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Shalma sisters, Ainaa and Eliana on sisterhood and the importance of supporting one another

In our recent fashion spread with Louis Vuitton, we have the Shalma sisters talking about their experiences shooting as a sister-duo for the first time and the importance of support one another when the going gets tough.

Laughter fills the air throughout the entire time we are on set. The Shalma sisters — Shalma Ainaa and Shalma Eliana — reunite for the first time since the most recent lockdown and cannot contain their excitement. They aren’t shy to simply be their fun and bubbly selves; so much so we feel like we are part of the ‘household’.

Elder sister Ainaa, second of four sisters, gives out a commanding presence with an authoritative voice. Backed by years of experience in the entertainment industry, the entrepreneur, TV host and YouTuber wears a strong personality. But don’t be fooled by the strong facade as the 30-year-old is nothing but humble and affable. She brings with her the surety of a ‘big sister’ as she guides her younger sister throughout their first fashion shoot together as a pair.

The youngest sibling, Eliana — fondly known as ‘Yana’ — confides that this is her first experience doing first fashion shoot with Ainaa. With her sister by her side, her body of work goes beyond her 21-year-old self; exuding maturity, self confidence and a natural bent fashion photography. Little did she know, the camera loves her.

The budding singer-slash-actress who is an artist under Universal Music Malaysia strikes a pose like an experienced model, as her elder sibling throws in tips to pose. And that’s the real deal as Ainaa shares: “I’ve always been the strict and serious one in the family. It’s not arrogance but that’s how I share my experience to help my sister be better.”

“Ainaa has always been the no-nonsense kind of person and I love her for that, although sometimes I get pretty nervous — but that’s the kind of love we share, tough love,” adds Yana. The baby of the quarter says that she has her second sister to thank for her music career and who she is today.

“My sister has taught me the never-give-up attitude that I am fully embracing right now,” she quips. “She told me recently, when life gets tough, be tougher. And that’s so important because we sometimes forget we have to fight the feelings we have.”

We sit down with the Shalma sister over a bowl of salad to talk about fashion, sisterhood and the importance of encouraging and supporting one another through thick and thin.

Shalma Eliana with the Twist Mini in Epi Rose Ballerine with removable chain and LV Charm; Shalma Ainaa with the Twist Mini in Epi Rose Ballerine with handle.

How would you describe your sense of style?

A: I love to try new things and experiment with different styles but most importantly, it needs to be comfortable. That’s when I feel most confident. I’d describe my style as tomboy-ish with a slice of androgyny. If I’m going for something more feminine, it cannot be too girly, but more of a tough chic kind of vibe.

E: I think my sister and I have the same taste but she’s more stylish and bold with her looks. I am more of a streetwear, chill and relaxed sort of girl — like a model’s off-day look, perhaps? Ainaa even once commented on my dressing and said, “Can you stop wearing baju sukan?”. (laughs)

How has the pandemic changed the way you dress up?

A: Obviously, I’ve not been able to be creative with what I wear but it doesn’t change much because I love oversized outfit and that’s how I dress up; put on something oversized and accessorise.

E: For me, it may be different because I put effort to dress up when I’m going out but at home, it’s very much just the hoodie-and-sweat-pants kind of look. I think dressing up gives us motivation and when I don’t, I feel meh.

Shalma Ainaa holds the Twist Mini in Epi Rose Ballerine finished with braided calfskin edging.
Share with us your first experience with Louis Vuitton.

E: I’ve always known the brand and love the history behind it. So far, I’ve bought something from Louis Vuitton for a friend. It’s my nature to spoil others with the best.

A: I remembered when I was studying fashion in London, Louis Vuitton was one of the brands that I had my eyes on. The bucket bag was on trend back then but I was just a student and I said to myself, if I wanted to save all my money for a bag, it would be the bucket bag because it echoed my style. Through the years, I learned more about the story behind Louis Vuitton, and went to the Time Capsule exhibition in Malaysia a few years ago — the history and everything made me fell in love with the brand so much more.

What’s the one thing that you love about Louis Vuitton?

A: I love how everything is timeless and transcends time. There’s a story behind every product and it is all about reinventing classic and heritage designs that have been with the Maison for decades. Louis Vuitton continues to reimagine archival silhouettes with modern twists. I also appreciate the fact that you can wear a vintage Louis Vuitton and still look on point.

As an everyday woman who juggles work, life and social media, what inspires you everyday?

A: I’m inspired by everything, everywhere I go. However, whatever I do with these inspirations, I try not to stray away from who I am. Remember that everything that you do, you need to be true to yourself.

E: You shouldn’t compare yourself with other people. I like watching videos on Youtube about how other people share their experiences on how to overcome something or deal with a certain situation. I also call my sisters for advice and help. The people around me inspires me a lot.

A: Remember that even the most famous celebrities like Beyonce, whom I look up to so much, is also human and has 24 hours a day in her life. And if she can do it, I can do it too. 

Shalma Ainaa with the Twist PM in Epi Noir while Shalma Eliana sports the Twist Mini in Epi Blanc as a crossbody.
What did you see in your sister that she’d probably didn’t know?

E: She’s very stern. But whatever she does, it becomes life lessons that eventually are great for my growth. She pushed me to become a singer and many wouldn’t know that Ainaa was the one who encouraged me to embark on my singing career — from doing covers on social media to where I am today.

A: When she’s young, Yana didn’t know that she’s talented. For me, I’ve been in the industry enough to see who’s the real deal and who’s viral for no reason. The instinct is there. And when you have that talent, you already have one foot in the playing field already.

It’s very much tough love from the get go isn’t it?

E: Yes, it’s that kind of tough love — especially when you have a sister who is always in charge and on the ground, it helps. I appreciate that no-nonsense attitude that has helped mould me into who I am now. Sometimes, I get nervous but I’m used to it. (chuckles!)

A: When I was younger, I was bullied a lot at school and that’s why I don’t take all this crap attitude in life. You need to be strong because there will be people out there hating you for no reason and you need to be able to brush things off before they consume you. Otherwise, you cannot achieve what you want in life. There’s no time for you to sulk — you just need to be stronger. For me, you need to build that self-defense mechanism to protect yourself.

E: It’s good to have a protective sister who takes care of you, aye? (laughs!)

Shalma Eliana sports the LV Twist MM in Epi Bleu with jacquard strap.
Thoughts on ‘bully’?

A: My husband told me that it’s good that I’ve experienced bully and now when people are trying to do it to me, I am not too affected by it. You just acknowledge it and move on. I want my sisters to have that as well and that’s why I am so strict with them. The tough love comes because I care so much but it gets translated in such a way — like I’m garang and all that. So when I see how she’s affected by the effects of cyber bullying among other things, I get defensive to protect my little sister.

E: Yes, and I recall not having a lot of confidence in myself when I was much younger. I was naive and bullied, and filled with so much self-doubt. I even get stressed up over posting covers — overthinking about how I sounded like back then. I am thankful that I pulled through it with some help from loved ones around me, and I got discovered by Universal Music through my Instagram covers; and the rest is history.

A: (Haha) She didn’t see that she could blossom into something beautiful, and look at her now.

What’s the secret to this beautiful sisterhood that you both share?

A: Tough one, because I have the second child syndrome (laughs) and that’s why I am the strict and protective sister.

E: I have different relationships with each and every one of my sisters. The chemistry is unique. For me, I learn how to accept and embrace who they are despite the age gap.

A: Yes, only more recently that we’ve gotten so much more closer. For me, studying abroad and experiencing different things have helped me value and see the little things like family.

Find out more about the LV Twist bags HERE.


creative direction & interview MARTIN TEO | production NEW STORYBOARDS PHOTOGRAPHY | wardrobe LOUIS VUITTON | makeup KENNY YEE | hair CODY CHUA 

Martin Teo
Editor
Martin has a bent for history and food culture, especially of the Peranakan heritage. Since the pandemic, he finds joy in plant parenting and continues to expand his collection of Philodendrons, Anthuriums, and Syngoniums. He's now on a lookout for the elusive Philodendron Florida Beauty to add to his urban garden.