Yliana Yepez is a New York-based luxury handbag designer. She was born in Paris, France and raised in Caracas, Venezuela before moving to New York City with her family. After launching a successful brand in Venezuela, Yepez has embarked on building a signature luxury accessories brand to reflects a high fashion sensibility and a face-paced lifestyle.
Tell us about your background – where are you from? Where did you study?
I was born in Paris, grew up in Venezuela, and have travelled all over the world. From a very young age I wanted to become an actress or a supermodel. I started modeling when I was 14 for a few houses and brands and also dabbled with television. My career in television didn’t last for very long because I quickly realized that I didn’t like it very much. Modeling was different. I truly loved working with the entire entourage—photographers, stylist, production teams. Fashion can sometimes seem like an empty, superficial world but the people behind the scenes really showed me that it was so much more than that and there is an art to it all. It was a new discovery for me. I learned so much from my backstage experience working with these types of creatives and I knew I was going to work in fashion my entire life. While I was modeling, I was also studying for my Business and Administration degree.
While in Venezuela, at age 23, I decided to open my first accessories company, BLUES by kyky, with a friend from university. And about five years ago, I moved to New York City and have been here since.
What did you learn from your previous line BLUES by kyky that you’ve applied to this new venture?
I have learned so many things. The most important lesson I learned is that you have to have persistence, patience and focus when launching a new venture. My experience from BLUES has been priceless for building YLIANA YEPEZ. It’s important to know how the industry works if you want to make it in fashion.
What made you want to launch YLIANA YEPEZ accessories?
Unfortunately, Venezuela wasn’t really the right place for growing BLUES by kyky. It was time to move on from my previous line. I was already living in NY when I decided this, and saw a void in the market. I needed new bag shapes and accessories for myself that I couldn’t find in New York.
You’re based in New York – are your bags made here as well?
I initially tried to make my bags in New York, but it was too expensive, so I decided to move production to Italy. YLIANA YEPEZ bags are made in Italy but the prototypes are made here.
What was missing from the accessories market that your bags fill that void?
It was time for color, freshness and high quality!
Bloomingdales’s seems to have embraced your collection – how does their brand reflect yours?
They were my first retailer and I will never forget that. Bloomingdale’s is very well known in Latin America, and it gave me exposure and credibility to my new customers.
The Bloomigdale’s customer is diverse. The store caters to all types of women of all nationalities, and at YLIANA YEPEZ, we do the same. Bloomie’s is a store that is not intimidating and makes you feel at home—you can come and go as you please. At YY we are colorful, open and friendly with the high end touch.
Your social media accounts are very personal – do you manage them yourself?
I manage the Instagram account myself. I love the idea of sharing my experiences with my followers and keeping things very real.
Is it tough to balance how personal you get on your profiles?
I try to keep my private life as private as I can. I try to focus my profiles from the YY perspective but obviously the brand is large part of my life so there’s a lot of intermingling.
Luxury is often associated with exclusivity – but your followers have access to many parts of your life. In a way are you redefining luxury?
We are living different times now. Luxury is still exclusive but in a more intellectual way. I think the customer has evolved and is more curious about how things are made and the story behind it. We believe in exclusivity—the YLIANA YEPEZ customers are those who care about quality and craftsmanship—and telling the story is important for that reason. It gives you credibility.
What type of girl are you designing for?
I don’t have a particular girl in mind. I began designing based on my needs and was pleasantly surprised that they were so many girls who had the same needs. I design for women: sisters, friends, moms, daughters. And at the end, they all need the same thing—something different, beautiful and practical to wear.