Yilin Chen is living proof that passion and hard work pays off. The handbag designer launched her brand, the House of Yiliy, in the summer of 2011, but design wasn’t her initial path. Born in Taipei, Taiwan and raised in Montreal, Canada, the creative soul has been immersed in a world of culture and art since birth. Fascinated by diversity, she discovered an insatiable passion for the arts and found beauty in everything from delicate paintings and famed sculptures to the unique textures within concrete sidewalks and curious treasures found in unexpected flea markets. Chen’s Asian, French and North American roots resulted in a unique fusion of influences.
Her strong creative drive led Chen to study Fine Arts and Design with a focus on painting and sculpture, ultimately resulting in a Masters of Arts in Gallery and Museum Management. Though she found success in the business, simply being around the art in galleries and museums was not enough.
“After a few years of working in the gallery and museum world, I was craving the ability to be creative in my day to day life, so I bought a sewing machine and decided on a hunch that handbag design would be the right field for me. I think I was attracted to its multidisciplinary aspect - textural and sculptural,” Chen shared. “Then I began sketching and sewing up miniature handbags so I could play around with shapes. Within a week of this sewing and sketching frenzy, I found an opening for a handbag junior designer position and decided to apply for it.”
She translated her passion into a small collection that helped her land the job at the evening handbag brand, Santi, in New York City.
“It could not have been a more perfect start for me. As it was a small company, I was involved in so many aspects of the design process and that was a tremendous learning curve, a totally hands-on experience throughout. I was also given a lot of room, creatively speaking, which is not always the case for junior designers, and I really took advantage of that,” the designer said.
After four years at Santi, Chen took her experience and new expertise to launch her own inspired line.
LadyLUX via House of Yiliy
“I knew I was going to create something. The idea of owning my own business was always as powerful as the ability to design for me, so the combination was inevitable,” Chen claimed.
The collection boasts eleven luxurious handbags, envisioned and brought to life in New York City. The House of Yiliy includes a range of small cross-body bags, evening clutches, everyday satchels and practical totes that embrace functionality while maintaining classic and chic femininity. Chen’s goal is to create honest designs with calculated details that are present for a reason. She hasn’t forgotten her roots though, and frequently taps into her art background for inspiration.
“Egon Schiele is one of my favorite artists; his lines are so expressive. I try to create interesting shapes and details but still maintain a clean and effortless design overall,” Chen described. “I also appreciate contrast and the unexpected. Subtle beauty can be found in unexpected things like iron, concrete, stone and skins. I love things that are a little drab and muted, but paired with the more refined. I try to incorporate this sensibility into my designs.”
True to her word, the lavish Italian and South American leathers found in the collection exhibit an understated palette of grey, olive and taro completed with delicate hardware. Despite the beautiful balance between materials, trim and silhouette, as well as the exclusive New York craftsmanship, Chen makes it a priority to have the collection accessible to all women with price points ranging from $300-$500.
For the House of Yiliy’s future, Chen plans to expand her presence to boutiques around the world and even add more lines.
“I am very interested in venturing into bags for both children and men. It’s exciting!” said Chen.