Pickled skins from New Zealand; awaiting finishing. Skins that arrive for the tanning process have very low levels of scarring, largely thanks to world-leading welfare standards employed by New Zealand venison farmers.
June and July are busy ones in the secret lives of handbags. Collection drawings are finalised; leather skins are graded and coloured; samples are produced, shot and shown. The process begins at our Wellington studio on Victoria Street and finishes on the rue de Teheran in Paris' 8th—with stops in Hong Kong, China and London.
Field Notes are the journal entries we've kept along the way. They're for those of you who like to know the provenance of your bag and those who want a front-row seat into the genesis of a collection.
On route to Paris Fashion Week ‘24 Founder and Creative Director Jessie Wong travelled to China to visit the tannery where our signature Deer Nappa arrives for finishing. Jessie caught up with tannery CEO Edward Ma, witnessing first-hand how the legacy of NZ Light Leathers's finishing process lives on offshore.
In 2019 Timaru-based New Zealand Light Leathers closed the finishing arm of its tannery. This little-known producer of the world's finest deer nappa had—for decades—been the go-to for the likes of Prada and Hermes for the production of luxury handbags.
The closure posed a problem for us, we rely heavily on deer nappa for the majority of our collections. The material allowed us to apply garment-making techniques to our designs, giving Yu Mei bags the utility that modern women now demand in handbags.
More importantly, the Light Leathers team had become part of the family. Their generosity in supplying a homegrown brand like ours had given us our start in life. In the end, this strong relationship kept the dream alive. Light Leathers was still involved in the first part of the tanning process, the pickling, and were gracious enough to reach out to trusted industry contact Edward Ma to grade and colour the South Island skins.
Edward Ma specialises in deer leather. A Hong Konger, Edward's father was originally a tanner from Shanghai. After four years studying the craft in Northhampton in the early 90s, Edward now runs his Guangdong-based tannery alongside his brother Eric.
Based in Guangdong Province, China, Edward had worked alongside Light Leather's Barry Parsons for over ten years. Barry trusted Edward to take on the Light Leather recipe. After a year of consultation and refinement between Edward and Barry's team, the sample skins arriving in our Wellington studios were the familiar, buttery soft leather Jessie had handcrafted her first 500 bags with.
As a collection goes to the sampling phase, nothing compares to visiting our tanneries and seeing the colours produced first-hand. Unlike digital printing on paper materials, colouring a skin is an iterative process that takes time and precision. There’s no print preview.
Edward and his team have quickly become close friends of the brand, and after dozens of Chinese tea breaks, we said zàijiàn (goodbye) to the tannery, knowing the quality of our deer nappa is in safe hands.
Duties and Taxes included for Australia and New Zealand
|New Zealand||Complimentary Shipping over $50 NZD, Complimentary Returns, Click & Collect|
|Australia||Complimentary Shipping over $200 AUD|
|Rest of World||Complimentary Worldwide Shipping over $200 USD|
|New Zealand||Orders shipped within 2-3 working days, sent via tracked Courier Post.|
|Australia||Orders shipped within 2-3 working days, sent via tracked DHL Express|
|Rest of World||Orders shipped within 2-3 working days, sent via tracked DHL Express|
New Zealand and Australia
Taxes and duties are included within the purchase price.
Rest of World
As orders are shipped from our New Zealand warehouse you may incur duties, clearance fees or local taxes. Yu Mei Ltd does not cover these charges and is not liable for any fees incurred; although we will always do our very best to ensure a smooth delivery to you. For more information, we advise you to check with your local customs agent.
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