freedom has no limits.
All your garments are custom handmade! As an independent business, it’s ethical, sustainable, one-off, but also takes a lot of time. Do you ever feel a pull to have to compete or even adopt fast fashion or mass-production to stay afloat?
Sure, many people have encouraged that. There is always the temptation to expand faster and make more money in this world. However, it really depends on what one is looking to achieve. Personally, I don’t need much. My happiness stems from knowing that I am creating for an individual. That what I am creating is being sent off to someone that will cherish the piece because it was custom made for them and not something that was mass produced for thousands of blurred faces. And the fact that each piece is uniquely made, I can recognise them and remember my time making it. It is my baby! It is important to me. That means something quite special to me and I would like to hold onto that as long as I possibly can. It also helps that I’m not a competitive person by nature so the thought of competing with others seems tiring to me. One thing I learnt early on when I started my business was to mind my own and to not allow room for the noise or distractions. They will always be there but I learnt that there is power in the choice to ignore it. I just trust in my own vision and prefer to stay in my own lane and work at my own pace. I find that it keeps things more peaceful and easier for me to manage my business. As of now, I am right where I want to be and I have worked hard to get to a place where I feel stable and healthy and that’s all that really matters to me anyways!
In our time we have seen fashion evolve at such a rapid rate. In a positive light, designers have taken to Digital-3D runways, the industry is taking note of creatives and recognising them. On the negative side, fast-fashion is on the rise and clothing is being sold very cheap. What do you feel the future of fashion holds?
I am very optimistic. There seems to be progressive conversations about agency in the realms of ownership and data. I feel as though this can create a social subconscious change of tune, making people appreciate what is unique. I hope it all balances out.
In a previous interview, you’ve said “everything I curate is because I want to wear it.” You even go as far as to model your own work, what has your personal journey with confidence and confidence in your work looked like over the years?
Oh the great journey with confidence never ends. I know that many will not believe me when I say that I am not a confident person mainly because I seem comfortable with revealing so much of myself online. However, what I share is controlled and I am not that way 100% of the time. I’ve learnt that this is normal. That confidence fluctuates and one does not achieve full confidence in all aspects of their life, unless they are a superhuman of some sort. That would be nice. Anyways, I wish I knew that as a teen. I have always been inspired by powerful and confident women and for years, I have put myself down for not feeling or being that way. This is where it all ties together when I mentioned the armour and mask regarding of my work. My work and the work of many others has helped me shape my confidence. Dressing myself and owning my choices takes confidence and it is indeed a long bumpy road. Almost every day, I am reflected in the mirror with someone I recognise but do not fully understand just yet. I’m constantly working on new ways to nourish my mind and body and just taking the healthy steps in getting there.
AUNÉ Collections, Dilara Findikoglu and Creepyyeha
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