Kristy Yong of Ms Read and dude & the duchess on her work ethos and beliefs
‘Whatever it takes’ is a motto that spurs Kristy Yong in every endeavour she partakes. This charming entrepreneur chats with Lily Ong about her work ethos and beliefs.
To those who do not know her, Kristy Yong can seem remote. This is something that the director of Ms Read and dude & the duchess is aware of. “My friends tell me that I seem standoffish or aloof at first but it’s only because I take a while to warm up to people. Once we have passed that stage, I am loyal and a good listener,” she says.
Indeed, when she does warm up, the entire picture changes completely. Her eyes take on a bright sparkle and crinkle at the sides. Yong’s sister-in-law Elizabeth Lee-Yong says, “She’s really tough at work but to those who actually know her, she’s really a softie at heart. It’s easy to love her.”
It is this balance of steel and softness that clearly defines Yong, who is now the unstoppable force behind two homegrown retail fashion brands.
Both businesses are tied to her family members: her mother Helen Read founded Ms Read while her brother Benjamin Yong and stepbrother Benedict Read established dude & the duchess. Another enterprising figure in the family is her father SH Yong, who is one of the key figures behind Metrojaya and British India.
Yong started her career working with The Melium Group as a graphic designer in 2004 before she packed her bags and moved to London to expand her horizons. Yong spent six months job hunting before landing a job at the Westminster City Council. She would eventually return to The Melium Group in Malaysia as its art director before joining the family business.
Of course, the job came with plenty of expectations from within and outside of the company. While she loved developing products, she admitted
she had to embrace the other learning curves that came with entrepreneurship and building a business.
“In my family, it’s no big secret that finance was a bit of a challenge for me but I’m finding it most interesting as time passes. For many years, my father would tell me, ‘You need to know this!’ and I would just glaze over, but really, he was so right! Finance is the heartbeat of any business,” she says with a laugh.
Hands-on and committed would be the best words to describe Yong. As a believer in creative problem solving, she describes, “These days, with businesses, it is no longer just finding a straightforward solution. You have to explore all avenues. My job title was ‘Whatever it Takes’. People like to confine themselves in boxes. In truth, there are no limitations. As an entrepreneur, you really have to open yourself to everything!”
(Pictured here: Kristy Yong at Benjamin Yong and Elizabeth Lee-Yong's pre-wedding party)
She uses this approach to tackle any challenges that come her way. To illustrate, for Ms Read, she has to contend with the prevailing stereotype mindset that Ms Read has been catering for the older group of consumers. For dude & the duchess, there is a need to keep the brand aligned with its core value of being contemporary, creative and fashion forward.
There are also other issues to face like consumers switching to online shopping and the softening of the market. But Yong and her team are attending to these problems one step at a time. For Ms Read, the creation of R by Ms Read as well as an online shopping platform allows younger shoppers to connect with the brand.
Meanwhile, the appointment of Paris-based Malaysian fashion designer Jonathan Liang as creative director of dude & the duchess has generated plenty of buzz and interest for the brand. There will also be exciting collaboration projects in the future and a possible rebranding exercise. “There are still lots of groundwork to be done, but it is all very exciting and challenging at the same time!” concludes Yong with a confident smile.