I stumbled into fashion by chance, not choice.
My Uniform: Li Ming Geh, Founder of Li OrganicsShare
Every month we ask our friends how they found their personal style and to share the pieces that make up their daily “uniforms.”
Li Ming Geh isn’t a tomboy in the traditional sense, though based on her affinity for sweatshirts and sneakers you might be fooled (her earliest memories of getting dressed involve stealing her brothers’ clothes). It may be her background as a neuroscientist, but she looks at clothes through the lens of “variables” and “constants”: While she may play around and experiment on a daily basis, there are some things that will always remain. A dress will be anchored by a sneaker, a sweatshirt often topped off with a tailored jacket, a scarf is a finishing accent to almost everything. (Not so different from how she approaches the formulas for her organic beauty line Li Organics, that uses botanicals from South East Asia to nourish sensitive skin).
I grew up in Malaysia where I was born and raised. As a child I was in a school uniform most days: A blue pinafore. I have two older brothers and was constantly taking their T-shirts and cinching their pants with belts when I wasn’t in school. Malaysia is a modest Muslim country and although my family wasn’t Muslim we were pretty modest.
My mother is progressive, she had a career. She was the breadwinner in my family, trading stocks (even today at age 65 she is constantly checking the market).
She’s always been stylish, very pulled together. Because she was in an office she wore blazer and skirt sets, wide leg pants with a high neck blouse, pearl necklaces. Always very simple. Never in denim or sneakers—that’s just not her!
Growing up I was an athlete—I left Malaysia to live in Canada, in Vancouver, where I was always snowshoeing, hiking, running… I’d drag friends to join me. [laughs] That’s where I got into vintage—there are amazing vintage stores there—half the time I lived there I was in gym clothes, the other half in vintage. It was a heavy scarf phase and I’d wear scarves with everything.
I started out by studying psychology, then I got scouted for a sci-fi movie and my modeling career took off from there. I knew nothing about fashion when I started working as a model—but I loved the people I met in the industry. They became wonderful friends. I finally went to NYC through my agency and while there I did my masters in neuroscience. I started experimenting with style, trying new silhouettes and cuts.
Sweatshirts stayed though, I always loved them. And sneakers too.
Finally combining my love of design and science, I created my company Li Organics. I have sensitive skin and have always been obsessed with skincare. My dad, my hero, was always a naturalist and would say “Don’t use parabens! Here’s a shot of wheatgrass.” [laughs] I had my first wheatgrass shot when I was 6 years old! I gathered all sorts of raw materials and created my recipes. It’s four products right now, all skincare, inspired by my home of Southeast Asia: Turmeric and guava are star ingredients.
I’ve started to love style, experimenting with different looks, but I always come back to a specific formula. On weekends it’s sneakers or combat boots, a sweatshirt or sweater and comfy jeans. In the spring/summer It’s an easy dress or skirt—tomboy with an edge of girliness. Nothing flowery or busy. And I still love scarves. I top everything off with one.
For weekdays and meetings it’s pants, a blazer and maybe even a T-shirt underneath it. A scarf to top
“3 THINGS” WITH LI
As told to AM, January 10th, 2019
Photographed by Lucy Laucht