Friday, April 25, 2014


 Designer Ann Yee (middle in metallic skirt + black shoes) and models showcasing the full lineup of SS '14 styles

Beyond the short-lived showings of seasonal style and the casual indulgence of an impulse buy, there exists a longstanding challenge for any namesake designer to juggle creativity, production, marketing and business. A fine balance between making a brand and being the brand fuels the 'vision' and subsequent 'story' that paves a pathway to success. Michigan Native Ann Yee (of Ann Yee Collection) puts a palatable edge on knitwear and captures the spirit of entrepreneurial excellence through her distinct collections. Her brand, described as "visually provocative" and whose "refined nonchalance plays on androgyny and proportion and structural cuts juxtaposed against soft draping," converts clothes into a wearable means of sculpture [source: thinkpr]. Keep reading for my Q&A with the designer...

SS '14 LEMAY cropped pointelle tank & CRANBROOK skirt / WOODWARD cropped moto & COOLEY tweed shorts, provided by Ann Yee

As with tastes and children, style experiences an inherent maturity over time. Looking back to the inception of your brand, how have your inspirations/designs evolved? Have you adjusted your philosophy or techniques along the way? From season to season, what is one creative element that stays the same?

My aesthetic has definitely changed since I first started. I think it's only natural that a brand evolves. I feel my collection has become much more dynamic in fabrications and yarns, which is honestly because I've built a stronger network of vendors that have more to offer. When I first began, I barely had any resources! Now, I have more than enough to choose from, which is great.

The line has also become more knit-centric. Because I have such an extensive background in sweaters after working in the industry, I really wanted to infuse that into my own collection. It has become my signature.

My key principles have stayed true--texture interest, architectural lines and effortless design. I'm constantly inspired by my surroundings, so you'll always see that come through in the collection. Living in NYC is a constant whirlwind of inspiration. I'm drawn to the architecture, people and overall energy of the city.

What are 3 words you would use to describe your brand?
Architectural. Effortless. Modern.

Sketches of the FW '14 Collection by Ann Yee

As the saying goes, "You're either working for yourself or for someone else." Having been both an in-house designer for other brands as well as the creative director and designer for your own label, what are the benefits of branching out on your own? Is there a shift in thinking or priorities moving from a corporate collective to being the mainstay of your own collection?

The obvious benefit of doing your own line is having complete control. However, with that comes a series of other responsibilities, which aren't always that fun (i.e. communicating with the freight forwarder, updating QuickBooks, following up with stores to get paid)! At the end of the day, it is a business and it must be treated as such. The majority of my time is spent running around to meetings and talking on the phone. These are the joys of running a business. It really is 90% business and only 10% design. 

Two looks from Ann Yee's FW '14 Collection, provided by Ann Yee

The world is so vast, with endless corners to explore. What inspires you/drives your creative process? Does anything from your past come through in your designs?  

Architecture has always been a huge source of inspiration for me. Also my friends are a constant inspiration. Many of them are artists, musicians, and designers as well. I always find excitement in their work. 

Growing up, my family and I would take vacations to Hong Kong to visit relatives. I was always inspired by their fashion. It's much more relaxed, experimental, and less serious. They're not afraid of color. My visits to the city not only inspired my personal style, but I'd say much of the more whimsical elements in my designs are inspired by these trips.

Ann Yee's first collection for AW '11, JORDYN funnel neck & CORA steamed capri / JENEL snood & SUVI vest coat, Ann Yee online
BRUNA twisted snood & KIRA seamed dress / KENDRA sculpted hat & AUDRA funnel neck top & CORA seamed capri, Ann Yee online

Technology has changed the way clothes are used and made. Do you incorporate innovations in technology into your design process? What would you like to see in terms of innovation to simplify your product-to-market process?

Many of the novelty fabrics I incorporate into my collection are very innovative in their construction (i.e. special quilting, bonding, perforation). These new advances in textile development have really made sourcing fabrics more interesting. Also, digital printing has made printing much faster. There is so much more you can do in terms of coloration and complexity verses silk screening. The overall look is much more dynamic.

Ann Yee, portrait by Stephen Wilson

Everyone eats sometime. Do you cook? As a fellow New Yorker, can you share some of your favorite foods that can be found downtown? 

I LOVE food and enjoy cooking!! I make all sorts of things, but some dishes I cook in the winter include a Moroccan chicken dish, a mean eggplant parm, and hearty turkey chili. I'm also obsessed with greens so I've been cooking lots of brussel sprouts and Chinese broccoli. 
Favorite foods downtown (too many to list, but here a few!)...
Calamari  - PARM
Artichoke dip -  FREEMAN'S
Scrambled eggs in puff pastry - BALTHAZAR
Duck fat roasted brussel sprouts - Little Prince
Scallion pancakes - Nice Green Bo
Red velvet cupcake - Sugar Sweet Sunshine

SS '13 DANUBE open knit cardigan & HUDSON drop waist tiered dress / SS '14 TILLMAN jacket & CLOVERLY loose tank & SIBLEY short

Ann Yee is a graduate of Philadelphia University and knitwear design alumn of Barney's, LaROK, Elizabeth and James, and Alice + Oliva (among others). She was selected as one of Gen Art's Fresh Faces in Fashion for Spring 2012 and has been featured in WWD,,, Vogue Italia, Vogue UK, Paper Magazine and Nylon. I'm excited to follow the Ann Yee vision as she continues to add chapters to a self-built story of success. In the meantime, the line is available for browsing and buying (online) at Of a Kind and Young & Able.


  1. It was enjoyable to learn about Ann Yee's background and her aspirations. Great post!


    1. Thanks! Check back--there are some new interviews on the horizon :)!

  2. I was looking at this dress last week....

  3. Wow, absolutely gorgeous designs.

    xx Sarah | Loser Girl Wins


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