Alumni Spotlight

Designer Ann Yee ’04


For some, clothing is simply something you put on every day before heading out the door, but for designers such as Ann Yee ’04, it’s more than that. In high school, Yee wore what she considered to be crazy outfits and never repeated an ensemble. It was her form of self-expression. “Clothing has been my passion for as long as I can remember so design seemed like a good path for me,” explained Yee.

With some encouragement from her friends, Yee decided to pursue Fashion Design at Philadelphia University. Like most students that attend PhilaU, Yee fell in love with the campus and the size of the school, but she also liked that it was more than just an art school. She did not want all of her classes to be fashion-related. It was imperative to have balance in her education.  

Yee’s studio classes allowed her to strengthen her skills and gave her the opportunity to learn new techniques. Yee truly enjoyed the intimate classes at PhilaU. “I really had one-on-one experiences with my fashion professors and that was priceless,” said Yee. Her fashion professors have fond memories of her as well. Jane Likens, Professor Emerita, remembers Yee’s aesthetic and drive to do something new. “Ann always had a look in her eyes where one just wondered what was going on inside her mind.” After looking at Yee’s recent collection, it’s apparent to Likens that what goes on in Yee’s mind is a beautiful sense of the world. “Her eyes still sparkle.” Yee loved all of her professors dearly and many have become mentors and friends.

In 2010, the ANN YEE brand was launched. It is advanced contemporary womenswear that includes novelty knitwear and architectural cuts. Yee strives to create pieces that are interesting yet effortless to wear. Creating a brand has been a lot of work. Today’s market is oversaturated with young designers and it can be difficult to stand out. Yee has been fortunate to work with a great sales and public relations team that helped her identify who she is as a designer and brand. “I’ve learned that it’s vital to have a clear brand identity and signature.”

There are many rewards to working as a fashion designer. To Yee, there’s nothing more gratifying than to see someone who enjoys wearing something she designed. Yee gets very excited about Fashion Week. The process of putting a show together is one of the most stressful things she has ever experienced, but she loves to see her whole vision come to life during a show. Sales are a great challenge for Yee, which is why it is imperative to have a strong sales team. She just began working with a new team and is very hopeful that 2014 will bring a lot of growth.

yeeAlthough Yee loves all of her collections, the latest one, Spring 2014, is her favorite because her inspiration was the city of Detroit. Although she grew up in the Detroit suburbs, Yee visited the city frequently as a child and always had an admiration for it. “The collection is about resurgence and the hopes that one day the city will get back to what it once was,” explained Yee.

There are a few trends in fashion that Yee loves and incorporates in her collections. She believes the color blocking trend is on point and it has become one of her signatures. Color can immediately transform a simple silhouette into something edgy. Another trend she really likes is androgynous clothing because it is really relevant. “Women want to be comfortable so it makes sense that it’s such a strong trend.” Her favorite pieces are those that are oversized such as big chunky sweaters. Her triple collar button-up shirt is her staple because it is perfect for layer under sweaters this time of year.

Yee has three favorite fashion icons, Iris Apfel, Lou Doillon and Marlene Dietrich. She likes Apfel for her eclectic taste, Doillon for her effortless vibe and Dietrich because she was not afraid to defy conventional dressing.

Yee may be a young designer but she has made a name for herself in the fashion industry. She was chosen as one of Gen Art’s Fresh Faces in Fashion for Spring 2012 and received the womenswear award at the NewNowNext Fashion Honors for Fall 2013. Most recently, Yee was recognized as one of the most stylish New Yorkers in TimeOut Magazine.

This young designer is where she is because of her talent, passion and supportive family and friends. “Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help,” noted Yee. Contrary to what some may believe, there are many kind and caring people in the fashion industry. Many have helped her in different ways and she is appreciative for it. “Attitude is EVERYTHING. My glass is always half full.”

Yee has a few pointers for aspiring fashion designers and entrepreneurs. It is important to gain as much industry experience as possible before starting your business. Education lays the foundation; the rest is learned on the job, which is why internships are crucial. “Know that running your own fashion line is probably 90% business and 10% design, so it wouldn’t hurt to take a business course.”