Each bag is handmade by the Yu Mei family from cutting to sewing. This is an integral element to the Yu Mei story, these processes are what give Yu Mei it's luxurious utilitarian feel. We create pieces with both the wearer and the maker in mind. Knowing our processes intimately is integral to our ethos that simplicity is complexity resolved, built for purpose to carry with ease.
The process of making a bag begins by laying soft Deer Nappa across the workbench. Paper patterns are thoughtfully placed and weighted over the leather to be traced and cut by hand. Creating a pattern is a process of trial and elimination. Each style is created with a modern women's problem in mind and is born out of a need or personality of someone we know. This makes the act of making a bag intimate.
The placement of the pattern is important, the area we chose to cut from can change the makeup of the bag, this means that placement is specific to not only the style being made but also the part of the bag that is being cut. We often get asked about offcuts from this process, these are used to create samples and one-off pieces.
Once we have the bag cut from the leather custom Yu Mei embossing is applied by combining heat and weight to press gold foil directly onto the leather. This is how we get that touch of Yu Mei gold onto every piece we make.
Linings are important for the wearing of a bag. They cradle your wallet and add to the lifespan of your bag. Our thoughtfully curated linings are either cut and sewn black cotton, or deer suede which is carefully bonded to the leather.
To sew the leather and linings we use an industrial walking foot sewing machine. Leather is a notoriously difficult material to work with, this is why we use specialised machines that work with heavyweight materials. After sewing, every seam is hammered to lay flat. This is both the loudest and most empowering process we do. The other element that makes Yu Mei bags what they are is their hardware, it is both delicate yet durable. To fix the straps we use an iron-cast rivet press. This process is a balance between strength and gentleness. The bag is then assembled and ready for wear.
To show our process we collaborated with Veronica Crockford-Pound to make 'The Making of a Bag' Super-8 film.
Veronica Crockford-Pound is a Super-8 video artist who draws inspiration from the past to create intelligent and playful films for the present. The collaboration between Veronica and Yu Mei was born of our love of her work and the desire to show the process of making a bag.
Photographs by Harrison Gyde.