One of the most buzzed (and Instagrammed) about spectacles during S/S ’18 Fashion Week was the runway reunion of the OG supermodels at Versace: Carla Bruni, Helena Christensen, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford strutting hand-in-hand to close the show. Just like that, the leggy power posse brought back the heady glamour of the ’90s that they had helped define.

Cotton jacket and plastic shirt, Jil Sander. Jewellery (worn throughout), Lum’s own from The Canary Diamond

But the decade, which is seeing its most fervid revival in fashion this season, also belonged to another kind of beauty – one better defined by unconventional features and a cool, rebellious attitude. A favourite of more conceptual, often minimalist designers like Calvin Klein and Helmut Lang, they included Kate Moss and “queen of grunge” Kirsten Owen. In Singapore, Lum May Yee was our answer to them – with her pixie face and ’do, and understated prettiness. Her star turn as disaffected teen Trixie in Eric Khoo’s 12 Storeys (1997) – her first acting role – cemented her status as indie It girl.

Silk slip dress, 3.1 Phillip Lim. Leather boots, Celine.
lum may yee
Cotton jersey sheath dress and jersey top (worn underneath), Cos

No tube dresses was her response when we broached the subject of modelling for this story on the return of Lang’s subtly subversive, stripped-down aesthetic. It’s been over two decades since she donned a skimpy green bandeau top with a black miniskirt in her movie debut, yet it remains one of the most famous and well-loved images of her.

Helmut Lang wool jacket and leather bra, Club21 Forum

“I’m already in my 40s,” she explains matter-of-factly. Yes, she still personifies calm, casual confidence (her model stature and cropped hair remain too). Now 44, the mother of two young boys – Aiden and Kinley – is deservedly self-assured.

lum may yee
Cotton shorts suit, Cos

In the nine years that she’s been marketing director at her husband’s family business, The Canary Diamond Company, she’s helped transform it from homegrown jeweller to an insider go-to with the introduction of Bycanary, a multi-label concept carrying contemporary brands such as Kelly Wearstler, as well as her own designs. This year, there are plans to revamp the boutique for “a more modern direction”. She’s also survived cancer, an experience that she says has become “a part of who (she is)”.

lum may yee
Silk and lace dress, Celine. Leather sandals, 3.1 Phillip Lim

Her focus these days: spending time with the kids, philanthropy, work-life balance and – an increasingly trendy and important lifestyle choice – self-care. Just don’t expect her to Instagram it all. She says: “I just find that it takes too much time and effort to keep taking photos of everything you do, when you should just be enjoying the moment, you know?” True to her ’90s rebel self, her account is private.

Photography Zaphs Zhang Text Keng Yang Shuen Styling Imran Jalal

Makeup Sha Shamsi, using Burberry Beauty Hair Sean Ang/Fac3inc, using Ouai

This story first appeared in Female’s March 2018 issue.

Like this? Check out the Fall 2018 trends we loved (and didn’t) at New York Fashion Week, H&M has a new eco-friendly line that’s also really chic, and our picks of this year’s Japanese Film Festival