Ann Yee is a New York-based womenswear designer known for her knits. While studying fashion design at Philadelphia University, the Michigan native interned at Jill Stuart and in London with Ebru Ercon. Yee later moved to New York where she designed knitwear for Barneys, Elizabeth and James, LaROK and Alice + Olivia before founding her namesake line in 2009. Yee’s signature play on proportions, textured fabrics, and novelty knitwear were on display this morning at her Fall/Winter 2014 presentation titled “Modern Nomad,” her eighth collection to date.
Your last collection, Spring 2014, was inspired by Detroit – how does the collection reflect this city in particular? Can you describe your love for Detroit?
I was inspired by the spirit of the Detroit – its tenacity and survivalist spirit. I didn’t want the collection to focus on the fall of a city, but instead the possibility of a renaissance. The custom print in the collection really embodies this message. It was a collaboration with my cousin and brother. They had taken photographs of notable landmarks, which I developed into a geometric grid design. This print really reflects my admiration for the city. The colors are vibrant and you can really feel the energy of the city through the images.
Growing up, I was always inspired by the city of Detroit and admired it from a distance. We didn’t get downtown too often (we were about an hour away), but when we did, I remember being drawn to the cityscape and culture. It was my first taste of an urban environment. My favorite memories were going to the auto show ever year with my family and then grabbing a bite in Greektown. It was so novel to me at the time.
Hailing from Michigan, do you get back to visit often? Is there a fashion scene there?
I visit for all the major holidays, so I do get back quite often. I love spending time with my family and friends. It’s a nice break from the crazy bubble that is NYC.
There’s definitely a fashion scene going on in Detroit. Lots of emerging designers are based out of the city and the fashion community is quickly growing. More designers are moving out there because the cost is just so reasonable. It’s much easier to start a sustainable business. There are also some great resources, which helps to make the fashion community such a close-knit group. One such group is the Detroit Garment Group, which is a collective that provides education, guidance, and advocacy for Detroit’s fashion industry through conferences and workshops.
When did you develop a love for knits?
I started going to thrift stores in middle school and I’d find all these amazing vintage sweaters. I was drawn to all the crazy silhouettes and different stitches I had never seen before. It was during these thrifting trips when my love affair for knits began.
What type of yarns will you be introducing for Fall 2014?
We’ll be using lots of soft, textured yarns for the new collection. One of my favorites is a lofty wool-blended chainette yarn that will be engineered into an open, deconstructed stitch. There is also this gorgeous Italian-blended cashmere that we’ll be doing in several different stitches as well as a novelty burnout yarn, which has this subtle striated look.
Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for the collection?
It tells the story of a modern city wanderer who effortlessly moves from place to place, collecting ideas. Fall 2014 really encompasses all my favorite key elements that are quintessential Ann Yee: texture, layering and architectural lines.
Have you developed any new techniques for the upcoming season? Introducing any new fabrics?
I’m using a cool cut and sew knit fabric that has this novel bubble texture. The underside of the fabric looks like a jacquard, so I’m really utilizing both sides of it and creating some reversible garments for the first time ever. I’m also incorporating this interesting embossed vegan leather that has a spiral pattern. It sews up amazingly and adds a nice element of structure to the collection. I’ll be introducing faux fur into the collection as well, which I’m really excited about!
Where do you produce your collection? Are there multiple resources used?
The majority of the collection is produced locally, in the garment center, which I’m a huge supporter of. Some of the sweaters are produced overseas because of the special machinery that is required.
Who are some of your most desired retailers to work with?
Barneys, Lane Crawford and Bergdorf’s.
You are approaching your 8th season – do you find yourself wondering how you got this far?
Every day. It’s a tough business and I’m beyond grateful that I’m able to do it. I owe it all to my amazing family, friends and team. I wouldn’t be here without them.
How do you measure success?
Success for me is the ability to overcome obstacles, learn from them, while still being passionate and driven.