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The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School

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LILIE™ high-ponytail hats create impact beyond fashion

Kylie+Liao+and+Lillian+Yee+practice+at+Lynbrook+tennis+courts%2C+modeling+their+hats+crafted+to+accommodate+high+ponytails.+Used+with+permission+from+Kylie+Liao.
Alex Cotterel and Vihaan Patel
Kylie Liao and Lillian Yee practice at Lynbrook tennis courts, modeling their hats crafted to accommodate high ponytails. Used with permission from Kylie Liao.

It was finally here: the product junior Kylie Liao and Valley Christian High School student Lillian Yee had been working on for years came to life — sitting right in front of their eyes. Liao and Yee have been building their company, Lilie Athletica, for more than two years and have recently launched the brand with a line of high ponytail hats. This athletic hat brand explores innovative and fashionable hat designs to encourage active, inclusive communities and inspire young athletes. The name Lilie is a combination of both of the founders’ first names: Lillian and Kylie. Currently, Liao and Yee are in the process of expanding their outreach and studying social media advertising strategies for plans to expand abroad in Taiwan, Korea and Eastern Europe. 

“I am very passionate about giving kids a chance to experience sports because I know it made me into the person I am today,” Liao said. 

Competitive tennis players since childhood, Liao and Yee hope to empower young female athletes and underprivileged children through their LILIE™high ponytail hat — a product inspired by their shared passions for sports. Through their experience playing tennis, Liao and Yee noticed that they could not wear their hats comfortably whenever they sported a high ponytail.

“I never wore a visor since I found it uncomfortable and made me more susceptible to sunburn,” Yee said. “Because of this, I stuck to caps but was still dissatisfied since they never fit correctly.”

Thus, Liao and Yee wanted to create a product that would address this issue with the broader implications of uplifting a larger athletic community. Liao and Yee decided to donate 20% of their company’s profits to support athletic programs in disadvantaged areas. 

They began brainstorming ideas for their high ponytail hat over Facetime. Huddled over blue-light screens, Liao and Yee presented their roughly sketched ideas to each other over countless late-night brainstorming sessions.

Initial ideas looked very different from the finished product sold today. To experiment with different designs, Liao and Yee cut out the back of an old baseball cap and used paper scraps as placeholders. They went through numerous iterations for the back of the hat to maximize its comfort. 

Playing tennis taught them that desired results are achievable with enough discipline and hard work. The sport also helped them build resilience in the face of challenges — something that Liao and Yee find plays an important role in their lives today. 

“Tennis and sports in general had such a big impact on our lives both physically and mentally,” Yee said. “We hope everyone gets the chance to play sports no matter their financial situation, especially considering the high cost of sports equipment today.”

We hope everyone gets the chance to play sports no matter their financial situation, especially considering the high cost of sports equipment today.”

— Lillian Yee, Lilie Athletica co-founder

However, the process did not come without its fair share of challenges. Their original manufacturing company shut down due to protests taking place in the area. Consequently, they had to find another company willing to produce the hat, repeating the process of sending their ideas to companies, testing samples of the product and applying design revisions. 

“We were so proud of the hat that we designed together; we wouldn’t let anything get in the way of reaching our goal,” Liao said. 

Liao believes that a part of their success is owed to the support of friends and family.  

“Our parents have been supportive along the way,” Liao said. “Family and friends were the ones who gave us the confidence to keep on going and reassured us that we had a good product. My teammates also supported me a lot. They had a lot of faith in us.”  

Liao’s teammates sampled the product and inspired the confidence Liao and Yee needed to keep going. They gave out samples of their prototypes to close friends and family to gain a multitude of perspectives from different athletes to ensure that the high ponytail cap addressed all areas of concern. Sakurako Esaka, a junior and Liao’s teammate on the varsity tennis team, was one such early product tester who helped provide feedback to improve the design.

“The LILIE™ hat completely exceeded my expectations — it is super comfortable with any hairstyle, and the hat itself is deep and fits my head perfectly,” Esaka said. “I love how simple the design is — I can wear it with any of my outfits.”

When they received the final product from their manufacturer, Liao and Yee felt a spiral of emotions: a mixture of pride, excitement and relief. The fruits of their time and effort finally came to life.

“That was also another point where we were motivated to keep going with our idea,” Liao said. “We felt immense pride; seeing the product of the blood, sweat and tears that we put in come to life was a big moment for us.”

It’s a brand that’s built out of a lot of love from people who harbor a lot of love for sports.”

— Kylie Liao, Lilie Athletica co-founder

The fact that they were able to hold the physical product of what they once sketched on scraps of paper reassured them that their ideas were worth developing for the next stage. This removed the weight of self doubt from their shoulders, and they were ready to continue onto the next step of their journey. 

After the success of their initial launch, Liao and Yee plan on expanding Lilie Athletica for as long as they can — hoping to perhaps release other types of athletic hats. This entire journey has been a memorable experience for them and they strive to continue to encourage and inspire young athletes to pursue their dreams. 

“It’s a brand that’s built out of a lot of love,” Liao said. “A lot of love from people who harbor a lot of love for sports.”

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About the Contributors
Alexandra Wu, Staffer
(she/her) Alexandra is a sophomore and a first-year staffer in the Epic. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her guinea pigs and going out with friends and family.
Gary Pan, Staffer
(he/him) Gary Pan is a junior and first-year staffer at the Epic! In his free time, he loves listening to music and reading. He particularly enjoys reading French and Russian authors.
Eileen Zhu, In-Depth Editor
(she/her) Eileen is a junior and this year's In-depth editor. Outside of journalism, she likes playing soccer, baking, making bracelets, listening to music, eating snacks, playing piano, and spending time with her friends. 

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