Lilly Lou: “Alt” Fashion in the Middle East

We, at The Modern East, love introducing local talents to you all and for today’s feature, we have none other than UAE-based TikToker Lilly Lou! If Lilly hasn’t popped up on your For You Page at least once before – let alone several times a day – what side of TikTok are you on!? This 18-year-old, Chinese-Indian, content creator is making a name for herself in the TikTok community in the region for her funny videos, vlog-style content, and, most significantly, her iconic sense of style – our focus in today’s article! We have exclusive insight from Lilly Lou herself and it is one you do not one to miss. Keep reading to learn all about her!

Finding Her Panache

Credits: Instagram (@lillyloulijia)

Being born in an Asian household, Lilly describes her upbringing as the conservative type, however, her parents always advised her to work towards becoming independent as she stepped into adulthood. On her 18th birthday, Lilly decided to move to a city where she had the opportunity to pursue her creativity. Following the passion that she had embodied since she was a little girl, Lilly moved to Dubai – a city which she describes as a treasure of new possibilities and freedom with diverse cities and limitless opportunities for everyone.

With her tenacity towards the creative field, Lilly quickly began working in the heart of our very own city of Dubai and even ventured into TikTok amassing over 75K followers! People are quickly drawn to Lilly’s artistic drive and passion that is particularly evident in her sense of style and confidence in self-expression, especially in the Arab region. “I would describe my fashion sense as a modern-day vampire. No other terms seem fitting,” Lilly jokingly (we think) tells us. “The internet has definitely been a huge influence on it. In the beginning, it was just a simple attempt to try out different types of dressing, but gradually, I’ve found myself growing more confident in dark outfits that make more of a bold, edgy statement.”

Fashion is all about self-expression and it is evident in this day and age that TikTok as a platform has opened the eyes of youngsters in this generation to venture into self-exploration and the ability to present their personalities through their style. “Without a doubt, TikTok has opened my eyes to a whole new dressing sense that was used to be only portrayed in films and television,” Lilly tells us, and we salute the young creator for doing so and conveying the message that it is okay to be authentically yourself.

“When it comes to fashion there will always be critiques who will point out that your style doesn’t fit into the category you believe it does. You’re either wearing “too much,” or “too little,” she says.

Alt Fashion and the Stigma Surrounding it in the Region

Credits: Instagram (@lillyloulijia)

“Alt” or Alternative Fashion started booming in the early 90s but has made a massive comeback with the rise of social media platforms further normalizing the style. Alternative fashion includes the fashions of specific subcultures such as emo, scene, goth, and more. Considering that the MENA region is significantly more conservative than the west, the style is not as normalized, but many Gen Z-ers are debunking the stigma surrounding Alt Fashion and Lilly is absolutely no stranger to this.

“Being in the part of the world that is still a conservative place at heart, you’re bound to get a couple of remarks for stepping out of the box,” Lilly tells us, “For me, I believe that as long as it doesn’t break any rules or dressing codes, the remarks are of no value to me. For instance, of course, I wouldn’t pull up in heavy makeup and layers of dark clothing if I were to visit the hospital. It’s a situational type of clothing, and if it’s not offensive, it isn’t an issue!”

As an art enthusiast, Lilly explains that she likes to incorporate a lot of her art skills into her style – talk about creativity through self-expression! “I either thrift an old piece of clothing, flip it and turn it into something of my taste, or I would purchase plain clothing and paint on them to make them personalized. My style is my way of expressing my art.”

Confidence Through Social Media

Credits: Instagram (@lillyloulijia)

Lilly’s interest in pursuing social media began in 2014 when the OG YouTube fashion gurus were trending! “I always desired to have a platform where I could connect with my audience whether it be in terms of being a big sister to them, or just being myself and entertaining them,” she tells us. Over the years and with the rise of other platforms, YouTube was no longer the platform that would boost a new creator’s growth in the industry, so many started hopping onto Instagram. “Instagram was doing well, but the limited exposure of content being seen only by your followers and very rarely to the outside world framed me from being able to truly do what I loved and attract the community of people that shared my passions,” Lilly explains.

Around the time that quarantine began back in 2020 following the unfortunate circumstances, Lilly hopped onto the new big social media app that is TikTok. Like many of us, the creator was skeptical at first but after seeing how much joy the app brought to friends and those around her, Lilly thought “If you can’t beat them, join them!”

“It brings people together; that’s the best part about social media,” she says, “But TikTok in particular, works wonders with its algorithm and knows exactly who to target: people who the app believes share your interest. In doing so, it has helped me find so many people in my niche, who enjoy creating the same type of things I do, shares the same views as I do, and dress the same way that I do, thus creating a sense of community and belonging.”

Accolades and Looking Ahead

Credits: Instagram (@lillyloulijia)

Throughout her time on the internet, Lilly has amassed a massive following on both her TikTok and Instagram platforms, but the young creator can’t help but hold onto her dream of acting. “Hollywood is the ultimate dream,” she tells us, “Acting is one of my greatest passions and thus one of the many reasons that I wanted to move here, as there are some interesting acting classes here. And over the years, TikTok definitely helped me in building that courage to put myself out on a screen and have my content be perceived by hundreds and thousands of eyes, and in building a thicker skin when it comes to receiving criticism”.

For now, Lilly is enjoying her time on TikTok and feels fulfilled knowing she has an influence on her younger audience. “Just go for it!” she says when asking what advice she would give to youngsters who watch her content, “Whether it’s a new style you’d like to experiment, a new type of content you’d like to attempt or want to put yourself out on the internet, just go for it. You will without a doubt receive a lot of backlash and obstacles along your journey, but at the end of the day, as long as you’re staying true to yourself and not offending anyone, it’s your happiness that matters. You want something? You go and make it happen for yourself.”

Make sure to follow Lilly Lou on both her TikTok and Instagram platforms to keep up with her on her journey!


Omaya Michelle

  • Eclectic soul
  • Staying Mindful
  • Ardently Artistic