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CZ+You: Jessie Wong

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You launched you current collection ‘Under The Same Sun’ lat last year, can you tell us about this collection - what inspired the range and the film you created to accompany the launch? At the beginning of 2021, we planned a live presentation of our AW21 collection at the Wellington City Gallery. Days before the show, a Covid Lockdown was announced and we had to work quickly to find another way to present all of our hard work. The digital runway was born and we loved the concept so much that we repeated it again for SS21, the production of which also included many twists and turns. We were originally supposed to film ‘Under The Same Sun’ on the Desert Road, with models were styled entirely from second-hand finds that Seb (Hunt) and I sourced from a local SaveMart. In the end, we landed on Breaker Bay, and Adrian and Sebastian worked together virtually to rework the men’s suiting and shirting into a wardrobe of skirts, oversized blazers and trousers layered with tonal undergarments. For the launch of ‘Under The Same Sun’, we stepped our game up and created a shoppable runway, on which the links to products appeared live as the models walked the runway, instantly shoppable, it was such fun!

How did lockdown in Auckland change your perspective on this launch and how did it shape the final outcome? With this in mind, what is in your thought process with future Yu Mei collections? Lockdown in Auckland was definitely a curveball, and although I wasn’t in Auckland I did find it tough not being able to run our Newmarket and Commercial Bay locations for that period of time. I’m so thankful for the internet, we instead hosted our launch live online with a series of Zoom parties before the event where we were able to connect with our Tāmaki Makaurau based friends to celebrate instead. The collection itself is comprised of lots of uplifting colours, and many smaller bags for the summer season which also make the perfect lockdown companions for when you need to stash away your mask and hand sanitiser.

What led you to create Yu Mei? Was there a defining moment? Were there stories you needed to tell? I started Yu Mei because I couldn’t find a bag that would carry everything I needed in a day – bags were very much based on the blueprint of women’s role in society a hundred years ago, big enough to carry your love letters and lipstick, but I wanted something that could carry my laptop and lunchbox; and it turned out so many others did too. Each bag is named after someone that has a real need that wasn’t being met, and their personalities have inspired the features throughout our design. Our formula is to start with a problem and design with the intention of solving it, and if there is one person that finds a real use for that bag, there is very likely to be others out there too who find it may be exactly what the were looking for.

What are some important lessons you've learned throughout your career and launching Yu Mei? Yes definitely, I've learned the importance of having a strong team that are on the train and championing the brand as hard as you do; and to always under promise and over deliver, we try to make sure that if we say something, we do it.

How do you intend women to feel carrying a Yu Mei bag? Yu Mei customers are forward-thinking individuals who lead busy lives. The experience of carrying a Yu Mei bag should be seamless, you shouldn’t even notice you’re carrying it. Your bag should work with you and give you a sense of confidence and ease throughout your day.

What is your daily routine? Different every day! I try to get in Reformer Pilates and PT sessions a couple of times a week, I am very reliant on my diary to remember what is happening throughout the day and I always pour a filter coffee from our Mocca master as soon as I get to work.

How do you keep your hair in peak condition? By visiting my hairdresser Daniel Cook often and using a mask and tangle teaser in the shower a couple of times a week. I am very lucky to have straight hair (I’m half Chinese) so it’s not too tricky to take care of.

CZH pioneers clean haircare - how have the products changed your hair? I adore CZH products for their beautiful custom blended fragrance, they keep my hair fresh and hydrated and I love that they don’t smell of chemicals like so many other brands in the market.

FROM LEFT: HAIR & BODY PERFUME OIL; SILK HAIR WASH & CONDITION

What are your favourite aspects of the Silk Hair Condition. My favourite CZH product is the Silk Hair Conditioner because it works to ensure my super fine and sometimes knotty hair is easy to comb. It’s hydrating and nourishing — which has been especially important as I've been lighting my hair and have recently learnt it’s no mean feat going blonde.

CZH champions sustainability and we are always striving to make sure all our practices reflect this - how do you work sustainability into your daily lives and hair and beauty regimes? I think sustainability is just a necessary way of living. Regeneration is a key pillar at Yu Mei and we do everything we can to make sure our products have the longest life possible and are working to ensure they can be returned to land and end of life once they’re no longer able to be in circulation. One of my favourite aspects of CZH is the ease with which you can recycle the packaging, it’s not over-packaged like a lot of brands can be. It’s imperative that we don’t create more waste than absolutely necessary and do all we can to offset the impacts of what we consume.