Words by
Yu Mei
Foreword:Hermione Dryden
Interview:Mia Power

Meet the Team: Chelsea

With sixteen members across our Flagship store in Wellington, Design Studio and our two retail lounges in Auckland, the Yu Mei team could also be called a family. Like all families, each member has a life outside of that family, and, with this second life, questions that are seemingly standard may reveal a lot otherwise left unknown. Beginning with our retail staff, we decided to challenge this “unknown” and interview each other, using questions that leave nothing left unsaid or rather, unknown.

Chelsea wears her favourite shade of sunshine yellow.

Chelsea Lewis, a born and bred Wellingtonian, has been working for Yu Mei for just over six months now. For Chelsea, sustainability is key in all the products she consumes. With a classic and polished style, Chelsea loves how the Yu Mei brand accomplishes sustainability alongside a promise of timelessness and quality in all our bags. If you pop into our Wellington lounge, on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturdays you’ll get to chat with Chelsea.

Q.

Where are you based and what do you do?

A.

I live in Poneke, more commonly known as Wellington. Or as originally referred to by Maori 'Te Upoko o Te Ika a Maui' or 'the Head of Maui's fish.' I spend my 9-5 working part time at the Wellington Yu Mei Lounge and study Operations and Supply Chain Management minoring in Maori Studies which I feel really fortunate to do! Outside of that you’ll find me helping out at Everybody Eats, cooking/baking, spending time with friends and family or attempting to master or take up a new skill or hobby.

Q.

What are some fun or little known facts about yourself?

A.

Probably that I have five autoimmune conditions would come to surprise most people and something not many people know, thankfully for modern medicine I get by just fine! And I've always loved dancing. It is the one thing I feel I can fully immerse myself into, where I’m fully present yet lost in time and unfazed by my surroundings. I value and am grateful to have an outlet and something I enjoy doing to pass time that is only reliant on myself, music and movement. Before starting at Yu Mei, I studied commercial dance full time. I had a lot of fun and was lucky to spend my days doing something I loved and meeting lifelong friends along the way. The love ran dry and my passion to pursue it full time wasn’t there, I still loved to dance just not at the trade off required to pursue full time professionally. This lead me down a path of working and travelling whilst figuring out what I wanted to do! I feel lucky now to be studying something I’m really passionate and interested in doing, whilst knowing I’ve had the chance to try something I love full time; gain work experience and travel. So much of what I learnt whilst dancing, working and travelling overseas helped inform what I wanted to study so am grateful for my journey to studying. At Yu Mei, I feel fortunate to work in a role for an organisation whose values align with my own, with a commitment to circularity and the opportunity to engage with like-minded people. I always get excited when new guests come into the lounge and I have the chance to tell them about Yu Mei, which I’m proud to be a part of.

It's little surprise that the graceful Chelsea is a keen dancer.

Q.

Tell us more about where you travelled, before joining the team.

A.

I was very fortunate to travel and stay in Uganda for a month with Purpose Projects in 2020, prior to Covid. I still struggle exactly defining my time there in words, but it has helped me understand in how I wish to travel and see the world. Travelling in a way that supports the community you are entering rather then exploiting, experiencing culture in a non-touristy way and seeking opportunities to learn and help is really important to me, and what I felt I achieved through my time in Uganda. The people I met have had more than a lasting impression on me and I constantly look forward to returning.

Chelsea, far left, with her travelling companions in Uganda.

Chelsea made many friends on her travels.

Q.

How would you describe your personal style?

A.

I would say my personal style is often more polished and classic. I tend to gravitate toward clothing that is of quality, timeless and doesn’t slip into a fast fashion business model where I see issues with sustainability. I’m drawn to earthy and neutral tones given their ability to easily mix and match but won’t say no to a the odd pattern. I love a story and connect well to brands that are engaged in more story telling. I would love to be a bit more edgy in my personal style and purchase more second hand clothing.

Q.

What's your favourite Yu Mei style or colourway?

A.

It feels hard to narrow it down to just one! I always loved the colourway Sunlight, such a lovely buttery yellow reminding me of happiness and warmth. When picking a favourite style I have always loved Suki, I find the capacity to be perfect for daily small essentials and like the classic box shape with the ability to wear cross body or as a clutch. When I learnt about the story of Suki it made me love it more.

Bright colours of the Ugandan countryside

Q.

Tell us about your favourite feature of a Yu Mei Lounge?

A.

In our Wellington lounge, we have a wall with interchanging artwork hanging that's displayed across from where we sit. This would have to be my favourite feature as it’s a space of changing newness and inspiration. It adds a further layer of conversations with guests, often coming in to look at and discuss the beautiful art we have featured. As someone who has taken a more recent interest in art this provides a great opportunity to expand my knowledge and have a source of inspiration to learn from, which are often pieces from New Zealand artists.

Q.

What's one dream or goal you have for the future?

A.

To have a huge garden! I’m all for a self-sufficient lifestyle and dream of having a huge vegetable garden where I can cook and prepare meals from things I grow myself. It's definitely a dream and to live and consume in harmony with nature and others, I battle with myself understanding how to achieve that. The garden I’m working towards slowly, through helping out in local community gardens.

Visit Chelsea in our Wellington Lounge, now open for contactless click & collect.