Meet the namesake women behind the Yu Mei bags

2 June 2022
By Hemma Vara

From runway to real-life, we get up close and personal with the Yu Mei style muses.

Yu Mei Autumn 22 collection, 'The Seven Sisters'.

Luxury leather handbag brand Yu Mei recently unveiled its Autumn collection titled ‘Seven Sisters’, the campaign introducing us to seven characters with distinctly unique and alluring personalities which complement each other.

The concept of sisterhood has always been an inspiration for Yu Mei founder Jessie Wong, the designer naming her coveted bags after real-life muses.

There’s Claudia, a jet setting executive whose bag takes her from the boardroom to the plane, Braidy the student who requires room for her laptop, lunchbox and the kitchen sink, and Vi, a party girl desiring a petite companion for precious items while she dances the night away.

Intrigued by these individuals, we got up close and personal with Ch’lita, Braidy, and Milly. They each share personal anecdotes and their approaches to styling, proving they’re the fitting embodiments of their namesake bags.

Ch'lita Collins

I’m an artist and designer. I’ve been working in the fashion industry since I was 16, and I love the free champagne and canapes. I most enjoy talking to the makers and craftspeople that make this industry function.

I wear well-made clothes that are hard to find and even harder to clean. I’m currently living out of a suitcase, so I am incredibly picky about what I buy. It’s not so much about brands but proportions and textures. I’m presently drawn to vintage Italian tailoring. For Autumn, I love a strong-shouldered cashmere coat with a giant scarf and sunglasses.

I met Jessie when she booked me for one of her early campaigns in 2017 (where I jumped into a swimming pool). After that, I asked her if I could intern for Yu Mei over the summer. We’ve been besties ever since!

The Yu Mei Ch'lita bag in sea mist.

The 'Ch'lita' bag

The Ch’lita bag reflects my signature style — polished, confident, and sophisticated. The best part of the bag is how it fits a suspiciously large number of things. I often leave the house in the morning not knowing when I’ll be back home, so I like to bring everything I might need, from a sweater to a toothbrush, charger, and at least five lipsticks.

Obviously, the bag goes with everything. I wear it crossbody while running errands, so I can be hands-free. I’ll switch to the short strap and sling it over my shoulder for the evening because you adopt a certain posture and attitude when you wear a bag like that. And of course, the Ch’lita bag pairs well with heels.

Yu Mei ‘Ch’lita’ bag, $789. 

Laura Braid

I’ve been called Braidy since I was about 10 years old. During the day, I’m a lawyer specialising in international protection and human rights — I’m super passionate about what I do. I’d describe myself as a pretty big nerd. I love reading (and occasionally writing). I also love food, music, nature, and my friends — all the things that make life rich and interesting.

I work with asylum seekers, determining whether they can be legally recognised as refugees or protected persons in New Zealand. It’s a rewarding job, and I feel so grateful to be where I am.

Living mindfully is so important to me. I think Yu Mei really embodies that in everything they do. When it comes to consumerism, I always try to stick to the principles of quality over quantity, simplicity, functionality, and minimal waste. That’s everything a Yu Mei bag is, really.

I met Jessie at Otago University about seven years ago. We’ve been great friends ever since. She was just starting Yu Mei when we met, so I’ve watched her grow from the very first Braidy bag to where she is now, which has been so special.

The Yu Mei Braidy bag in spice.

The 'Braidy' bag

I love the Braidy bag’s functionality! I truly do carry around a ridiculous amount of stuff with me each day. It’s one of those bags where you can just pour it all in, zip it up and go. It takes out all the stress of being caught off guard.

I wear it with coats, pants, shirts at work. It’s also perfect for travelling because it fits everything you could possibly need on the plane – my Kindle device, notebooks, toiletries, and an extra jumper.

I’ve been wearing the Braidy bag every day since the first one was made, which speaks to how timeless the style really is.

Yu Mei ‘Braidy’ bag, $859.

Milly Hewat Wall

I’m a PR girl, and I’m an exceptional cook. I’m a mother most recently — I love my baby girl Coco. 

I’d love to say I have a signature style, but I dress based on my mood. Sometimes I am street, other times super feminine. Whatever it is, I like to find things no one else has. I’m currently coveting preppiness, cute shirting, denim, and my chunky Prada Oxford shoes. I love discovering special designer pieces on Vestiaire and Scotties’ recycle collection locally. I’m an avid supporter of Aotearoa designers, including emerging ones (looking at you, Francesca Pecchenino). I have a small archive of Georgia Alice and a Yu Mei for every occasion.

I met Jessie through working in public relations. I admire her ambition and story, and we share a love for fashion, art and culture. My first Yu Mei bag was a ‘Mischa Mini’ in cobalt blue when Yu Mei did their first-ever pop-up in Ponsonby. 

The Yu Mei Milly bag in black.

The 'Milly' bag

The Yu Mei Milly is compact and chic (like me, haha!). But seriously, it fits a lot, and for someone who’s on the go, I can fit my phone, makeup (which I always apply in my car at the traffic lights), multiple lip balms and perfume. I love the bag’s long strap — I can wear it crossbody when running to and from meetings and the office, and then take it out to dinner.

Lately, I’ve been wearing the Milly bag with a Mahsa trench, warm merino knits, denim, and stilettos or sneakers depending on how busy my day is.

Yu Mei Milly Bag, $875.

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