Mir Yu Breaks Down One of His Signature Otherworldly Ensembles

Mir Yu Breaks Down One of His Signature Otherworldly Ensembles


Photography courtesy of Mir Yu. Graphic by Kayleen Dicuangco

Here, the content creator breaks down one of his signature otherworldly ensembles.

Mir Yu’s fascination with fashion can be traced back to his grandmother’s chiffon scarf. Growing up in the Jiangxi province of China, the content creator recalls seeing the gauzy pastel-pink piece tucked away in various parts of her home over the years, like a treasure waiting to be found. “I loved playing with it — wrapping it around myself as a cape and as a skirt,” he says, emphasizing the fluidity of the accessory. Seeing Yu’s style now, it’s not hard to believe that his sartorial sensibilities came from a single shape-shifting garment.

Take one scroll on the 33-year-old’s Instagram page, @mirintheparadise, and you’ll find a confection of colourful costumes that blur gender codes and deliver heavy doses of drama. His getups include everything from frothy tutus and towering headpieces to risqué cut-outs and severely cinched corsets. Radiating from this maximalist tableau is a definite theme: pure passion. “I went through so many phases, trying to put myself in a box,” he reflects, referencing the years he spent dressing traditionally masculine to fit in. “I tried to hide behind different identities.” But when he attended Pride Toronto in 2021 — seven years after moving to Canada — he decided to abandon binaries altogether. “I know who I am: a guy. I’m not changing that,” he says. “But I also love for my fashion to be genderless — gendermore.”

These days, his free-spirited outfit inspirations come from honouring what’s within. Maison Margiela and Harris Reed are labels that Yu admires for their rule-breaking runways, but his creations are born first and foremost out of his thoughts. Sometimes it’s as simple as a feeling. (What would it be like to embody pastel?) Other times it’s an inexplicable urge. (He recently felt a calling to construct leather overalls.) For this FASHION feature, he crafted an outfit around his identity as a Chinese gay man.

Using lush gold and red hues — a palette he describes as a “cliché” in his culture — Yu skilfully styled the below ensemble to push back on gender conventions. The result, a look he calls “Rouge,” is both rooted in his upbringing and rich with experimentation — not unlike his grandmother’s sheer scarf years ago.

Mir Yu
Photography courtesy of Mir Yu

Here, Mir Yu breaks down the anatomy of his “Rouge” look.

Gilded Goodies

After Yu purchased these extravagant earrings at a market in Toronto’s Chinatown, they became his go-to jewellery pick. “I think these were my first attempt at seeing what I could do with Chinese accessories,” he says. Yu likes how the statement discs — a traditionally feminine design — mirror the round shape of his hat.

Headstrong

In China, this woven hat — a reportedly centuries-old design featuring straw material constructed in an inverted cone shape to protect against the sun — is called a “douli.” Yu recalls first seeing his grandfather’s brother wearing one while working on a farm in Jiangxi province. For Yu, it’s not just a practical piece but a powerful fashion statement. “I like how it can block the sun but also hide your eyes,” he shares. “It makes it a bit mysterious.”

Body Talk

When Yu ordered this moulded piece online, it came as a full-length mannequin that he then cut to make into a bustier. He was drawn to the broad shoulders and structured breasts and uses the armour-like accoutrement as a tool for blending masculine and feminine body images. “I wanted to show nudity in a more classic and creative way,” he explains. “Having the hard material to contradict the satin fabric makes it feel all the more gender fluid.”

It’s All In The Fan

“Love at first sight” is how Yu describes his initial impression of this type of fan, which he spotted for the first time on Instagram. “It’s a tuanshan, also called a ‘Chinese circular fan,’” he says, adding that it dates back centuries to the Shang Dynasty in Chinese history. “The fan represents good luck and blessings.” Not to mention, adding it to an outfit instantly makes him feel fancier.

Opening Up

Yu cut and transformed this garment, which was originally a one-shoulder dress, into a slitted skirt. The placement, revealing his midsection, is intentional. “A big part of my fashion is pushing back on mainstream ideas about Asian body types,” he says, citing the stereotype that Chinese men are undesirable. “It’s a stigma that Asians do not have good bodies, and that is something I need to change. Every time I show my abs in an outfit, I feel empowered by that message.”

Superpower Pairing

For many, an opulent cape might exude ultra-glamorous femininity. But for Yu, this cloak is brimming with masculinity — reminiscent of a swordsman embarking on a dangerous mission. “It’s inspired by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny,” he says, referencing the beloved 2016 film starring Michelle Yeoh as a Chinese warrior.

See more of Mir Yu’s fantastical fashion below.

This article first appeared in FASHION’s Summer 2024 issue. Find out more here.

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