Jessie Wong designs leather bags under the label Yu Mei. She often uses leather to create playful, appealing looks underscored with serious concepts.
Jessie Wong graduated with a Bachelor of Design:Fashion from Otago Polytechnic in 2014, and with the help of an AMP scholarship started production of her Yu Mei brand of beautiful, high quality and functional leather bags almost immediately. She started in Dunedin with one employee, but soon moved to Wellington and now has a work family of nine.
Her bags and wallets are keenly sought after, available online and stocked by selected retailers throughout the country. She uses deerskin leather sourced from New Zealand Light Leathers, and all design and production is carried out in house. Cutting the pieces for each bag is usually done individually since no two leather skins are exactly the same. ‘ Each bag design is born from the ethos that simplicity is complexity resolved, built for purpose to carry with ease.’ Both user/wearer and maker are considered in the design. Each bag carries a touch of gold in the embossed logo.
Jessie’s designs were part of the New Zealand Fashion Museum / Otago Polytechnic exhibition A Darker Eden: Fashion from Dunedin in 2015. She has shown her collections at New Zealand Fashion Weeks and Yu Mei bags featured in the Wynn Hamlyn show at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival in 2017. Collaborations with other designers and creators is part and parcel of Yu Mei’s operating style, from sharing space to photo shoots and shows.
Sustainability is important to Jessie Wong and her team, as is openness about sources, production and work ethics on the Yu Mei website. Off cuts from the leather skins are used for samples and one-off items and all bags are designed and made to last a wearer’s lifetime, with signs of wear becoming part of the bag’s journey.
Text by Jane Malthus. Banner image by Laura Benjamin, image © Yu Mei.
Last published February 2019.