Bellevue fashion designer launches knitwear brand with unique material

SSKEIN clothes are made from the hair of Peruvian baby Alpacas. #k5evening SEATTLE — Elisa

SSKEIN clothes are made from the hair of Peruvian baby Alpacas. #k5evening

SEATTLE — Elisa Yip is the visionary behind SSKEIN, a clothing line that specializes in luxury knitwear.

“I love knitwear!  It’s my favorite category to wear because it’s endless possibilities,” explained Elisa. 

The opportunity to create her own brand came about in June 2020, after a professional loss.  After more than 10 years at her dream job designing for Nordstrom, the pandemic led to her getting furloughed. 

She admits at the time of not even knowing what a furlough was. Months later, the temporary layoff would become permanent. 

“I was really sad. I mourned my job for 24 hours and I’m like screw this. I’m going to get going,” said Elisa. 

Get going meant creating her own job, designing and selling her new brand.

“Something was telling me this was the right time, even though it’s a pandemic, and people were losing jobs, it felt like the opportunity was right versus feeling sorry for myself,” explained Elisa.  

It’s a resilience and fire that she developed watching her father, an immigrant to the United States From Hong Kong. 

*His first job was watching toilets, then waiter, chef, until he had enough money to open his own poultry store. He wanted a better life for his children.  He saved enough money to buy a building in Manhattan and became a landlord.  He’s just a rockstar and I’ve looked up to him since I was young,” said Elisa.  

With that inspiration came Elisa’s innovation.  It’s a knitwear line made from the hair of baby alpacas in Peru. 

The hair naturally comes in 20 different shades and is warm because of its hollow fibers that trap heat.  An extra bonus is that the material repels water. 

“If you walk out with alpaca and go on an errand and it starts raining, you just shake it off.  I’ve always wanted to create a brand that was sustainable and baby alpaca was perfect. I wasn’t reinventing anything, I was just pointing it out,” said Elisa.  

SSKEIN clothes are made to order and Elisa is having so much success, she’s now launching a home collection with silky-soft throws. 

Elisa’s dad isn’t here to see what she’s accomplished in person because he passed away a few months before the pandemic. But she finds peace in knowing he’d be proud.

“Any Chinese or Asian-American child that grew up in an immigrant family, they want their parents to be proud of them. I’ve always chased that. The way he would tell me I’m doing great is not to compliment me. He would say, ‘You can do better than that.’ It gave me the fire to do better and that’s why I’m where I’m at today,” said Elisa.  

Since launching SSKEIN, Elisa has been using her business platform to raise awareness about hate against the Asian community. 

May is Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month.  And from now until the end of May, Elisa will donate 20 percent of all SSKEIN sales to two nonprofits that work to uplift and amplify the voices in the Chinese American community: Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Welcome to Chinatown Initiative.  

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