If there is one celebrity in Malaysia that has proven herself to be an enduring fashion icon, it is Yunalis Mat Zara’ai.
The singer-songwriter, who is known just as Yuna, has undergone a style journey of sorts. Her sense of dressing has evolved since she appeared on the scene in the 2000s.
While Yuna’s outfits have matured over the years – going from vibrant and pretty to timelessly chic, it still remains as resolutely “her”.
Of course, the turban hijab she wears will always be an integral part of her look. The 35-year-old has popularised the style to an international audience.
“Muslim girls, we love fashion! Whether we wear the hijab or not – it’s our choice – and it’s time the industry took note,” Yuna told The Guardian back in 2017, about being made the face of Uniqlo’s first hijab line in the UK.
“I honestly don’t know how it started, this hijabi fashion thing, but I’m glad it has. I like the style that I have, it’s my identity.”
In March last year, Yuna made it to the cover of Vogue Singapore. In the interview, she related how a record label executive once told her she had to remove her headscarf and render a sexy image to the world. She refused.
True to form, she has managed to own her looks and made whatever she wore look good.
Yuna is seen in everything from cool jeans to flowy dresses, and she does not restrict her dressing. For her, experimenting is all good as long as it fits her modest style.
A global reach
Yuna has made waves all over the world. Her discography includes collaborations with Usher and Pharrell Williams. She performed as a special guest at the 2016 Soul Train Music Awards. She was even nominated for a BET Award in 2017.
And to think, this all started with the viral success of her music uploaded to social networking platform Myspace.
She has been recognised by the Malaysia Book Of Records for being the first Malaysian artiste to have an album charted on Billboard Top 10. Awards she has received are just too numerous to list down.
Yuna is also a law graduate. Born in Kedah, she grew up in Subang Jaya, Selangor, before eventually heading to the United States for a short stint when her career in entertainment took off.
In 2016, Rolling Stone named her album as one of the best R&B albums of 2016, alongside other big artistes like Beyonce.
“Yuna’s Chapters, which boasts cameos from Usher and Jhene Aiko, demonstrates that the Malaysian pop star is an insightful lyricist who only needs a stellar single or two to earn mainstream attention,” the magazine wrote.
Fast-forward to 2022, Yuna’s fame and influence is shining as brightly as ever.
Spotify currently shows that she has 1.4 million listeners. Her Instagram account, where she regularly shares about her life and fashion sense, sports over 900,000 followers.
Taking over the fashion world
Not just content with setting fashion trends, Yuna is making her mark in the style industry with various collaborations as well.
She has partnered with Malaysian designer Hatta Dolmat in the past for a collection that comprises pretty pieces like kimono cardigans, loose tops and palazzo pants.
Her friendship with Hatta is definitely a close one. When she got married in 2018, she wore his designs.
When Hatta released a sustainable fashion collection, Yuna was featured in the campaign and web series leading up to the 2020 Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week.
She described his designs fashioned from recycled plastic bottles as “amazing”.
Yuna has also worked with Malaysian demi-fine jewellery Kin last year year to come up with limited edition hoop earrings. Like her turban hijabs, these are seen as quintessentially Yuna and are part of her iconic look.
In 2019, she partnered shoe designer Christy Ng to release a collection of shoes and handbags.
She has also made appearances at international fashion weeks on the invite of global fashion houses.
Such collaborations and visibility underscore her love for fashion. It shows that she views dressing up as not just part of her career in entertainment, but an important and very personal passion.