Fashion Designer Rylee McGee On Releasing Her First Collection, Her Brand ‘YLW’ and More

Art can be captured in many forms and executed with a vision unique to an artist. With the notion art is subjective, usually allows people to take the easy route around constructive criticism. Though art can be subjective, execution is key and trying to captivate an audience with your work is the goal. Rylee Mcgee is a fashion designer who started her journey with portraits made of charcoal, this young student of art has always been intrigued by creating and pushing boundaries. The meaning behind her craft whether it’s portraits or clothing may mean something different to her, but it gives comfort to her audience and allows them to interpret her work in their own way.

Rylee sat down with us, and discussed her creativity, inspirations, goals and so much more, but from working with her and seeing her designs it was clear to see the hunger and passion for her art. Rylee has displayed her work with one of XMPL’s favorite duos 4twnty, when she designed their performance outfits for Afrofest, she later on went to collaborate with Higher Sociiety at a fashion show we covered and now she is leading this issues editorial. She is taking on the limelight with two unique outfits that have never been seen before, from her latest collection ‘A Beautiful Mind’. This will be the debut collection for her brand YLW, which should be hitting the world in spring 2020.

Rylee answered some questions we had about YLW and really got into detail for what her goals and visions are for the brand.

When did you start designing and what started this journey?

Rylee: Growing up as an only child, I was always creatively keeping myself occupied. My grandmother was often times sewing and making clothes, so from an early age I found a passion for sewing; you could probably find me hand sewing little doll clothes out of scrap materials, or drawing outfits in my childhood sketchbooks. I would say that I started taking designing seriously after my first year of college in 2017. I was taking Biomedical Engineering at St. Clair College, after talking myself out of following my dreams to take fashion design. Unfortunately, I wasn’t happy with my choice; I would always take the long way to class so I could pass the fashion design studios, and thought to myself this is where I am supposed to be. The following year, I was accepted to the fashion design program at Fanshawe College in London.

Can you tell us some of the influences behind your designs?

My personal design style is a mix of street wear and Avant-garde. I always try to push my designs to a place that is experimental and new. My art has a heavy influence on my designs, I always want to make everything from nothing; so, much like turning a blank page into a detailed portrait, I make every garment from scratch, from creating the pattern to cutting the fabric and sewing it into its final form. This allows me to create something totally original. It’s art.

Who do you target with your designs and what attracts you to that demographic?

I target a young adult demographic (18-29), mainly female clients; although, custom orders allow for me to design for anybody and everybody. I am drawn to the young adult demographic in my city who are ambitious and creative individuals. My clients tend to push me out of my comfort zone and open my mind to many new creative ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.

Do you do any custom designs and what are some of your more memorable ones? 

As a brand, I try to reach every customer that I can so YLW has ran on a custom design basis thus far. I really enjoy being able to give the customer something they could never find in store, that is perfectly made to fit their body. I had the opportunity to work with 4TWNTY on their stage fits for AfroFest Toronto 2019. Sharon and Aya told me their vibe for the looks and gave me full creative control over the final garments. The girls were so easy to work with, and seeing my designs on stage and in interviews was for sure memorable. 

What are some pros and cons between designing for your collection opposed to customs? 

I would say that designing a collection allows me to interpret a concept that has meaning to me or inspires me. Whereas, designing a custom for a customer is usually more about the garment itself. Although, custom designs usually motivate me to go outside of my comfort zone and try new things.  

What was the reason for naming the brand ‘YLW’ and what does the brand stand for?

The concept for the name YLW was quite simple to brainstorm for me, my favorite color is yellow and it has always been a part of me. A classmate from my time at Fanshawe, Shayne Colin, came up with the spelling for the name and it stuck ever since. YLW as a brand stands for inclusivity and growth. I believe in creating clothing for every person/body type, and I try to make YLW inviting for everybody. At the same time, I believe in growing my brand in Windsor specifically, to beat the stereo-type that Windsor has no opportunity. Windsor’s fashion industry is seldom, which inspires me as a brand to push the boundaries and introduce a Windsor grown fashion label.

I understand that your brand ‘YLW’ is releasing your first collection ‘A beautiful mind’ for fall/winter 2020 can you tell us about this collection?

A Beautiful Mind is a collection that is very close to me. The concept for the collection is based around people with mental illnesses, specifically schizophrenia, and how their minds are widely misunderstood. Growing up, my grandfather, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia, lived with us. As a child, I was sometimes afraid of him because of the stereo-types that surround his illness. It wasn’t until I was older that I started to have deeper conversations with him and realize how special and unique his mind is. Throughout the collection I wanted to highlight the stereotypical side of schizophrenia and turn It into something beautiful. The collection will have pieces that would fall under haute couture; in addition, I am also releasing ready to wear pieces, this way there is something for everyone.

Why did you pick the name ‘A beautiful mind’?

The name is inspired by a movie titled ‘A beautiful mind’ about a genius who eventually goes crazy and realizes half of his life has been fabricated by his own mind. I chose to use this title to represent my views on people who are diagnosed with life altering mental illnesses, who are often misunderstood by majority of people.

Can you name some of the brands/designers/ artists you’ve worked with and you’ve learned working with them?

One of the main brands that I often work with is Higher Sociiety, I make some of the custom garments you see from them. My most memorable custom that I did for Emeka was the two-piece hoodie set, which consisted of me transforming a hoodie into a two-piece skirt and cropped hoodie set. I also recently collaborated with the brand to create pieces for the Industry Dance fashion show, which was such a rewarding experience as a designer. The owner of the brand, Emeka Omenugha, has taught me a lot about the business side of running a brand, he is specifically great at networking. As I mentioned before, I worked with Aya and Sharon from 4Twnty to create customs for their performance. These girls pushed me to create something I normally wouldn’t and it was such a fun challenge. 

You’re a young designer, can you tell us what designers you look up to and why?

 I look up to so many designers, but my top three would have to be; Alexander McQueen, Virgil Abloh, and Elsa Schiaparelli. Each of these designers know how to push boundaries in such creative ways, that influences so many people. Alexander McQueen’s runways are some of my most favorite that have ever been done; he was so misunderstood during the majority of his career because of his shocking runways, but in my opinion, they were works of art.   

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