As featured on Seattle PI

Luly Yang loves the things of the past. The slow pace of writing a letter. The predictability of walking places.

And clothes made by hand.

The 38-year-old fashion designer and owner of Luly Yang Couture won the Women Business Owners of Seattle's most prestigious award Thursday.

Yang received a bronze bust of Nellie Cashman, the award's namesake who was a businesswoman in the 1800s. The 26th annual award honored women entrepreneurs who have shown "vision, perseverance and fearless, relentless leadership."

Designing is a family trait, Yang said. "I always loved it, even when I was in Taiwan as a little girl," said Yang, who moved to Bellevue at age 10. "I've always sketched and illustrated and designed and dreamed about designing."

She employs 13 people in her downtown studio boutique.

"I think the secret of making it a successful garment is when your clients not only feel beautiful in it, but comfortable," she said.

Yang holds a design degree and worked as a fitness instructor for 16 years.

Her studio works on 50 to 70 custom garments at a time, some of which take months to complete. The custom-made pieces range from $2,000 to $25,000. Her boutique also sells less-costly, off-the-rack dresses.

Her romantic dresses highlight the beautiful parts of the body; for women, she says, it's all about accentuating the curves. "It's OK to show a little bit of skin as long as you cover some parts," she said.

She has clothed the stars, including Vanessa MinnilloJosie Bisset and Mary Hart.

"I think it's important to keep in mind that the body is a living thing," Yang said. "Just being a woman and having shopped a lot, sometimes I feel that the garments are not meant for a moving body to be moving in."

Before opening her studio in 2000, she held a job in architecture. But she missed the "high touch," the softness of fabric and people, she said. 

Her last two private fashion shows have benefited Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center. Yang chose the hospital as the recipient because she appreciates having it in town for her son, Lukas, 3.

This year, she hopes to bring in about $2.2 million in revenue. Though at some points she asked herself why she left a comfy job and took on risk, her passion carried her through the tired days.

"If you're passionate about it, you will succeed," Yang advised. "When you're passionate about it, you will work as hard as you can to make it happen."


View original article at SeattlePI.com