In Vogue: Sustainable Fibers

Just shy of a year ago, in January, we spoke with Nordstrom knitwear designer and Instagram influencer Elisa Yip about her role creating beautiful garments for the company’s flagship brands. But you know how the year unfolded from there. By July, Nordstrom had laid off more than 500 employees in Seattle due to the pandemic, and Yip was one of them.

In the true fashion of turning lemons into lemonade, Yip took a risk and launched her own luxury knitwear brand, SSKEIN (skān: a length of thread or yarn, loosely coiled and knotted), with six pieces for her fall/winter 2020 collection — all of which are made from ethically sourced baby alpaca fiber. Alpaca wool is considered highly sustainable because of how they gently graze their habitat; they consume less water than other wool-producing animals, and their wool breaks down naturally (some man-made fibers don’t decompose).

Yip said she’s seen the harmful impact fast fashion has on our planet, so she wanted to create a knitwear brand with “purpose and integrity.” Of course, we wanted to know more.

Elisa Yip.

What will we see from your designs, in terms of aesthetic?

Modern silhouettes with refined details and finishes made with ethically sourced, luxury fibers.

How much is COVID-19 impacting your designs? Do you envision that will change when we ease out of the pandemic?

I created the collection with the pandemic in mind — on what women would want to wear at home, working, and doing a million things at once. Each piece was designed to be versatile, comfortable and effortless. The aesthetics and brand mission would still be the same as we ease out of the pandemic, but the function will be different. For example, once we get back to the office, the style could be more structural, like a soft blazer or trouser.

What are some lessons you learned from your career at Nordstrom that you’re employing within your own business?

“Listen to your customer, and build trust.” We love to hear our customers’ feedback so we can offer them products based on their needs. We are continuously listening and improving.

“Leave it better than you found it.” We take pride in our brand, with initiatives in improving the planet we live in by adopting sustainability practices from sourcing to business methods.

In our last conversation, your advice to PNW-ers was: “Fashion is about experimentation and pushing the envelope. Be bold!” How would you like to see people take that charge with your own designs?

The capsule collection can be worn all together, or style them with statement pieces that you already own. There are no rules — just your imagination.

What’s one thing you’ve done to streamline your day, manage your time — or even eliminated to gain back precious time?

I kept my cleaner. She helps keep my house clean while I spend the time working on the business. I’m still working on creating a more structured schedule by using project management platforms. I am using automated CRM and bookkeeping integrations that help streamline data entry.

Has this career shift emboldened you in other aspects of your life?

It gives me the confidence to dream even bigger, as long as I work hard and listen to my intuition. My father always taught me, “In order to reap rewards, you need to take risks. Have courage. Be bold.”

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is an assistant editor at 425 magazine. Email her.
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