Growth is a natural progression of development and it’s something that Yu Mei has done in leaps and bounds since it started six years ago.
Owner and founder of the leather-goods brand, Jessie Wong opened her first boutique in Wellington two years ago – a 26-square-metre kiosk-style space that’s now dwarfed by a supersized, 129-square-metre store in Newmarket, Tāmaki Makarau. The latest growth spurt takes an experimental approach, blurring the retail-lounge concept.'
“The brand has progressed and our community has grown,” says Wong. “Yu Mei Newmarket is more of a residence, with a full kitchen and lounge, as well as dining table and art gallery. It’s our home and we want to share that with everyone.”
Furnished with art, collectible design and – of course – leather bags by Yu Mei, the space will host the brand’s collaborations, a speaker series, dinner parties and art exhibitions. “We wanted the space to be multifunctional and essentially a meeting place to host our community, and be a site for the exchange of ideas,” says Wong.
Interior architect Rufus Knight worked from the objective that the Yu Mei customer is an individual “who most likely has strong sensitivity for design and sees little distinction between art and commerce”. He created an environment that exists in a liminal space between retail and residential, providing a canvas for Yu Mei to further explore these connections.
There were a number of existing elements that Knight couldn’t modify due to the building’s heritage-
listed status. With the front half of the space characterised by a polished concrete floor, white walls and track lighting, enhancing the brick wall at the rear of the store contributes a richer, warmer character in counterpoint to the gallery-like feel of the point-of-sale and display area.
“We felt the exposed brick contributed to a more loft-like experience, further enhancing a sense of domesticity,” he says. “The overall effect is serene and inviting and, we hope, a stage on which Yu Mei can continue to define their retail lounge experience.”
8 Kent St, Newmarket, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland