What starts as a single thread manifests into a Pacific Northwest staple — the sweater. Since the mid-1990s, knitwear has been at the center of Elisa Yip’s impressive fashion career, one that’s taken her from Prato, Italy, where she completed an extensive study abroad program learning knitwear patternmaking, to an 11-year career at Nordstrom, where she’s currently a senior knits and sweater designer. Yip knew from a young age that she wanted to enter a creative field, and a visit to The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art cemented her lifelong love of fashion. We sat down with Yip for her take on daring fashion and how she expresses it in her work, and on her E for Elisa blog.
Where do you draw your fashion inspiration, and how does it drive you personally and professionally?
I get inspired when I’m outside doing something or having a conversation with a friend. I thrive on those experiences, as it can spark an idea that’ll get me excited. Traveling is where I get most of my inspiration. I love visiting new cultures (and exploring new) food and fashion. Oftentimes after my travels, I feel energetic and refreshed with creative ideas flowing.
As a designer, what are you thinking about when designing a garment?
The needs of the customer. They don’t just want a piece of clothing anymore; (there) has to be a need and a reason for them to buy it. That’s where quality, style, and trend come in. People are shopping all across different channels and segments. The choices are endless, but if you’re able to service her needs, she will be a returning customer.
How would you like to see knitwear evolve?
New, inventive, raw materials in yarn that is ecologically and sustainably sourced. I would love to see more brands use innovation to source sustainable and recycled yarns. Climate change is happening, and anything we can do to help one of the most polluted industries is a great way to start.
Your style is so adventurous and artistic. Have you always approached fashion that way?
As a kid, I loved to stand out and try new things. It’s probably because I get bored easily. So, I’d rather take chances in fashion than be stagnant with my outfit choices. I may not get it right all the time, but when I do, it feels amazing!
What are some inventive ways you’ve styled knitwear?
I’m known as the “layering queen.” One time I layered three pieces of knitwear over each other. I wore a turtleneck with a cardigan over it and then tied another one around my neck like a scarf. I saw it on Paris fashion week and was dying to try it.
What trends are you loving right now?
The ’70s are coming back with high-waisted wide legs, pussy-willow bows, glitter, and fur. Don’t forget the glitz, glamour, and disco, too! I’m all for it.
What fabric or color are you obsessed with, and why?
Natural alpaca animal furs, which come in over 22 colors. It’s one of the most luxurious, sustainable yarns on the market.
The Pacific Northwest style is slowly becoming a little bolder. Is there anything you’d like to say to encourage people to explore their own style more?
Break out of your comfort zone by trying a new trend, whether it’s a color, silhouette, or pattern — something you wouldn’t wear, but always had a curiosity about. Wait for the reactions from people around you. Take the “looks,” the good and bad comments all as encouragement that you put an effort in trying something different. Fashion is about experimentation and pushing the envelope. Be bold!