Digital cover: Ella Yam x Maje

With countless magazine covers and her first fashion show in the bag, Ella Yam is well on her way to becoming Gen Z’s newest It girl. The 17-year-old talks to Gillian Chu about passion, discipline and modelling as an art form

While some may mistake Ella Yam’s youthful face for being new to the fashion industry, the Hong Kong-born and -raised model has in fact appeared on numerous magazine covers at only 17 years old and is far from a rookie.

Yam has matured significantly in five years from a shy introvert at her first photo shoot to now walking alongside top supermodels like He Cong and Liu Wen for her first catwalk show. Despite the pause in travelling due to the pandemic, the opportunities have kept coming – from Canada Goose to Louis Vuitton, Yam is adored by plenty of big names. And as Hong Kong continues to open up to the world, the rising talent is hoping for overseas photo shoots in her future.

No matter where her career takes her, it’s clear we will all be seeing a lot more of this fresh face.

Grey knit dress with slit and piercing details, and black Mini M bag for AirPods, M bag with fringing and Mini M bag with fringing by Maje

What made you want to go into modelling?

Well, I grew up with fashion. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been really into fashion and modelling. When I started doing photo shoots when I was 12 years old, I really enjoyed it. And then I just kept doing it because I’m really passionate about it.

Black lambskin suit jacket, silk satin top with lace trim, sequinned tweed-style shorts, M bag with fringing and studs, and off-white platform Chelsea boots by Maje

What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge I faced when I was younger was that I was really shy and quite introverted, but now I think as I’ve done more photo shoots, I’ve gained more confidence and I’ve improved my skills. I feel like now I can be way more comfortable and open.

What about the industry is different from your initial perception of it?

My perception of the fashion industry hasn’t really changed, but I’ve learnt that models have to be really disciplined. We have to really take care of ourselves. We have to exercise and eat healthily. I feel like modelling is also an art form, and now I’m starting to realise how we have to express ourselves creatively.

Black leather-look quilted overshirt and silk satin top with lace trim, white knit overshirt with eyelet detail, and blue and yellow suede Mini M bags with chain by Maje

You did your first show with Dazzle in August; what was it like getting ready for it? What brands would you like to walk for?

For my first show with Dazzle, I was actually not nervous at all – I was really, really excited. I remember before I walked onto the stage, I was just so excited and couldn’t stop smiling. When I was on the runway, I felt so much adrenaline but I also felt really confident and empowered at the same time. It was the best feeling ever. And because I was working with so many supermodels like He Cong and Liu Wen, it made me really grateful and happy at the same time. Also, they took really great care of me so I felt like I was in good hands. I would really love to walk for brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Balmain, Versace and Alexander Wang.

What is fashion to you?

Fashion to me is a form of creative expression. I feel like whenever I model and pose, I have to think about what it looks like artistically, if that makes sense.

What makes it meaningful to you?

Fashion means a lot to me because I grew up with it and I’ve always really loved it. And what I really like about it is that I get to meet a lot of different people and work with so many cool brands. Before COVID-19, I could also travel a lot so that was really fun.

Black embellished wool-crepe dress, beige embroidered-trim silk slip dress and brown faux-fur knee-high boots by Miu Miu
(Stylist’s own headpiece)

What’s been your favourite fashion moment so far?

My favourite fashion moment since I entered the industry would be my first Vogue cover. I was 14 and I still remember I was quite new to the industry. Since it was for Vogue, I was really excited and really happy. And it was just really memorable because I got to work with a really great photographer, Mariano Vivanco. The entire shoot was just really fun, I could do it with my mom and the photos turned out really amazing.

What other fashion-related projects have you been working on recently?

I’ve been doing brand photo and video shooting [for] Dior, Louis Vuitton, and I did something for Canada Goose.

What fashion trend or item are you into right now?

Right now, I’m really into biker jackets. Really oversized cool jackets and denim jeans and cool black sunglasses.

White gathered midi skirt, and black leather belted biker jacket and ankle boots by Alexander McQueen
Silver heavy mixed-chain oval necklace and half-crucifix signet denim oval necklace by SweetLimeJuice

Where do you find inspiration for your outfits and who’s your style icon?

I find inspiration for my outfits on Instagram or Pinterest. I follow a lot of models so I kind of take inspiration from their styles, especially Bella Hadid because I love her cool vintage style.

As the end of 2021 approaches, what are your biggest takeaways and what are your hopes for next year?

My biggest takeaway from this year is probably just to be really grateful and appreciative of everything I have and just really focus on my mental health and try to be happy every day. Also, be confident and be myself. Next year, hopefully, I’ll be able to travel and I really want to do some shoots overseas. I’d also really, really love to work with photographers like Mario Testino, Ellen von Unwerth, Leslie Zhang and Annie Leibovitz!

Creative concept and production / #legend
Photography / Issac Lam 
Photography assistants / Ivan Chan and Jason Li 
Videographer / Derek Yuen

Art direction / Zaneta Cheng
Styling / Alex Loong 
Make-Up / Jane 
Hair / Ritz Lam 

In this Story: #DIGITAL / #style