Alina Raetsep gets flushed with Saturday night fever as she enters the world of Hong Kong’s YanYan (人人 in Chinese; translating as “everyone”) womenswear brand. Chic knit patterns meet neon colors and cross paths with unexpected silhouettes. Sweater knee-length shorts, anyone? Definitely disco time. Raetsep reviews.
You can imagine — rag & bone is kind of a big deal in fashion (retail) land. When you are a director of knitwear at rag & bone, you are kind of a big deal in fashion (retail) land. And it’s kind of a big deal when you leave a big baller like that to strike out on your own. So when Phyllis Chan made the move, you besta believe the industry was watching.
Fresh off the press loom, Vogue U.S., Vogue Hong Kong and teenVogue — let’s make this one count, for once — each featured Chan’s new venture YanYan, aka not your ordinary grandma’s knitwear company.
Unless your grandma is the one who brings the funk to the Chaoyang Park — we hereby high-five all Beijing bad*sses.
Nine Dragons And One Grandma On Acid
Maybe the pizza wasn’t cheezy anymore, or the Brooklyn Bagels stopped delivering. Whatever it was, New York lost its luster for Chan and the distant memories of her native Kowloon started tugging at the heartstrings. It was time to go home. Nine Dragons awaited. For those not in the know, that’s how the name Kowloon (九龙 in Chinese) translates into English.
Chan’s homegirl Suzzie Chung was ready and waiting and the duo set to work. Inspiration came while looking at some leftover yarn at a small factory in Hong Kong. The factory owner, Chan’s hook-up from her rag & bone days, pulled out an impressive amount of yarn left behind by companies that didn’t use it — if you’re not in the business of making clothes, you might not know that it is standard practice for companies to buy 20 percent- 30 percent more material than they need in case anything goes wrong during production stages. The unused fabrics then often get dumped. “Ouch,” says Mother Earth.
“Well, looky here — textile destined for landfill!” — and YanYan was a go. Chan is quick to add that they source high quality yarn from other sources, too, and then pull everything together into the Grandma-On-Acid ensemble, that their line is fast becoming famous for.
Nuts For Classical Chinese Knots
Eclectic their knitwear is, no doubt, but that’s not all there is to it. Chan sites classical Chinese designs as a huge stylistic influence, and it is evident from the ever so small details like traditional Chinese cheongsam-inspired closures and hand-tied Chinese knots. Subtle. Tasteful.
After giving her all to the high-paced tempo of mass production industry – and feeling the burnout – Chan is determined to keep things nice and slow this time around, sticking to her own calendar. YanYan puts out new capsule collections when they are ready to be shown to the world, and they don’t necessarily adhere to the traditional Autumn/Winter or Spring/Summer we are so used to, but are rather limited releases that happen every two to three months.
All The Cantonese Colors Of The City
From corporate life as the director of knitwear at rag & bone to starting your own thing, Chan’s tale reads like one of entrepreneurial hotness. Fun, fire and eclecticism YanYan collection essentials, it’s the people who are at the core of the brand — from sourcing and manufacturing to, of course, the customers.
The spirit of Hong Kong runs through the veins of YanYan, which translates as “everyone” from Cantonese. Fishing village girls, old Cantonese advertisements and the colors of the city that to Chan’s eyes are almost vintage-looking, are all cited as the label’s creative fuel. And now also available at New York City’s Chop Suey Club.
Beyond ladling inspiration from the Honky streets, the fact that the production takes place in Chan’s native land is deeply special. “Made in China” is a label that many around the world have come to associate with poor quality and counterfeiting and YanYan is here to prove everyone wrong.
WRITTEN BY ALINA RAETSEP (OF FORMER AND SOON TO BE REBOOTED SUSTAINABLE FASHION HAVEN SIX MAGAZINE) FOR TEMPER MAGAZINE
EDITED BY ELSBETH VAN PARIDON
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