Tag: xiaoyan lin

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In the spotlight

A Berkeley designer who emigrated from China opens up her garage for one of her seasonal sales

Lin with scissors cutting fabric in a workspace that includes a sewing machine, spools of thread and many garments.
Xiaoyan Lin at work in her Berkeley Hills workshop. Courtesy: Xiaoyan Lin Designs

For 22 years, Xiaoyan Lin’s contemporary women’s clothing was sold in boutiques in Berkeley and around the country. During the pandemic, Lin lost a big chunk of her business when the pandemic caused many small boutiques to close. In 2021, she closed her Sawtooth Building studio. Since then, she has continued to sell her designs out of her Berkeley Hills garage two to three times a year. 

The next sale is Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The self-taught Lin has had a stubborn commitment to fashion. Growing up in Fuzhou, China, Lin took a test to enter the country’s best art school. Though she received one of the top scores, she said, she wasn’t admitted because she has polio and walks with a leg brace.

Model standing outside in polka dot top
Black and white are a favorite color combination for the designer. Courtesy: Xiaoyan Lin Designs
Model standing outside with abstract design coat
A wool coat in the Xiaoyan Lin Designs collection, one of many garments in an upcoming sale. Courtesy: Xiaoyan Lin Designs

“Life was pretty difficult for me there,” she said. “They’re not very friendly toward disabled people.”

Nevertheless, she insisted on making clothes, first for a friend who attended a wedding, which spread the word. She opened a tiny shop in Fuzhou in 1990 “and it just grew from there.” 

She emigrated to the U.S. in 1996, landing in San Jose, where a cousin lived. Her cousin suggested that Lin move to Berkeley, where her

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