Named “the most beautiful new generation”, Ayla Sham is the spitting image of her mother Chingmy Yau. She made her foray into fashion as a model and quickly became the darling of many fashion brands, representing a new generation of rising talent in the industry. This new year, Sham is embarking on a new journey as Ayla, her lesser-known English name, which she turned into an acronym for Vogue Hong Kong’s Youthquake issue: “Adventure”, “Youthquake”, “Love” and “A little bit of creativity”. In the bloom of her youth, Ayla sets off her very own “Youthquake” with vigour.
With a wealth of experiences at 20 years old, Sham is destined for extraordinary things. “With great power comes great responsibility”, an ancient adage made popular by crowd-favourite comic Spiderman, rings true for the young socialite. Mature beyond her years, Sham knows that she has the ability to influence other people around her, and the power of creating change has become the source of her positive energy in life. During her interview, the word “love” lingered on Sham’s lips — surrounded by a loving family and opportunities to pursue her passions, she carries the love that she receives with her in everything that she does and treats every person she meets with kindness and compassion. After all, love makes the world a better place.
What are three words you would use to describe the theme “Youthquake”?
I would sum it up with three Cs: Caring, Conscious and Creative. The younger generation has a lot of influence over society, culture and the world. They have many new creative ideas and they know how to utilise social media platforms to make their voices heard on issues they are concerned about, such as global warming. The younger generation is also very conscious about health in life, whether it be their physical and mental health or the health of the environment.
Is there a reason why you chose to go by the name Ayla this time?
Ayla is actually not a new English name. I’ve always been affectionately referred to as “Yuet Yuet” by everyone around me because of my Chinese name, so I never went out of my way to bring up my English name Ayla.
What is the meaning behind the name Ayla?
Ayla has a Turkish origin, meaning “the moon”. In Scottish, it means “from a strong or resilient place”. I hope that I can live up to this name and shine as bright as the moon with a strong heart.
Why did you choose to officially go by your English name during the New Year? Does it imply that you are heading in a new direction?
I just turned 20, so I hope that I will enter the new year as Ayla as a marker of this milestone of stepping into my 20s. At the same time, I wish to show people a new side of me, a multi-faceted Sham Yuet.
If you were to introduce yourself with three adjectives, what would they be?
The first adjective I would use is “love” because I have always been surrounded by love, love from family, friends, work, and even myself. Love is important, it is the starting point of everything. The second adjective I would choose is “lively”. I take time to warm up to people, so I seem like a quiet person. But when people get to know me, I am a cheerful person who likes to talk to people, and I like to share all my ideas. The last adjective would be “inquisitive” — I am curious about many things and I have the courage to try my hand at new things too.
When did you become interested in fashion? How would you describe your personal style?
I’ve been interested in fashion since I was a child, you can say that it started under the influence of my parents. Since my father was in the industry, I grew up surrounded by fashion and I enjoyed dressing up and experimenting with different styles. Apart from what I wear to work or special occasions, I prefer dressing casually. Comfortable basics such as t-shirts, jeans and sweatshirts are my favourite.
You have always been named “the most beautiful new generation” by the public. What do you think about that? What kind of “new generation” do you want to be?
Firstly, I would like to thank the public for giving me so much love. I am very lucky and grateful to be given such a title. I have to also thank my mother — she is not only my best friend, but she is also my role model. She is the reason why I’ve been so loved by the public. As a part of the new generation, I hope to show the public different sides of me and become a positive force by helping other children and teenagers of my generation.
Your parents are influential figures in the fashion industry. How have they inspired you?
As I mentioned, the most important thing my parents taught me is love. They are all very filial people and I’ve grown up feeling the love shared between my family members. Love is at the core of my values and at the starting point of my interactions with people around me. In terms of career, my father’s diligence and persistence in his work has inspired me to persevere in life. I’ve become someone who is constantly curious about the world and eager to learn new things.
You model for a lot of advertisements and fashion spreads. Are you planning to develop as a model?
I’m really enjoying my modelling work. In the past year, I’ve worked with a lot of brands and had a lot of interesting experiences during my shoots. In 2022, I will keep an open mind and welcome any opportunities that come my way, whether it be in modelling or not.
Tell us a secret about Ayla Sham.
Honestly, I love spending time alone. I talk to myself to organise my thoughts. During my graduation trip to Okinawa, I was deliberating whether I should get ice cream at the convenience store and my friends told me that I talked to myself the whole time — that’s when I realised I had this habit. It was a secret to me too!
What have you been busy with recently? What do you like to do when you have a day off?
My schedule was packed full at the end of last year, I had to work on a lot of brand shoots so I was occupied with work. On my days off, I become a homebody. I like to spend time with my family, go for a walk and play with my dog Akio, or move my body by doing some pilates at home.
Do you have any plans or things you want to accomplish in 2022?
I will continue to enrich myself and learn new things. In particular, I want to further my studies in Korean by going to Korea. I also want to take some courses on cooking and performing arts there.
How do you feel about being on the cover of Vogue Hong Kong? What was the most interesting or memorable moment from the shoot?
I am so happy to be able to take part in this cover shoot, it left a great impression on me. Before the shoot, I was looking forward to it, but I was also very nervous. Thankfully, under the support of a very professional team, I was able to get into the zone really quickly. It was my first time interacting and working with animals on a shoot, making it a very memorable experience. The owl was so cute, I still think about the shoot!
As a part of a younger generation, how do you see the influence your peers have on society, culture and the world? Do you have any messages that you would like to take this opportunity to share?
I know that the theme of this issue is Youthquake. As part of the younger generation, I strongly believe that young people can change the world by bringing new energy to the table. Our teenage years offer us precious time to discover our unlimited potential. I want to take this opportunity to tell my friends to “stay young”, to never limit themselves or make themselves feel small and to believe in themselves.
Which celebrities in the new generation do you admire?
I especially admire Zendaya and Tom Holland. They are both representative of Gen Z. I started paying attention to Zendaya back when she was on Disney Channel. Her talent shone through from a very young age and she even went on to become the youngest Emmy winner. I have a lot of respect for her. She is also a style icon — in addition to having a distinct personal style, she also brings stunning looks onto the red carpet. The dress she wore to the premiere of “Spider-Man: No Fight, No Return” was fashionable and even aligned with the movie theme, which was very impressive.
What I admire most about Zendaya and Tom Holland is that they are both very passionate about philanthropy. They often raise funds for charities in hopes of helping people in need. Tom Holland has a very loving heart. Before the pandemic, he would visit children in different hospitals and communities as Spiderman. He is a caring person that we can all learn from.
You are also a Gen Z. Have you ever thought that your influence can bring about change in the world? If so, what kind of change would you like to bring?
When I was a child, I honestly thought I could change the world. When I grew up, however, I realised that there is only so much one person can do, and that broke my heart. In hindsight, changing the world does not necessarily mean changing everyone. As long as you have the ability to influence one person and change that person’s world, you can influence more people step by step. Now, I hope I can focus on being a better version of myself. Over the past two pandemic-ridden years, I’ve noticed that many people in society need more love and positive energy in their lives. Therefore, I wish to change the world by spreading more love, compassion and optimism to everyone around me.
Photography: Ken Ngan
Creative and Fashion Direction: Sean Kunjambu
Producer: Katherine Ho
Makeup Artist: Jenny Shih
Hair Stylist: Vic Kwan @ ii Alchemy Hair & Nails
Manicurist: Jasmine Chan
Set Designer: Victor Wong
Gaffer: Bo Ku
Photography Assistant: Cliff Chik
Digital Technician: Theodoric Wong
Fashion Assistants: Foxla Chiu & Pianca Ngan
Hair Assistant: Joey Ouyang @ ii Alchemy Hair & Nails
Owl and snake provided by James Chai Wildcat HK Cattery/ Rainbow Bridge Pet Cremation Services Hong Kong
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