By Alexander Patino
Rodarte, Zac Posen, Phillip Lim. These are some of the
designer brands driving American fashion and they all gained
stride by being showcased in the Gen Art Fresh Faces in
Fashion program. Thousands apply, only few are chosen.
Well, imagine getting recruited.
So starts the tall tale of Ann Yee. Actually, it begins in South
Lyon, Michigan and takes a couple of trips in between. Visits to
her parents’ hometown of Hong Kong, interning for Ebru Ercon
in London, stopping over in Philadelphia for a B.S in Fashion
Design and finally, to her very own design studio in
Yee has been building a strong following with her versatile
knitwear, which has only strengthened through articulations for
Alice + Olivia and Barney’s. With knits as her bedrock, the joy
Yee creates for her customers lies, not only in the sensual
marriage of refinement and edge she instills, but the best thing
you can give a paying customer nowadays – options, and in
one customizable garment no less.
A designer’s New York Fashion Week runway debut is one of
those memories all designers who have crossed that threshold
keep and hold dear. Yee will finally know just what that feels like
in a matter of days. Her weapons against those butterflies in
her stomach? It involves the latest issue of i-D or Oyster, some
serious scavenging through her closet chock-full of vintage, or
just a whole lot of dancing. Considering Gen Art’s notorious
eye for raw design talent and the fashion sphere’s current
pitter-pattering for clothes that straddle cool and androgynous –
it’s safe to say that all eyes are officially on Yee.
FASHION Q+A: When you heard that the Gen Art Fresh Faces in Fashion program was
returning to New York Fashion Week what made you apply to this prestigious
showcase of talent? What was the selection process like and what do you hope to gain
as a brand from this experience?
ANN YEE: It's a funny story. I was planning on applying and preparing to turn in all the info,
but they actually contacted me before I even had a chance to submit my application! It was
such an honor to be recognized. I definitely hope to gain more exposure through the
Gen Art platform. It's been such a great experience working with their team. They are so
extremely supportive and kind. I feel very lucky to be part of it!
Q+A: You’ve had some stellar presentations in the past, but this marks your first large-
scale runway show. What’s been your preparation process and what do you do to keep
cool and calm under the pressure?
YEE: It's actually been a calmer preparation process this time around because of Gen Art's
help. They've pretty much been planning and organizing everything so the designers can
actually breathe, very refreshing! Of course, there are still stressful moments as expected.
I go to dance class, which always helps and I just try to always have a possible attitude.
It always works out in the end!
Q+A: Have you scoped out the competition? Are you going to leave the fellow Gen Art
designers in the dust or are they serving some stiff competition?
YEE: There is so much talent to showcase and I respect all the designers that have been
chosen! I really don't see it as a competition, but more of a celebration of talented
emerging designers. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone and I can't wait to see all the
collections on the runway.
Q+A: John Keats’ poem, “When I Have Fears,” inspired your fall 2011 collection. How
does English Romanticism relate to the downtown New York street aesthetic of your
clothes and why does that work? How do these two blatantly different facets come
together to make something consumers would want?
YEE: The idea of romanticism was a departure from my past collections. I was just so
moved by the somberness of the poem and the emotions that it provoked, which I
incorporated through my signature draping and unexpected silhouettes. These details are
what exemplify my design philosophy and keeps my customers coming back.
Q+A: Does your spring 2012 collection offer customizable pieces like your fall 2011
collection? What is your favorite memory of a woman customizing one of your pieces?
YEE: Of course! There are definitely some knit pieces that you can wear in multiple ways.
I absolutely love when I see someone wearing an AY piece in an unexpected way. I once
saw a friend wear one of my dresses as a shrug type of style over a fitted top. She
definitely wins most creative.
Q+A: Where in NYC is your studio located? What keepsakes do you have at close
distance to keep you fashionably invigorated at all times?
YEE: I work out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I always have to have my old stash of favorite
magazines around (Dazed & Confused, OYSTER, Lula, i-D) that I can continually
reference. And of course I constantly go back to my personal archives of vintage and
one-of-a-kind finds in my closet that always get me excited.
Thousands apply to Gen Art Fresh Faces in
Fashion, only few are chosen. Well, imagine
getting recruited. So starts the tall tale of Ann Yee.