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SUNDAY BRUNCH

Shiny Side Up

October 26, 1997|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Emily Wang couldn't resist touching it. It looked like Christmas tinsel. An elderly woman in a Shanghai fabric shop was knitting it into a sweater.

"I went over and squeezed it and then I said to myself, 'cool, way cool.' "

Others are saying the same about Wang's new designs. She has knitted the soft, shiny thread into groovy little evening bags, rocket-inspired lampshades, gleaming pillows and rave clothing that club kids think is the bomb.

"It's silly stuff, really. It's not intended to be serious," she says of her company's--Lucky Wang--trademark material that stretches, is machine washable and turns heads wherever it appears.

A former Venice resident, Wang, 35, moved to New York three years ago after discovering the Chinese nylon yarn. She experimented in her Brooklyn apartment and a year later she and her partner, Kit Lee, launched the company, a business that came about by accident.

"I wanted a handbag made with the tinsel yarn," Wang says. She had her mother knit the fabric and then Wang, who studied graphic design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, put the bag together. Everywhere she went, "People loved it or others would say, 'that's really ugly' and then they wanted to buy it."

Soon, Wang found a supplier in China who dyes the tinsel yarn in cotton-candy colors she describes as Jolly Rancher shades: purple with periwinkle, orange with blue, orange with pink, as well as solids in hues of copper, platinum and bright white.

Drawstring backpacks, bags, coin purses and aviator hats have put Wang on the map in specialty stores. In the Los Angeles area, her wares are available at Fred Segal, Zipper, Wacko, Daily Planet, Red Balls, Tops, Gewgaws, the Armand Hammer Museum gift shop at UCLA and the Museum of Contemporary Art stores. On Dec. 6, from 1 to 4 p.m., Wang will appear at the downtown MOCA store at 250 S. Grand Ave, where customers are crazy for her fuzzy designs.

New are more hats, snow bunny sweaters with hoods and pompon ties and floor-length Super Fly maxi-vests.

And there's more to come. "I want to stretch the limits of the material," Wang says. She made a golf club cover for Tiger Woods, special order curtains and rugs (made of a blend of yarn with Astro Turf). Also covered in tinsel yarn are notebooks, picture frames and hat boxes.

"Right now I'm covering my ottoman with the stuff," Wang says. She adds, "You should see the walls and the ceiling."

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