Stewardship & Supply
Yu Mei’s vision is to create a considered existence and cultivate responsible stewardship within our global community. Through regenerative materials and utilitarian design that transcends trends and seasons, we will create a better tomorrow for generations to come.
Watch, and read about our supply chain and commitment to responsible stewardship below.
"Our evergreen approach to inventory means items do not go ‘out of season.'"
Each design begins with a genuine need, that informs a base level of utility. We believe there is enough stuff in the world already and are committed to designing only products that will serve a real purpose. Our luxury leather goods are designed from a considered lens as a modular set that’s multifunctional and fit for the purpose of modern life.
Our evergreen approach to inventory means items do not go ‘out of season.’ Rather, we select limited-run colourways that will work together like chapters in a book, removing seasonal barriers, continuous discount cycles and rampant overproduction symptomatic of an unsustainable fashion industry.
We believe in the intrinsic value of leather as a renewable resource that, with proper care, will last a lifetime. Our bags and leather goods are made from premium New Zealand farmed deer nappa and other luxury leathers, with integrity at the core of our supply chain.
Our design team regularly travels to Lineapelle, the industry's premier leather fair to research new technologies in materials, leathercraft and tanning. We are yet to find a vegan alternative that has the same longevity, softness and handfeel as premium New Zealand deer nappa, but we're always looking out for non-animal materials to rival the renewable properties of leather. We enjoy an open dialogue with our community on the topic of material alternatives - please do get in touch with us at any time to continue the conversation.
Prized for its suppleness and strength, the deer nappa we use is a byproduct of the venison industry and therefore farmed under the stringent ethical standards of the NZ Deer Association’s Five Freedoms. We’re proud to be utilising this regenerative waste material from our land that has a low ecological footprint. 96% of the leather we use is a byproduct.
To supplement our signature range of deer nappa styles, we source lamb from an eco tannery in France, and cowhide that’s embossed with a croc texture from Italy. 33% of our suppliers are Gold Standard certified by the Leather Working Group Environmental Stewardship programme. We aim for 100% of our suppliers to be LWG certified by 2023.
We do not use exotic skins, nor do we support the use of fur products.
Read more about the craft involved in our leather process here.
We have partnered with a manufacturer in Dongguan that upholds the highest level of craftsmanship and social responsibility, aligning with our own values. Matching the manufacturing quality to that of our world-class deer nappa was the obvious next step to ensure the quality, longevity and sustainability of our products. The family-run business has been in operation for 50 years, and we are so grateful to be working with generations of skilled Chinese artisans who are masters in their craft. Our manufacturing partner was recently independently audited by the Initiative for Compliance and Sustainability (ICS) to confirm compliance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), where they proudly received a 90% score.
Read our Supplier Code of Conduct here.
"We proudly offer carbon neutral shipping within New Zealand."
Our annual Archive Event is a crucial mechanism in our efforts to reduce waste. Each year, we reuse, re-cycle, repurpose and reinvent all that would be waste from the previous year of production. This includes repurposing leather offcuts, hardware overruns and odds and ends into archival styles, crafted at our Wellington design studio.
In 2021, our annual Archive Event was the most impactful yet, diverting 29kg of small leather scraps from landfill; utilising 216sqft of larger leather offcuts from mainline production; diverting 12.85kg of brass alloy hardware from landfill; and rehoming 42 second hand bags, submitted as part of our Buyback Initiative.
Our waste reducing efforts extend beyond the design and production stages. We proudly offer carbon neutral shipping via NZ Post for all orders within New Zealand. These are packed in fully home compostable bags made from corn starch, PLA and PBT. International orders will soon be carbon neutral through the DHL Go Green shipping service.
We are currently developing new packaging that is 100% recyclable. Our current packaging option can be recycled if the magnetic closure is removed.
We use sea freight wherever possible to reduce emissions.
Our in-house Atelier provides care, repair and refurbishment for Yu Mei products in circulation, or those waiting to be returned to circulation through our Buyback Initiative. We provide free lifetime repairs of hardware and fixings for reasonable wear and tear on every Yu Mei product, while our Bag Laundry Service offers paid refurbishments for damaged leather and linings. Mending and repairs ensure a lifetime of continued use, cultivating conscious consumption in our community and reducing waste.
Born out of our commitment to circularity, the Buyback initiative works to extend a product’s useful life through mending and refurbishing. We invite customers to return preloved Yu Mei bags for a credit towards their next purchase. Preloved bags will be refurbished in-house and given a second life, to be on-sold in archive sales.
In the first two years of our Buyback Initiative, we have received and refurbished 241 bags. Of these, 75 have been matched with loving new owners. The balance of 166 have been returned to their owners in spruced up condition. We have spent an estimated 182 hours refurbishing and repairing items - the equivalent to over four weeks of full time work.
"In the first two years of our Buyback Initiative, we have received and refurbished 241 bags."
In 2020, we raised $51,590 for the Wellington City Mission through our innovative Bags For All campaign. Read more about the project and the blueprint we created for new ways businesses can partner with charities here. For press coverage, see here.
As part of our ongoing commitment to support the Wellington City Mission, we were a sponsor of their 2021 Art for the Soul charity Auction.
In 2021, we partnered with Aotearoa Art Fair to commission a work by an emerging female Maori artist, Ashleigh Taupaki. This commission allowed Ashleigh the opportunity to exhibit her work to new audiences, network with art professionals and work with a curator to further develop her practice. Ashleigh’s work contributed to the progression of ideas around colonisation, personal history and how communities are interconnected. Read more about Ashleigh’s work and the project here.
Yu Mei is proudly an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and is committed to building inclusive and diverse teams within safe workplace environments. Our company values and employment policies prioritise the elimination of barriers that cause or perpetuate inequality in employment. We do not discriminate based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, marital status or any other characteristics which define our teams or are applicable under law. We welcome all applicants with a desire to join our team