“This collection is about amazing design that transcends cultural references,” says Wendy Yu of her collaboration with French handbag designer Olympia Le-Tan. “I wanted to draw from Chinese culture but to connect with people in all markets.”
The entrepreneur, investor and supporter of new talent is prolific in the Chinese fashion industry. Her Instagram following is just shy of 100,000, and her dinner-party guest list includes Vogue editors Anna Wintour and Angelica Cheung plus designers Anya Hindmarch and Roksanda Ilincic. This year she’s turning her hand to accessory design in a bid to align Eastern and Western fashion.
Her favourite piece, she says, is the Chinese zodiac design, which comes in a bold red hue typically associated with Chinese New Year, the initial inspiration for the collection. Cultural icons like white-rabbit candies and vintage matchboxes are also featured. Despite these references to tradition, the bags are designed to stay relevant beyond the celebration.
“I wanted to draw from some of my fondest memories as well as Chinese symbolism, culture and books,” Yu says. “I’m a big believer in astrology, so I love how the animals and zodiac signs combine in this particular bag. The white-rabbit embroidery transports me back to my childhood, as I’m sure it will for many people, but I wanted the clutches to be beautiful in their own right. I want to encourage more dialogue between the East and Western industries.”
When it comes to personal style, Yu wears head-to-toe designer labels, adding a touch of character to her outfits with fanciful accessories and feminine details. Olympia Le-Tan’s hand-embroidered clutch bags are her accessory of choice.
“I love how playful Olympia Le-Tan is. Carrying one of her box clutches is a conversation starter,” she says. The French designer honed her craft working for reputable fashion houses Balmain and Chanel before launching her own label in 2009. Her signature designs are inspired by historical book covers like those for JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Each piece takes around 300 hours to make and features a hand-embroidered pattern produced in the brand’s Parisian atelier.
Yu’s Chinese New Year collection stays true to this aesthetic – one that’s ornate and illustrative and that celebrates the fantasy of fashion. “Fashion has its own language and culture,” she says. “This collection celebrates the uniqueness and authenticity of fashion from around the world.”
The Wendy Yu X Olympia Le-Tan collection can be found at The Shop at Bluebird in London’s Covent Garden.