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Independent fashion from the heart of New York City

YEOHLEE FALL 2017 REVIEWS - Vogue and WWD August 22, 2017


Feb. 13, 2017

by Liana Satenstein 

Yeohlee Teng has always applied math to her collections, whether using geometric shapes as prints or mapping out the set of her show. (For Spring 2016, models stood on 36-by-36-by-12 platforms.) One theme in her design style is “zero waste,” in which she uses fabrics to their maximum capacity. For example, this time, four pieces, including palazzo pants and a matching tunic, only used four meters of shibori. A vest-meets-scarf was one of the smartest additions both in appearance and clever utility: It could easily be thrown over the shoulders, had pockets, and was made out of the leftover quilted nylon from a vest in look 1. “I thought I would make something useful from the scraps,” said Teng. “It is multi-functional. It sits really well.” That same sort of functionality also came through in a poncho with a pocket and a natty blazer-style jacket with a hood.

That same sort of precisely calculated aesthetic translated into the overall sharp look of the collection, a quality that Teng is well known for. A camel hair cocoon coat jutted out so it created a structured shape, while a pair of pin-striped trousers had just the right amount of slouch. A boyish gray cotton wool and mohair plaid jacquard was a standout. Even better? That, too, was also a zero waste piece.


Feb 13, 2017

by Bobbi Queen


Yeohlee Teng’s finest hour is always during her fall collections, perhaps because her brand of creative intelligence usually comes across strongest in her coats and jackets. The venue was the apartment of art collector, Andrea Woodner, which was hung with paintings by Rodin, Seurat, Braque and Matisse.

Subtlety is what underscores each Teng exit. She returned to her fabric archives to revisit the luxurious camel hair she used years ago. This season, she cut the cloth into a cozy wrap topper with sleeves that were dramatically rendered beyond a dolman cut. A long cocoon coat had the ease of a robe, tossed over a brown, cleverly stitched nylon quilted vest, navy Gibson top and yoke pants in navy and white wool ticking.  The designer worked with sleek proportions, fabric and color mixes, layering shorter jackets over longer ones, all with a chic nonchalance. The beauty of a Yeohlee silhouette is that this ease is visible; the craftsmanship and her “no waste” approach to fabric is not. Right now, this “no waste” policy has come to mean more than just a designer’s economic use of fabric. “I see it in terms of conserving time and energy as well,” says Teng. “I’m having a very thoughtful time. Where are we going? What do we need? What clothing will empower and comfort?” Hmm. I could point to a couple of Yeohlee’s terrific looks, though I’m not sure if they hit a high empowerment bar or not: a black felted knitted wool jacket with kimono sleeves that snap at the wrists, creating a narrowly constructed shape; the wool and mohair jacket and wrap coat in a gray and black plaid jacquard melange of tweeds and twill over wool-crescent pants or jersey jogging versions. “I want these clothes to have a presence,” Teng said. That they do.



YEOHLEE SPRING 2017 - Vogue September 12, 2016 April 13, 2017

Sustainability is a fashion industry buzzword right now, but Yeohlee Teng has been thinking about her carbon footprint since before it was trending. “Minimize waste, maximize use” is her motto, so she tries to use every last scrap of fabric in her sewing room. Her approach centers around designing “efficient” clothes—functional, comfortable, and, above all, without frills. Teng’s customers are mostly women of a certain age who aren’t looking for the next must-have thing; they want clothes that will fit into their sleek, simplistic daily uniform so they can focus less on getting dressed and more on the tasks at hand.

Today’s show was a continuation of those ideas, but there was a new softness in the silhouettes. Past collections were oversize and boxy, but here it was more about fabrics collapsing around the body. Spring ’17 found Teng working with texture more than ever, particularly with a “shutter” fabric used on a boxy coat and shift dress. A khaki-color silk and cotton jacket also introduced a welcome bit of shine to all the crepes and matte jersey. What would be really surprising, though, would be to see Teng embrace a more womanly, body-skimming silhouette. Her clothes are always quite oversize—sometimes bordering on shapeless—and a defined waist is feeling a lot more relevant right now.

YEOHLEE FALL 2016 - HARPER'S BAZAAR OCT. 2016 September 22, 2016

"Also bringing attention to New York designs—and a major tent pole of the initiative—is Made in NY's official certification program, which recognizes those companies that do at least 75 percent of their production in the city. Thirty-seven brands have been awarded this honor so far, including Rosie Assoulin, Lela Rose, Milly, Rachel Comey, Zero + Maria Cornejo, Yeohlee, and Dannijo."

By Lauren McCarthy, Sept. 19, 2016

"I'd rather promote New York than anything else in this world because New York to me means the world," designer Donna Karan, one of the city's most enthusiastic residents, has said about the place where she was born and built her brand.

While Karan was so enchanted with the city that she created an entire line, DKNY, dedicated to dressing its downtown denizens, the rest of the fashion industry was equally as entrenched. Following World War II, when women were entering the workforce with Rosie the Riveter–like vigor, designers such as Bonnie Cashin, Claire McCardell, and Anne Klein were on hand to outfit them with reimagined sportswear. Of course, fashion's symbiotic relationship with New York continued to evolve: There was the louche sexiness of the Studio 54 era, where Halston, Diane von Furstenberg, and Bill Blass were habitués in the '70s; the All-American workwear period of Karan, Ralph Lauren, and Perry Ellis in the '80s; the rise of minimalism and streetwise grunge, courtesy of Calvin Klein, Geoffrey Beene, and Marc Jacobs in the '90s; and today's crop of in-demand designers, including Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzarra, and Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, whose wares can be seen on everyone from Upper East Side socialites to club-going kids in Brooklyn.

As different as the designers may be in aesthetics, their legacies have become part of the fabric of the city, and New York's Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen aims to keep it that way, with the Made in NY initiative. "There is power in something made locally that people can feel attached to," she says. "Fashion especially is important. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the [New York] fashion industry. Our job is to figure out how we as a city government can intervene and put our own resources in those buckets."

Originally focused on bringing television and film production to the city, Made in NY has grown to include the fashion industry since Glen became deputy mayor in 2014. "Great fashion comes from a diverse set of cultures," says Glen. "And what other major global city has a diversity of talent and ethnic backgrounds that ultimately results in great fashion?"

Outsourcing is not an option for this initiative, which supports the local fashion industry as a whole, comprising 185,000 jobs and $11.6 billion in wages within the five boroughs. In 2015 alone, Mayor Bill de Blasio tripled the city's fashion investment from $5 million to $15 million, and this year the city is continuing to build on the momentum.

Among the investments in the works is $74 million that will go toward expanding one of the greatest bastions of creativity, the Fashion Institute of Technology. The money has been earmarked for the first new academic building in more than 40 years at the school, part of the State University of New York system, which is slated to break ground next year. "We thought it would be a concrete investment in the industry and its capacity to evolve and to grow," says Glen. "It's a public university. Think about that. What does that say about us as a city? That the best and the brightest from around the world are coming to a public university."

In planning the new building, Glen has worked in tandem with FIT's president, Joyce F. Brown. "The deputy mayor is just a great advocate for the fashion industry, the fashion sector, and the creative sector of New York City," says Brown. "It's very difficult for young, aspiring creative people to be able to function here. By providing financial help or incubator space or internships or mentoring, we're creating an ability for all the creative talent that's in the pipeline to emerge and develop. Ultimately we'll reinforce the city's footprint in the manufacturing and design sectors."

As the map of the fashion industry grows, it's also moving away from Manhattan's garment district, historically known as the center of all things fashion. "The bottom line is, manufacturing has been shrinking dramatically in the garment district for obvious reasons," says Glen. "Buildings are outdated, and they're not well suited for modern manufacturing. You can watch it wither, or if you fundamentally believe in it like I do, you've got to do something."

The answer may lie across the river in Brooklyn, where Glen and her team are working on a $10 million investment in Sunset Park's Bush Terminal complex to transform part of it into a state-of-the-art fashion manufacturing hub, complete with room for designers, manufacturers, and incubators. "I don't want just one designer out there," Glen says. "I want to blow this thing out."

Along with providing a space for designers to work, the nonprofit New York City Economic Development Corporation has teamed with the Council of Fashion Designers of America on the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, which aims to revive manufacturing in the city by providing grants to New York–based operations, awarding more than $2 million to 18 companies since its September 2013 launch. Additionally, NYCEDC has partnered with Capital Business Credit on the NYC Fashion Production Fund, which provides financing to new designers to help with production costs.

"Our goal is to help these emerging entrepreneurs and small companies scale their businesses so they can grow here in New York and employ more New Yorkers," says Kate Daly, senior vice president of NYCEDC's Center for Economic Transformation. "We want to support all different levels and types of jobs that are available here."

In addition to up-and-coming designers, the city has partnered with established businesses as well. In August 2015, Barneys New York and the CFDA celebrated the release of a "Made in New York" capsule collection, which featured limited-edition looks from the Row, Altuzarra, Thom Browne, and Proenza Schouler. (A portion of the proceeds went to the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative.) "We were really proud of that," says Daly. "Everybody wins, and it was a great way to get national attention on the amazing designs that are coming out of New York."

Also bringing attention to New York designs—and a major tent pole of the initiative—is Made in NY's official certification program, which recognizes those companies that do at least 75 percent of their production in the city. Thirty-seven brands have been awarded this honor so far, including Rosie Assoulin, Lela Rose, Milly, Rachel Comey, Zero + Maria Cornejo, Yeohlee, and Dannijo.

"As a U.S.-based business, being made in New York is a great luxury," says Cornejo. "Knowing who made your clothes, being able to access them quickly and have a close relationship with the people creating the garments is incredibly important to us."

"For us, the brand is about so much more than beautiful statement designs," adds jewelry designer Danielle Synder, a cofounder and creative director of Dannijo. "It has a spirit and a story, and is very much tied to our lives in New York. There is a real sense of quality craftsmanship in our pieces, and New York speaks to that aesthetic and ambition."

Glen is intent on keeping it that way. "There is no more powerful brand in the world than New York City," she says. "The continuing question for us is, How are you going to take the power of that brand and give it to the people who are doing their work in New York? I don't want some guy in L.A. putting 'Made in New York' on his jeans. That's not happening, not on my watch."


American Fashion Podcast 109: Designer Yeohlee Teng September 21, 2016

Click on the image above to listen to the Podcast

Yeohlee Teng Interview

September 15, 2016

Yeohlee Teng has been a fixture of the New York City fashion design, culture, and industry for decades. Her store at 12 West 29th Street is a destination for women seeking clothing of a rare quality, the product of an intelligence and thoughtfulness that is both the mark and mind of its creator.

AFP hosts Charles, Seth, and Lisa attempt to interview Yeohlee about fashion then and now, disposable culture, her approach to design and technique, and a range of other topics, but she interviews them back, in this fascinating exchange about what is important in fashion and the life of highly conscious creative people.


You have to be careful who is telling you what the definitions are in this industry, because there’s this [message], “well, this is what the consumer wants, and so we’re just giving them what they want,” without acknowledging that the consumer has been trained to want that. And therefore, they can probably be untrained. – Seth Friedermann (15:22)

You would be surprised at how smart the women are who come into my store. I don’t have to tell them anything, they know. They know what looks good on them. They know the value of what they’re buying. They know how long it will last. They know how many places they can wear them to. They knwo it travels well. They know they can hand wash it. There are people that I could inform, but there are a lot more that could inform me. – Yeohlee Teng (25:04)

I think compassion plays a role. A lot of women are forgotten in the fashion world. I dress everybody. I have no prejudice. – Yeohlee Teng (31:36)

Cutting Carbon Is The New Black September 21, 2016

By Nancy Anderson in Torchlight, August 23, 2016


"You had me at hello", the famous line Renee Zelwegger used on Tom Cruise in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, echoed the day I met Yeohlee Teng at her fashion-forward NYC shop, when she volunteered that local production of her clothes helped to "shrink her carbon footprint. She had me at "shrink".

Next thing I knew, I sat down for a chat with Yeohlee about her design practices, honed over a career going back to 1981, and read a book about her work. [1] Before that "shrink" moment, fashion, one of NYC's most storied industries, had meant "shopping" to me. Doing something about the city's carbon footprint and raising its sustainability quotient meant my professional work on advocacy and education around high performance buildings, renewable energy, growing good green jobs and smart infrastructure. Suddenly, new greener city vistas were opening to me and at a time where local and national attention is both riveted and riven over what kinds of jobs and what kind of society should we want to be building.

Staying in a local framework and a now decades-long discussion about whether manufacturing can be revived here, a recent report, Making It Here: The Future of Manufacturing in New York City deftly sets out the terms:

"The broad consensus is that the city's recent industrial growth is being driven by a new kind of manufacturing: small, entrepreneurial companies that are making specialty products mainly for individual consumers and businesses in the region. These makers and manufacturers are producing in small batches with quick turnaround times, investing in new technologies, capitalizing on connections to the city's thriving creative industries — including design, fashion, and film — and taking advantage of powerful demographic, economic, and consumer trends.

Sounds just like what a vibrant sector of NYC fashion industry can be, when what was old — small-scale, start up and locally-made — is new again. And to think this can be climate-friendly, carbon footprint-shrinking too!

Yeohlee explained that the path to her own fashion/carbon footprint practices arose from what she described as her frugality, which in turn was rooted in her sense of the finiteness of the planet's natural resources. When early in her career, she had the opportunity to work with seven meters of expensive fine fabric, she set herself the task of using up all of the available fabric, including the scraps, creating three gowns that are now in the Permanent Collection of the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.. This was the essence of a zero-waste approach to fabric, labor and time in her design decisions. It has come to infuse her teaching curriculum too.

Fashion historian Valerie Steele made this observation in an interview with Yeoholee "Architecture and fashion are usually seen as opposites: one edifice, the other ornament... What does the term 'architectural fashion' mean to you?" When Yeohlee mentioned to me that she comes from a family of architects, I was struck by a parallel between efficiency as a principle of garment making and energy efficiency in climate-friendly architecture.

As the Making It Here report sketches the innovators in NYC's recent industrial growth, "Some are tapping into New York's status as a leading center in the back-to-local movement, where a large and growing mass of consumers are demanding locally made, artisanal products." This is a good description of Yeohlee's fashion career along with the efficiency that is a core commitment of her work as expressed in the local production of much of her clothing; her production and shipping offices are in the Garment District just a few blocks from her Flatiron district shop. [2] No long-haul flights to overseas garment factories, no energy-gobbling long-haul shipments of most of her clothing from the point of production to the point of sale. Her business exemplifies the "back-to-local movement" limned in the report and in her case, one "Benefiting from the city's rapid growth in affluent residents, many of whom are willing to pay a premium for locally-made and designed clothing".

In 2011, while serving of the Board of Directors of the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) — a position she still holds — Teng led a garment district initiative that produced [3]a report on the future of NYC's garment industry. In it, the MAS tipped its hat to the emerging importance of sustainability by calling it an increasingly important concept in manufacturing and a key driver of innovation. It also presciently noted, "A focus on the environmental and social costs of garment production will only make domestic production — where labor and environmental standards are higher — more attractive for companies.

In addition, as consumers become increasingly aware of environmental and labor practices abroad, designers may be less willing to take the risk of linking their companies with these practices". Fires and other calamities in overseas garment plants over the last few years have buttressed this prediction that knits together environmental protection with labor rights.

For Alinda Franks, Director of Community Affairs at the Industrial and Technology Assistance Corporation (ITAC), the fashion industry is coming back in NYC, and it's happening in small companies using new technologies. This represents a great opportunity to cut the industry's carbon footprint through new ways of sourcing, producing high quality clothes in small batches for niche urban markets, which can command higher prices compared to the mass garment production typical of overseas manufacturers. NYC is also seeing the emergence of co-working spaces, especially outside of Manhattan, that can put a wealth of resources at the fingertips of small and start up fashion companies at lower costs.

Tara St. James, Production Coordinator, Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator sees this fashion industry comeback too. At the Accelerator there are dozens of sustainability strategies, some work in combination, others are more stand-alone. What's clear is that they're catching on with emerging fashion designers and makers. Broadly speaking, these strategies emphasize local production (within a radius of 100–300 miles), but a big challenge is finding locally produced fibers and fabrics, which can be transported to garment makers by truck rather than plane.

St. James also cites innovations like: zero waste — including highly skilled zero waste pattern making and cutting — along with upcycling — using existing material or garments to make new garments — and the "take back", especially of worn denim clothing, to make new garments by well known companies like Eileen Fisher. This fall, the Accelerator will post a new on-line tool to be used as a resource for sustainable fashion design and production. For another way to get a handle on "shops and services for lower impact shopping choices" explore this multi-borough GreenMap NYC below.

St. James also spoke frankly about the types of competitive edge and marketing impact associated with sustainable design and garment making innovations. While design innovators are starting to incorporate sustainability as good industry practice, and are seeing a rise in customer awareness, making this a new normal will take time. St. James alluded to a wrinkle in raising customer awareness via marketing or branding because of concerns that a rival company might raise criticism of what a sustainable designer or maker is not doing. As a result, often customers aren't educated on a brand's sustainable features.

Another wrinkle is that sustainable fashion still has to overcome a common perception that sustainability means ugly, not cool. Changes here will be critical because this is an industry dedicated to making the consumer look good, being good takes a back seat here. Sustainability in this industry won't really take off until consumers and CEO's insist on it.

Patrick Duffy, V.P., Sustainability, Manufacturing and External Affairs, with Manufacture New York (MNY) and I had a deep dive discussion about what the NYC fashion and design industry is doing and could be doing to advance sustainability-driven innovation. He sees a small, but vibrant movement emerging here now. Beyond NYC, there are national and international sports and active-wear and clothing brands such as Patagonia, Nike and Eileen Fisher that have adopted, or are adopting more environmentally sustainable practices.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is an industry-wide collaborative effort to develop internal sustainability performance tracking metrics for the industry as a whole. According to Duffy, more standardized ways of measuring industry performance — similar to the LEED system for buildings — is needed for fashion and apparel to move forward more rapidly. Big Green groups like NRDC, EDF, Greenpeace, and others, have helped catalyze the industry by focusing on individual attributes such as toxicity (e.g. Greenpeace's "Detox" Certification Program), but a more comprehensive system with a broader set of metrics is needed for to achieve significant change.

Then there's the trash problem. According to "Pressure Mounts to Reform Our Throwaway Clothing Culture" Americans dispose of about 12.8 million tons of textiles annually — 80 pounds for each man, woman, and child. In the U.S. and around the world, a growing number of environmentalists and clothing industry executives say it's time to end the wasteful clothing culture and begin making new apparel out of old items on a large scale.

In NYC alone, one of the ongoing sustainability challenges for the fashion and garment sector is how to cut the fabric waste footprint. It's estimated that 200 tons of used (post-consumer) clothing is thrown away every year along with close to 700 tons of "pre-consumer" (post-production) fabric waste at considerable environmental and monetary cost. These costs add urgency to the zero-waste and up-cycling revolutions.

In the garment industry, fabric is purchased by the yard and until recently utilization rates (the percent of fabric that's converted into product) have "not been uniformly great" according to Duffy, while support to improve these rates and cut production waste have been lacking, as have markets for this unutilized fabric. From a "lean manufacturing" perspective, this is a failure although more technology is emerging to support leaner, greener pattern making and fabric utilization. But, not everyone is waiting to install these new technologies.

Local designers like Daniel Silverstein, are committed to clothing design and making that incorporates zero waste into the design and look of his line. For organizations like Duffy's, the goal is to weave sustainability into every aspect of its business model and promote these practices in local production. Little wonder that he characterizes sustainability as a "lens" to look at all dimensions of a business' operations and performance to help drive innovation at Manufacture NY's manufacturing, research and design center located in Sunset Park Brooklyn.

Anthony Lilore, self-described "warrior chief" at Restore Clothing has spent more than a decade reaching back into the clothing supply chain in order to recycle used fibers and make them into new fabrics and cut down on the industry's trash footprint. It's not easy and cost has been an on-going challenge, but he has been working with mills in the US to make textile reuse and recycling scalable in a way that will drive down production costs. Here is another opportunity to boost NYC's fashion and design climate-friendly profile.

The take-away from all this ferment for making an old industry new again is not that the goal's been met or is now well under way. Instead the take-away is that the metamorphosis has just begun and its prospects are still hazy. Wondering how to end this column, a last minute Internet search closed the loop for me when I discovered Made In NYC (MINYC). With its mission "to support a vibrant manufacturing sector in New York City" and a sustainability platform for manufacturers and consumers alike, it was a perfect fit to discover that fashion designer Yeohlee Teng was a founding member. 'Nuf said.