Wendy Yu on the BoF China Prize and the 2019 trends-to-watch
Following the announcement of the $100,000 BoF China Prize in partnership with Yu Holdings, WGSN sat down with the investment company’s millennial Founder and CEO Wendy Yu. One to watch, Yu was invited this year to join the prestigious Met Gala Committee, and was named as a 30 Under 30 by Forbes China.
We discover how the prize came to fruition, what Yu is watching for 2019, her career advice and lifestyle preferences as a multi-local.
Could you tell us how the BOF China designer prize came to be?
It happened quite organically. My vision for Yu Holdings is always being able to incubate and support the next generation of creative talent on the global scale. To be the gateway for independent designers to enter the Chinese market and for Chinese designers to be on the global stage.
So it just synced in so well with our vision. Having said that, in the past three years we have done a lot on the international scene. We have invested in Mary Katrantzou, Samantha Cameron’s Cefinn and we are looking to bring these brands into China. But, I thought about what can I do for the young Chinese talents here?
When I hosted Andrew Bolton in China in June, Angelica [Cheung] was very kind in the way that she co-hosted a cocktail gathering for us inviting 12 of the best emerging designers. When we saw their work we saw the potential for them to become global fashion stars of the future. But, I think they need the right exposure, recognition, mentorship and investments.
The BOF China prize is really looking to be that recognition, offering the right mentorship and some level of investment. The amazing network BOF has shared, their knowledge and experience. We are forming a very strong jury from people like Tim Blanks and Pierre-Yves Roussel who use to be the chairman of LVMH Group and we are still talking to some industry insiders and leaders. It’s going to be a very exciting prize and jury, we really look forward to selecting this future Chinese fashion star.
What brands and sectors are on your to watch list in China for 2019?
I am very interested in lifestyle and beauty, too. That’s something we are watching. Designer-wise, I really like Xiao Li, Angel Chen, Xuzhi, Shushu Tong and Ms Min. I think they are all very talented to different degrees. There are also more established ones like Huishan Zhang and Baobao Wan – I like their work as well.
Chinese designers are really starting to find their own DNA, and are finding the balance between East and West. I think Chinese designers use to struggle to communicate on the global stage, now I think that has been overcome. It’s the right moment for them to start to shine.
What about the UK?
Yes, totally! Well I wouldn’t say on my radar, but there are some people’s work that I really like, and adore their talent. I think, with some designers, you can see the talent, but the commercial value isn’t really there. With others, you can see their commercial value, but they’ve not got strong design aesthetics. In order to invest in someone, you really have to find the balance and see their potential in the Chinese market. I want to invest in someone who has their own vocabulary, and also has that drive and determination to go far. To be remembered, hopefully, in fashion history. I want someone who is inventing and creating something new – someone who is setting the tone. I really like Richard Quinn’s work and Molly Goddard’s work.
I think streetwear cult brands and beauty is still the next trend. We are announcing an investment next year around a beauty brand. There are different things we are looking at, but it has to be in sync with our vision, investment philosophy and strategy to achieve that financial and strategic balance.
As a young, executive investor in the fashion and technology fields, what advice do you have for professionals who aspire to work in these sectors?
I think it’s very important to have long term vision about where you want to go, who you want to be and what do you want to build and what do you want to achieve.
My dad was always my mentor, in the way that even when I was about five, he would always ask me to think; where do you want to go, how do you get there. He has instilled that mindset in me. I believe that having a long-term vision is very important.
Once you have that vision, you have to find different solutions to reach that. It’s never going to be a smooth journey, there’s always going to be different setbacks, and things that don’t work out. But, I think your determination and problem-solving skills are key to success in the long run. Be relentless about finding different solutions, and then bettering your solutions to achieve it.
It’s also very important to surround yourself with very good people that can teach you and inspire you. Your team, your mentors and people you work with should really raise you up. I’m very lucky that at the beginning of my career I got incredible mentors that gave me amazing advice. It put me in the fast track to be able to focus on the things that would provide the best return on investment in terms of my time and energy.
You split your time between London, Shanghai and Hong Kong. What are some of your favourite places to go for shopping or dining?
I think I’ve passed the stage of going to fancy restaurants. I love to cook at home and I make my own green juice. In the morning when I’m in China, I meditate and then I make a green juice of mint, avocado, cucumber, lime and pineapple. It’s super healthy. Wellbeing is very important to me. Eating well, taking care of yourself and being mindful. I believe mind, body, spirit is all connected.
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