Unfortunately I missed the Dunedin launch of new knit-wear and bag brand, Yu Mei
but recently caught up with the designer, Jessie Wong to find out a bit more about her and her awesome label! Knit-wear images coming in my next post, so keep your eyes peeled! x
First up…who are you?
My name is Jessie Wong, I’m a Wellington born designer now living in Dunedin. My label YU MEI is my middle name- given to me by my Chinese Granddad- it means young & beautiful.
Where are you from and where are you based now?
From Wellington, based in Dunedin now. Dunedin is like a little Wellington really.. both harbour cities.
Did you study fashion design, if so where?
I studied fashion at Otago Polytechnic right here in Dunedin.
When did you start your brand?
YU MEI was started right after my first year at polytechnic. I made a few dresses for Slick Willy’s in Dunedin and then got a little order from Harry’s boutique in Wellington, I had woven labels made and and that was it! Although the company was officially registered on the 9th March 2015.. so really we’re only 4 months old.
What do you create? What materials do you use?
YU MEI is a luxe leather and knitwear label. I use 100% premium deer nappa from New Zealand Light Leathers in Timaru for the bags. They supply to some of the world’s best fashion houses so i’m very lucky to have access to the same quality product so close to home. All the YU MEI knitwear is 100% lambswool, so delicious and soft. It’s also knitted in Dunedin, and all my bags are made in house (by me!) at my studio, shoutout to keeping it local!
Why did you start Yu Mei?
I’ve always loved creating things, I’ve been sewing since I was 11 and have always wanted to own my own business. When I was 15 I did an internship at Karen Walker and that was the first time I saw a whole workroom in action. From design, to pattern making, grading, sampling and photoshoots, I loved it all. I also fell in love with the idea that fashion is ever changing, not just every 6 months, but it’s every couple of weeks that my job in the studio is different. One month I’m in production, the next is design. I’m not good at monotony so it’s ideal for me. Last year I was lucky enough to win an AMP National Scholarship which enabled me to start the business straight out of my degree. I am so thankful for that because I have the momentum now and I didn’t have a plan B!
How would you describe your brand?
YU MEI is a leather and knitwear label devoted to the creation and presentation of understated luxury. Bag designs are born from a base level of utility- built for purpose to carry with ease. YU MEI’s mission is to create quality products that will weather your journey with you, each new scratch and mark another adventure in your story.
I try to approach all YU MEI design with simplicity in mind. That saying you’re taught in primary school- KISS- keep it simple, stupid- is something I tell myself a couple times a day. When I was at Polytech I had a hard time doing this in my collections- too many ideas! Too many things to say! It’s hard to edit.. but there will always be plenty more collections in the future to convey my message. I’ve since realised that simplicity is complexity resolved- a quote that my good friend Courtney pointed out was fitting. And that’s what YU MEI is all about.
What inspired your latest collection?
The collection I’m working on at the moment is called “Make Noise”, each item in the collection is the distillation of the personality of someone that I find interesting and influential, the people who have a unique perspective and something to say- the people who make noise! It’s a work in progress.. early days but there are some exciting things in the mix.. including more knitwear!
Where is it available?
We’re stoked to be with three RAD Otago stockists- Slick Willy’s Dunedin, 47 Frocks Wanaka and Angel Divine Queenstown. We love them all! Plus you can get them online here