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Daily Inspiration: Meet Yulia Semchenko

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yulia Semchenko. 

Hi Yulia, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
My name is Yulia, pronounced like Julia just with a “Y”. I was born and raised in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. I design and make clothing and accessories from a traditional handwoven fabric called ikat. My business is called Yul d’UZ. Yulduz means star in Uzbek. 

The story of Yul d’Uz started in Kyiv in 2015 where my husband was working for an international organization. I brought back to Ukraine a blend of cotton and silk ikat material from a trip home to Samarkand. I had long wanted to design a modern fashion look with the traditional colors and patterns of Central Asia ikat, so I found a great seamstress in Kyiv who understood my passion and designed two jackets, a summer dress, shorts, and a shirt from a blend of silk and cotton ikat. 

My ikat pieces immediately caught people’s attention and relatives, friends, and even strangers on the streets in Kyiv stopped me and asked me about my jackets. I soon had relatives and friends from Austria to Colorado wearing ikat jackets. I slowly began thinking about the idea of developing a business model. 

When I moved to the USA in 2017, I ordered more ikat from Uzbekistan and made my first collection of jackets at the end of 2018. I had no idea about how to make the business work and believed that I would be able to sell my jackets very quickly. That wasn’t the case of course but luckily, I met another entrepreneur who told me about Empowered Women International (EWI), a program of the Latino Economic Development Center. They provide entrepreneurship training and support services to help women in the Washington DC Metro Area build their own businesses. I joined the program and it helped me to launch my business. 2019 was a great year for me. I participated in a lot of fairs and markets in the DMV area. I was finding clients and also was selling my products in a small boutique, called Things from Egypt and Beyond, in Takoma Park. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
When I decided to start my business, I had no idea what kind of steps I needed to take. I am a creative person and had no experience in business. But I had a great product and was sure that I would be able to sell it immediately! I was very naive and didn’t think about all the ins and outs of owning your own small business. 

The pandemic completely stopped my business in 2020. The shop in Takoma Park was closed and all fairs were canceled. In 2020- 2021 a lot of clients were telling me the same thing: Your jackets are beautiful but I don’t go out anymore. Things started getting better in spring 2021 and in the summer, I joined two programs called Shop Local and ShopHer. Both programs are retail business incubators supported by the DC Women’s Business Center and the MD Women’s Business Center. They host small businesses selling products such as clothing, jewelry, soaps, home goods, and art from all over the world including Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, Hungary, Columbia, the African continent, Mongolia, and the U.S. 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
When I produce and sell my clothes, I want to tell the world about the traditions and culture of my country, about people living in it, but also about the beauty and richness of my land. People rarely know anything about Uzbekistan, so it’s an opportunity to provide a positive image of my native country. 

I want to give women the opportunity to be elegant and stylish while sharing in a unique, centuries-old tradition from Central Asia. Yul d’UZ’s clients know that the coat they are wearing is one of a kind and are able to share the history of the material with friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, and even strangers who stop and admire. 

My personal relationships with designers, tailors, businessmen and women in Central Asia provides me with direct access to a diverse supply of handwoven ikat material. I am able to navigate local bazaars to hunt down the best colors and the most high-quality fabrics to ensure that my clients receive a product that they will be happy with for years. While the techniques used to make ikat today are the same as those used thousands of years ago, colors and patterns continue to evolve as traditional symbols are adapted and used in new ways to create a stream of continually changing material. My personal contacts allow me to stay on top of the most recent trends in ikat, and my ties to the region give me the context and knowledge of the history and significance of the symbols and colors used in the material. 

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
I like Washington because it’s such a diverse and international city. The city is beautiful, I love the historic neighborhoods and I like going to museums, what’s not to like here! 

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Image Credits
Yulia Semchenko

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1 Comment

  1. Christel Detsch

    April 5, 2022 at 2:43 am

    These fabrics and colors are incredibly beautiful and elegant and Yulia’s designs are a perfect fit. This is fashion 2 steps beyond the run of the mill. Her jackets will never be out of date and the wearer will always be admired.

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