In September 2019, The New York Times published a review of the much-anticipated collaboration between European fashion doyens Dries Van Noten and Christian Lacroix.
The main picture it picked was of Kaigin Yong on the Paris runway, wearing a purple ruche top over floral shorts. It was a moment of pride for the Singapore modelling industry – when was the last time a Singapore girl or boy led the Style pages of the august newspaper?
Kai Gin in the outfit that made headlines in The New York Times during Paris Fashion Week held in September 2019.
But Yong didn’t know about the photo until much later, when a makeup artist-friend texted her. The 26-year-old says: “I read The New York Times frequently. But I never imagined that my photo would appear on the front page of its fashion news segment… Also, I tend to read the politics section of the paper first because I’m interested in current affairs.”
Yong isn’t trying to insert a boast in that statement – no, really – she’s much too modest and unassuming for that. In fact, her lack of pretension is one reason why so many editors, designers and stylists enjoy working with her. (“No ego, no drama,” as one stylist put it.) Another reason is her ability to change chameleon-like from one persona to another, nailing the look the photographer or designer is after.
Yong is a 1.79 metre-tall waif, with soft elfin features prized in high fashion. The Dries Van Noten x Christian Lacroix show was just one of several triumphs in the 2019/2020 season; she also walked or shot for Lemaire, Burberry, Viktor & Rolf, Ralph & Russo, Erdem and others. She is arguably Singapore’s most successful model right now.
But when asked which of these accomplishments she’s proudest of, she says: “It’s the fact that I get to stand on an international catwalk and represent my country… There aren’t many Singaporean girls there, and it’s a proud moment for me to be on that global stage and fly the Singapore flag.
“In fact, whenever casting directors ask me where I’m from, it gives me a lot of pride to say: ‘Singapore.’ There’s always a feeling that I have a unique point of difference.”
Below, we share a few things you need to know about this modelling star.