Fashion passion fuels Yamaguchi's new venture

Olympic gold medalist, best-selling author launches line of women's activewear

Kristi Yamaguchi's line of activewear, Tsu.ya, launches in September.
Kristi Yamaguchi's line of activewear, Tsu.ya, launches in September. (courtesy of Tsu.ya)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(08/30/2012) - Combining her longtime passion for fashion along with the desire to create a means of raising funds for her Always Dream Foundation (, Olympic gold medalist and world champion Kristi Yamaguchi is launching Tsu.ya, a line of women's activewear. The limited 18-piece edition for fall debuts at Lord & Taylor stores and online in September.

Yamaguchi described the clothes as "fun, a little different, added flair." The collection includes yoga pants, leggings, jackets, T-shirts and tops with some distinct fashion accents and trims.

"I always wanted to do something fashion related," Yamaguchi said. "I was also thinking of how to do something like Newman's Own or TOMS Shoes, where there's a philanthropic side to it as well, where part of the proceeds would go to help the foundation.

"Obviously, with my lifestyle, activewear made the most sense, the type of clothes that I was looking for, " she continued. "Some of the designs are sleek. They're very flattering to the female figure."

Tsuya is Yamaguchi's middle name as well as her paternal grandmother's name. The name is recognition of her Japanese heritage, which is also reflected in the line's logo.

The clothes are designed for the woman on the go, the one who wants to wear the same outfit for working out as she does for running errands. Yamaguchi wore one of the jackets when she went out to dinner with friends without saying where it came from.

"Everyone said, 'Oh, that's a cute jacket,' " she said. "It was kind of fun to get their nod of approval on the jacket -- not only fashion wise but function wise as well."

Yamaguchi said she's always loved fashion both on and off the ice and she loved working closely with designer Jef Billings when he created her skating costumes.

"Getting the costumes just right for certain, particular numbers," she said. "I always had a strong feeling of what I wanted the look to be."

Over the years, Yamaguchi has said she was first drawn to skating because of the costumes, so it goes without saying there are chic embellishments on some of the Tsu.ya clothes.

"I like it because it's fun," she said. "It's bling, but yet it's not overpowering for someone who might be a little more conservative. I like the details, the bling -- the rhinestones are actually on the black mesh material. There are a lot of great little details in the ruching. It's really nice how the jacket fits on the body, and the shape it makes is really nice."

Twenty years after winning Olympic gold and going onto a successful pro career, Yamaguchi is grateful and thankful to have so many opportunities. Winner of the mirror ball trophy on season six of Dancing with the Stars, she's thrived on experiencing new and different things.

Dancing fuels the annual fundraiser for her Always Dream Foundation. This year's Dancing the Night Away will take place Sept. 8 in San Francisco. (Due to her commitments preparing for the launch of Tsu.ya, Yamaguchi will not be dancing this year.) Edyta Sliwinska and Alec Mazo, former pros on Dancing with the Stars, will present a portion of their stage show Dancing Temptation: A Journey of Young Love.

In the fall, Always Dream is launching two reading programs in schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. One of the programs is partnering with a national organization, and Yamaguchi said she hopes eventually her foundation can make a national impact in helping promote literacy.

"We've been doing a lot of research and development and expanding our board," she said. "It's an exciting state we're in right now with the foundation."

Over the past two years, she's written two children's books, Dream Big, Little Pig and It's a Big World, Little Pig, both of which landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Yamaguchi is working on ideas for a new book.

Most important to Yamaguchi is being a mom. Older daughter Keara, 8, is into softball, art and Polynesian hula dancing, and younger daughter Emma, 6, is figure skating, with Yamaguchi's lifelong friend and former pairs partner Rudy Galindo as her coach.

"She's enjoying it and taking it slow," Yamaguchi said.