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Carolyn Yim CC’11: +PLY

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Carolyn Yim CC’11 knows that when it comes to fashion, it’s time to cut out the middleman. The founder of +PLY, a site that gives shoppers direct access to her family’s knitwear line, wants to bridge the gap between fashion manufacturers and consumers to create a more seamless shopping experience.

Knitwear is in Yim’s blood, as +PLY is an extension of a business her family has run for three generations — making knitwear for luxury brands. Her grandmother started the business in Hong Kong, her father took it over from there and now Yim is ready to expand the reach and accessibility of her family’s knitwear products. With +PLY, users can purchase items they like directly from her family’s Hong Kong knitwear factory, rather than paying markups that would occur from going through traditional stores. +PLY also focuses on supply chain transparency and promoting sustainable production and consumption. Yim’s long experience with knitwear and +PLY’s integration of technology create a site that bridges the gap between tradition and modernity.

Says Yim, “It’s an innovative take on not only the product but [also] how to distribute the product, and we believe that there is a market for that. How you do retail and how you do wholesale has had a very direct path, a very traditional path, for a long time — [that’s] how my grandmother did it, how my father did it. And for my company, +PLY, to come in online and to sell directly to consumers is very different.”

+PLY is launching with a collection of more than 50 clothing samples this summer and will then debut the main collection this fall. The first round of samples will focus on knitwear and cashmere goods, reworked in creative ways. Yim says that one of the standout pieces in the upcoming line is a set of cashmere leggings, and that her time at Columbia influenced her ideas for +PLY’s designs. She explains: “With +PLY, I’m making lots of warm knits and cashmere. I lived on Riverside Drive when I was at school so it was always very cold; the idea grew from there to make very warm but wearable knits, knit bottoms, in fact. Our cashmere leggings are one of the great things we’re making and the idea started there. Had it not been so cold and windy perhaps I wouldn't have thought of it!”

As one of the young alumni joining the Columbia Startup Lab this June, Yim is ready to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the innovative co-working space. With her mix of technology and classic knitwear techniques, Yim’s +PLY is providing a new way for manufacturers and shoppers to get what they want.