Business as un(usual) Nº 07: Yu Mei

Written by Adam Bryce

Photography Supplied

Covid-19 and the associated lockdowns have put tremendous pressure on the global economy, with New Zealand being no exception. Extreme times like these are renowned for changing the way that businesses and industries operate — creating innovative productivity methods and new ways to communicate and manufacture.

Here, we talk with Jessie Wong, founder and director of leather goods brand, Yu Mei.

Have you implemented any changes that you will keep post-lockdown?

Our daily 10am team Zoom sessions will be here to stay. It took working from home for us to realise we can be connecting more through our work as a team, as well as enjoying increased productivity with a 20-min catch up to focus our priorities for the day. This is going to be especially important with our newest team members working away from our Wellington base in the new Yu Mei Lounge, opening in Auckland’s Commercial Bay.

What have been your biggest take-away lessons from this time?

The huge success of our online archive event which was pulled together in little under two weeks and sold out within hours, proved that the sky’s the limit. Our team worked so hard from home to develop and execute the concept in a tight time frame and it was such a proud moment for us. It really helped us to think bigger in terms of what we can achieve in the digital space. 

In what ways has the lockdown forced you to adjust future plans for your business?

Like many in the fashion industry, we’ve had to reshuffle our collections and stagger delivery times. We’ve been forced to scale back our plans for international expansion. Next month was to be our first season selling in Paris and, with global travel effectively defunct, we’ve had to shift our growth mindset to nurture what we’ve got already — the wonderful community we’ve built here domestically. 

Tell us about the low moments and successes you’ve experienced and how they’ve affected your vision.

The delayed completion of our Commercial Bay store was a low for us. We had just welcomed our new Auckland staff to the team and had been looking forward to opening celebrations for six months before lockdown. Keeping mindful of the important reasons for staying home brought things back into perspective — the store will open and the show will go on. We’re so lucky to have had this time to get to know our newest recruits virtually and support each other as a team. 

As for successes, a common customer request that came out of our online archive event has culminated in a new product offering: the Yu Mei Atelier, where we take on custom orders to be made by our team in-house. Making to order is such a luxury, from a business point of view, and we are especially privileged to be in a position to do so with our in-house production team. From an inventory standpoint, we are using leathers that we already have on hand and producing only quantities that will be consumed so, it’s both an extension of our archive sale’s focus on reducing waste, and an opportunity to really listen to the needs of our community to create beautiful bespoke bags that are completely driven by demand. Customising to order was not part of our business plan for the year but we’re excited about the direction it’s taking us in. Stay tuned.



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