nzfw 2016 – yu mei

I got to talk to the charming and very clever Jessie Wong from accessories label Yu Mei about her New Zealand Fashion Week installation 

What is your collection called?

This season is called ‘Fine China’

What would you say are your influences for this collection?

It was inspired by my sourcing trip over to Hong Kong earlier this year. I was over there looking for hardware suppliers but on the way was intrigued by the hot smokey markets. I’ve been there before but it’s always a bizarre sight, the ultimate in luxury – high end designer handbags are completely appropriated and placed into a the context of Asian markets where the hawkers yell and barter with you to sell something that is so stolen. The city itself is an assault to the senses and markets are surrounded by tall crowded buildings that have been painted bright colours years ago, weathered down in the humidity but still display hints of opulence of by gone decades. I loved it.

Fine China is a reaction to the fake luxe bag phenomenon, it takes the colours, chaos and vibrancy of Hong Kong full circle and distils it back into the high-end, handcrafted materials from which they originated. Yu Mei bags are all about a balance between simplicity and complexity- a presentation of understated luxury.

What season are you showing?

Autumn/Winter 2017 – although we go against the grain a little bit with our deliveries…  because we’re accessories we sort of get away with it. We try to deliver as fast as we can make!

What are the challenges in showing YU MEI at NZFW that differs from a traditional runway show?

For Yu Mei I think a traditional runway wouldn’t work as well as what we did this year. We took over Thievery Studio and physically made a piece, from hide to bag right in front of our audience- such a thrill and it got a great response. Our bags are made from beautiful soft deer nappa and are really tactile – It was great to have bags on display that people could touch and get a real feel for, that’s something a picture just can’t convey.

This is your second year at NZFW, how are things different this year?

We were present last year but we didn’t present a show to the media, we only did buyer appointments. That was great in its own way as we were able to secure boutique stockists all over the country. This year it’s was all about getting Yu Mei out there, it’s the first time we’ve had any direct presentation for the media and it was really nice to display the process of hand making a bag. That’s important to us- we want people to get a real insight into our process.

Who inspires you internationally?

I think I’m most inspired by people. The likes of Emily Weiss and Leandra Medine who have each built their own successful businesses, Glossier and Man Repeller, based on their unique personalities and ethos. Also Phoebe Philo – such a strong vision based on detail. Her design isn’t crazy out there but she does an incredible job of creating such a minimal brand that is somehow so different to anything else out there.

Who inspires you here in New Zealand?

In New Zealand I’m inspired by all the great people I get to work with everyday. My studio staff, buyers and PR guys. It’s such a supportive bubble in Wellington and Dunedin I’ve loved working in both cities. Places and people – that’s what makes it for me.

What is your favourite piece from this collection?

Today I’m leaning towards the Jane bag in Buttermilk, probably because I gifted myself the sample over the weekend. Softest leather on the planet, and the Jane is such a nice and relaxed style inspired by my Mum who loves the beach. Summer is creeping nearer and I’m pretending it’s here already.

Editor’s notes

Easily the best “goodie bag” of the week with the most beautiful Yu Mei wallet gifted to all the media. Seriously couldn’t have been happier!

The best way to start the day with dumplings and green tea – I mean who doesn’t love dumplings??

Just loved the concept – the creator, process and product where the star of the installation – a brilliant debut.  Clever and beautifully executed.

Definitely one to watch. I first saw her bags at when I was down in Dunedin for iD two years ago, and have watched her ever since. She will go far…

Simply the best branding – each bag has the small gold Yu Mei embossed near the bottom. Beautiful and succinct.

Photographs by Michelle Weir of Studio Weir

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