it girl

Tulie Yaito Is Not Interested in Looking Like Anyone Else

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Tulie Yaito

“I’m a chameleon,” Tulie Yaito, co-founder of her namesake brand, Yaito, says about her style. The designer is known for her very often experiential, avant-garde outfits. Sometimes her face is fully covered, other times she’s layering pieces you wouldn’t usually think to blanket over yourself. Being different drives Yaito, a Jamaican-born girl who always fantasized and romanticized American culture. “I was always curious to try new things and learn new things,” Yaito says. Before moving to New York, she felt connected to the city because her mom had always lived there. She credits a lot of her fearlessness and self-expression to her experiences of migrating and traveling so much as a child. “It propelled me to be fearless and just experiment because I’ve experienced so many different cultures,” she says.

Photo: Tulie Yaito

Her brand, Yaito, in partnership with Carlton Yaito, which started in 2015 with custom denim and outerwear pieces, found itself in collaborations with legacy labels such as Levi’s. In 2020, Yaito released its small knot bag in different prints, including paisley and cowhide ones, satin embroidery, and more — and that became the brand’s hero piece.

Last year, Yaito collaborated with Adidas for a sneaker featuring her signature cowhide print along with bold colors, symbolic of her Jamaican culture. The sneakers sold out in a day and, of course, were all over social media. Here, Yaito tells the Cut about her style, who some of her inspirations have been, and more.

What is an “It” girl?

An “It” girl exudes confidence, fearlessly dares to be different, and has a great influence in today’s current culture.

Do you consider yourself to be an “It” girl?

I consider myself an “It” girl only to some degree, though, in influencing others to be different and have confidence in being different. It’s okay to be different.

When did you start leaning into that confidence of being different?

In 2020, we were trapped inside, and it was just a way for me to express myself and figure out who is Tulie and what I like and what I do not like. That’s when I started to become who I am today or the beginning of who I am. In the past two years, I’ve started to see my influence out there. I see certain things or people wearing things now and I’m like, Okay, I see a little bit of me.

Who are some musicians or artists whom you’ve always looked up to or who’ve inspired your style?

Lady Gaga and Rihanna. They have been an inspiration using art and fashion to express important moments in their life and also use it to amplify their fame. They are the top two of my ultimate inspirations.

Photo: Tulie Yaito

They both have the same dare-to-be-different attitude that you have. Are there any musicians or artists you classify as “It” girls?

We have to honor the original “It” girl, Clara Bow. Some of my personal favorites would be Lil’ Kim, who paved the way for so many musicians today. Foxy Brown, one of many who amplified Caribbean culture and my girl Rihanna. Her Instagram alone from 2009 to 2019 was the Holy Grail, there are so many cultural moments from her and that period, it’s insane.

Agreed, the 100 percent careless Rih. When you go out, where do you hang?

Lately, I’ve been a homebody because I’ve had a passion for interior design and I’ve just been investing in my home. But on rare occasions, I do like to dine out. One of my go-to restaurants is Anton’s in the West Village and I love having a spa day at the Aman New York. I frequently go to the Baccarat for brunch, too.

Since you’ve been getting into interior design, where have you liked shopping for your home?

One of my new favorites right now is BR Home, Banana Republic’s home collection; it’s fairly new and has some unique pieces. It could be quite expensive. My ultimate favorite is France & Son and CB2 where the pieces are inexpensive but still unique. Design Within Reach and Soho Home have also been my recent go-to places. I’ve been inspired by hotels like Equinox and the 1 Hotel when redecorating my home.

How about shopping for your wardrobe? Where are some of your favorite places to shop?

My go-to website like everyone’s is Ssense. I’ve been shopping there forever, but I also love to go source unique vintage pieces from Grailed and Vestiaire. Sometimes I’ll even randomly catch something on eBay, but it’s been a while since I have. I also shop on some Japanese sites, but I can’t disclose.

Photo: Tulie Yaito

Sometimes gatekeeping is necessary, that’s fair. How would you describe your style?

About two years ago I was in a period of fantasy, whimsical, and avant-garde, which is definitely still me, but sometimes you gotta flow with the times. I’m versatile, very much a chameleon. I always love to experience something new and just experiment with new things, even including culture. Being free just to wear whatever the hell I want is my style. Many people tend to be okay with looking like everyone else and that’s just not me. That’s what really drives me as well, too, setting myself apart from others.

What’s always in your bag? 

One of my current favorites is Topicals’ Slick Salve balm — I can’t get enough of it, from the way it glides on the lips, it’s literally slick. I also always have my Chanel Le Crème hand cream and plain ol’ Purell hand sanitizer, which are essentials in my bag. But I also think sunglasses are essentials because they can immediately elevate an outfit. My personal favorites are Loewe’s chunky anagram sunglasses and a pair of Celine’s that are my go-to; the rectangular shape alone elevates a look.

From left: Photo: Tulie YaitoPhoto: Tulie Yaito
From top: Photo: Tulie YaitoPhoto: Tulie Yaito

When you design — let’s take your Adidas-collaboration sneaker for example — who is the person you envision wearing your design?

I envisioned myself wearing it because the goal was to be true to my authentic self, making sure that I loved it, and that way others could love it, too. My sneakers are for anyone — both men and women who dare to be different and love luxury. Upon designing the shoe, back in 2021, I didn’t envision anyone. At the time, I was just inspired by my culture and textures and exotics. I wanted to make sure I implemented that in the shoe. It wasn’t about who I was designing for but more so about what I wanted it to represent. It’s welcome to any and everyone who dares to be different.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Tulie Yaito Is Not Interested in Looking Like Anyone Else