Michelle Yeoh's Charitable Collaboration with Tod's
A potent combination of style and substance, accomplished actress, Michelle Yeoh talks purses and philanthropy with Asia Tatler
The Tod's D Bag has become somewhat of an icon among bag lovers - and most certainly within the brand's own stable of designs - and to celebrate its evolution, Tod's recently held the D Bag Retrospective Exhibition at Paragon. So named after the late Princess Diana, who was a fan, the D Bag has been seen hanging off the arms of stylish celebrities such as Diane Kruger, Nicole Kidman, and most recently, royal bride-to-be, Kate Middleton.
Closer to home, Malaysian actress, Michelle Yeoh is one of Tod's famous fans. She even customised a design for the D Bag, which was sold through a silent auction, with proceeds going towards the relief efforts in Japan. Not only is Yeoh a respected actress, she's also a passionate advocate for global road safety and environmental causes. She was in town to grace the exhibition, and Asia Tatler caught a quick word with the petite lady about the inspiration behind her design and how she is, in her own way, making a difference in the world.
Asia Tatler: In your opinion, how important is a good bag?
Michelle Yeoh: Oh, it's very important, especially for someone like me who travels all the time. It needs to be functional. I'm not crazy about little bags because they're an accessory. They're good to look at but they can only fit one lipstick. A good solid bag is where I can have my passport, my iPad, phone and a book. And with compartments - it has to have a sense of organisation and be of good quality.
AT: What was the inspiration behind your design for the Tod's D Bag?
MY: As it's for the victims of the tsunami in Japan, I wanted it to be significant of the fact that they are in our thoughts, and that our arms are always extended to offer the help that they need.
AT: Can you tell us more about the process?
MY: With things like that it's the inspiration of the moment. When they asked, I was thinking about what I would like to see. I think when we were looking at all the images coming out of Japan, the whole world was very moved by the dignity of the people; how they were unselfishly helping one another. It was very orderly, and there was no panic. It felt very serene, almost. We have a Chinese folk tale where they build a bridge for two lovers to meet - it's like with the golden swallows we build the bridge, and with [the leaves representing] hands we reach out to them.
AT: You have been much involved with various charity and environmental organisations - what are some of your pet causes?
MY: I have been very entrenched with the environment because I think it's our responsibility not just for ourselves but also for Mother Nature and the future. At the moment my biggest cause is on road safety. I'm the global ambassador for the Make Roads Safe campaign, and I've been travelling around the world for the last, almost 4 years now, for road safety issues. It's been a real privilege, and I'm always pushing across this point that we can do, we can save lives and it doesn't cost us much more. We have to implement it into the infrastructure and there's enforcement and education. It's been a worth experience as a personal journey.
AT: Has it been challenging to have to speak on these issues?
MY: Yes. A lot of the times it's very technical. When I first started, everyone was like, ‘What is road safety?' or ‘Oh, I don't own a car so I don't have to worry about it.' We use the roads from the time we are born. Think about it - when you have to go home from the hospital, you're on the road. If you're unfortunate and a crash happens, that's the end. It can be a matter of a few seconds, but it can dramatically and tragically change lives. The good news is they do have answers, what we call ‘vaccines'. Now we have to make sure that they implement them. Apart from that I'm also very into endangered species. I did a documentary on orang utans a year ago, and I'm hoping to do more. It's very educational to yourself, to be there. You understand that it's such a great gift and if you don't protect it, it will be lost forever.
AT: What other projects are you working on?
MY: I've just finished filming The Lady [about Aung San Suu Kyi], and we hope that it will be out in October. This has been a very special experience. It's almost not just a movie anymore. It's about an iconic woman, a heroine of our times, a truly legendary figure. Her cause for the people of Burma and basic human rights is something that we should be very aware of.
AT: Has this been your most challenging role to date?
MY: Yes, I think the sense of responsibility for this one is a lot higher. Everybody knows who she is and what she represents. You feel a great sympathy and empathy towards that. At the same time, you want to ensure that all the people who have supported her, continue to support her and sacrifice themselves for the cause. It's a factual movie, and we're not trying to demonise or glorify anybody. It is an incredible love story to start with, but I think that anything to do with her will always have to be political.