Yoyo Cao's fashionable abode

Style maven Yoyo Cao's enclave is a blend of sleek minimalism and tropical warmth

A display of Yoyo Cao's (left) favourite things (above) and a collection of her mini bags and Fendi boots in a corner of her living room (below). Cao's eclectic and minimalist style extends to her living space (left), which has a base palette of whit
Yoyo Cao’s eclectic and minimalist style extends to her living space (above), which has a base palette of whites and off-whites accented by warm colours, organic textures and rich materials. PHOTO: HARPER’S BAZAAR SINGAPORE; PHOTOGRAPHED BY TAN WEI TE; STYLED BY GRACIA PHANG
A display of Yoyo Cao's (left) favourite things (above) and a collection of her mini bags and Fendi boots in a corner of her living room (below). Cao's eclectic and minimalist style extends to her living space (left), which has a base palette of whit
A display of Yoyo Cao's favourite things (above left) and a collection of her mini bags and Fendi boots in a corner of her living room (above right). PHOTOS: HARPER'S BAZAAR SINGAPORE

For someone as impeccably styled as Yoyo Cao, you would not expect anything less from her personal space and she certainly does not disappoint.

Singapore's most-photographed street-style star greets me at the entrance of her two-storey penthouse in Newton in an effortlessly chic get-up of a white cotton tank worn with silk trousers in Burberry's TB monogram and Dior Oblique slides.

As the fashion designer and digital entrepreneur, who has 405,000 followers on Instagram, ushers me into the living room, I notice the same TB print repeated on a cushy throw slung over the arm of her couch.

Her aesthetic choices for her home clearly reflect her fashion ones: considered, but ultimately effortless.

"We moved in last year, but it's still not fully done. I'd rather spend time trying to find things I really love instead of rushing into it," she says of her decorating process.

She is married to Mr Matthews Chang, chief operations officer of games developer Tokigames. They have a two-year-old son, Luca.

It may be a work in progress, but Cao, 32, definitely knows the end goal she has in mind.

"I wanted something minimal and simple; a space I can look at and be comfortable in for a long time, because you have to look at your home every single day. But at the same time, I didn't want it to be too plain or cold. I wanted to make it as cosy as possible."

To achieve that, she started with a base palette of whites and off-whites, then sprinkled warm colours, organic textures and rich materials throughout.

In the living room alone, a leather couch and leather chairs in cognac sit alongside a nubby, creamy armchair, rattan stools and side tables - all arranged around a coffee table in marble and brass.

Leafy greens and white blooms bring a bit of the outdoors in while mustard cushions and plush throws from Burberry and Dior add pops of colour and print. The entire room is grounded by a massive rug from Marrakesh.

"I was there last year for Dior's cruise show and one of my friends took me to the artisans who made the carpets for that show - they do these beautiful one-off pieces."

The style of her living space is an extension of Cao's personal style, which she describes as "eclectic and minimal".

That sense of minimalism comes through in the way she has engineered her home to be as clutter-free as possible, with custom cabinetry that looks like panelled walls but swings open to reveal appliances and storage space cleverly hidden away.

The eclecticism (and Cao's passion for fashion) manifests in the Loewe baskets and Louis Vuitton trunks of various sizes that are placed all around the apartment - an aesthetic choice rooted in functionality as well.

"I put a lot of things in them so the place doesn't look messy," she says. "I'm not the tidiest person, but I don't like seeing clutter."

That same thoughtfulness with which she approaches her interiors applies to her fashion principles these days too.

"I admit I was kind of obsessed with buying a lot of different things from all the latest collections before.

"But now, with the pandemic and everything else, you realise that there are certain things you always go back to in your wardrobe - the essentials. And I think that has made people rethink how they spend on clothing; you want something timeless and you want good quality."

The pieces she finds herself returning to over and over are "things with multiple uses; you can dress them up or down - a good black blazer, white T-shirts in cotton and silk, and a lot of denim. I'm always investing in good, washed denim. It doesn't matter if it's designer or not. Some of the pieces I wear the most are vintage Levi's."

I ask if motherhood had played a part in that change of perspective.

"I don't think my sense of style itself has changed, but I'm definitely more practical now," says Cao.

"In the past, I would invest in a lot of runway pieces that are quite difficult to move around in. But now, I'm more often in practical clothes so I can go out with Luca without thinking, 'Oh my god, can I do this?'"

Accordingly, the designers she loves are the ones who get that blend of directional edge and timeless wearability right.

"I still love Phoebe Philo's Celine. The clothes are really timeless and they're not just pieces of clothing; they're confidence boosters.

"You know you're going to look good and you can't tell which season or year they're from. You know, some brands look good on, like, Caucasians or models only. As a petite Asian, Philo's Celine is perfect for me."

She adds: "I'm also very into Chanel because it's very classic - you buy a jacket and you can wear it your whole life. I'm also obsessed with the history of the house and the artisans behind it."

One of her favourite designers is Nicolas Ghesquiere, creative director of Louis Vuitton.

"No one does futuristic as well as he does. Looking at his runway shows, you'd think those pieces are impossible to wear, but when you break down the looks, the pieces are actually really wearable."

Her love of Ghesquiere can be seen most evidently from her shoe collection.

Asked about the number of pairs she owns, Cao is stumped for an answer while her husband jokingly states: "Too many!"

They are shelved away floor-to-ceiling all along the entry hallway, hidden behind those same custom cabinets found in the living room.

"I don't have any more storage, so I've had to give some away," Cao says. "I don't wear all of them, but the ones I keep, I keep because I really love the collections."

Pointing to two entire shelves of Louis Vuitton boots, she continues: "They're from the collections I'm really obsessed with - I can tell you which exact collections they're from. I see them as collector's items rather than something to wear."

That collector's instinct is on full display through the apartment. In her son's room are stuffed toys and teddy bears from the likes of Dior, Fendi, Gentle Monster, Kaws, Sacai, Supreme and Undercover.

On the stair landing that leads to the master bedroom on the second floor, she has placed a Chanel skateboard and basketball alongside prints and photographs. A pair of Chanel rackets sits on the custom wood-and-weavework dressing table in her bedroom.

"When I go to Paris, I don't necessarily go to Chanel to buy shoes or clothes. I like collectible things because I feel they create this uniqueness in your home and show more of your character."

And that is how a fashion star creates a truly fashionable home.

• This article first appeared in Harper's Bazaar Singapore, the leading fashion glossy on the best of style, beauty, design, travel and the arts. Go to www.harpersbazaar.com.sg and follow @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram and harpersbazaar singapore on Facebook. The October issue is out on newsstands.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2020, with the headline 'Yoyo Cao's fashionable abode'. Print Edition | Subscribe