This story was written originally by Yiling Pan for Jing Daily.
Wendy Yu is one of the rising stars in the field of fashion investment. Her name has frequently been associated with industry power players like Anna Wintour and Angelica Cheung. Diane von Furstenberg, the w fashion designer and president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, once described her as someone who, in 20 years, will be a combination of Wintour and herself.
Yu comes from an affluent family in Zhejiang province, a coastal region that benefited greatly from Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform policy in the early ’80s. Her father is the founder of the Mengtian Group, the largest wooden door manufacturers in China, with more than 1,000 retail stores across the nation. She moved to London at the age of 15 and studied fashion management at the London College of Fashion. Her background certainly qualifies her for the title of fuerdai, or the second generation rich, but she has worked to differentiate herself from the stigma often associated with that group. She set up fashion investment firm Yu Holdings in 2015, which has been a serious venture capital outfit since its inception.
Last month, Yu was in New York to endow a project for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She created the position of curator in charge of the Costume Institute, with Andrew Bolton filling the role.
Jing Daily met her in person to learn more about her work and businesses. She is energetic and outspoken, refreshingly direct when sharing her thoughts and ideas.
“Fuerdai is the term that I like to be associated with least,” she told us, saying she considers herself an investor, philanthropist and patron of the arts, a bridge connecting contemporary China to the West through business, technology, fashion and the arts.
Regarding her latest project with the Met, she told me that she first fell in love with Andrew Bolton’s Alexander McQueen exhibition years ago. “That magical experience made me really emotional,” she said. “Last year, Anna [Wintour] invited me to the Met Gala and later on she asked Andrew to show me around and tell me about the curating process.”
That friendship leads to business opportunities. Yu said the endowment is “definitely connected with my mission for life. This endowment, and the mission for Yu Holdings, is [to] connect investment with innovation and creativity in China and the rest of the world”.
She will take Bolton to China “to give educational talks, host dinners for him, and introduce him to Chinese fashion designers and architecture”.
Another friend-turned business partnership is British fashion designer Mary Katrantzou. Last October, Yu Holdings took a minority stake in the womenswear label and created a plan to help it expand into the Chinese market.
“We met at an event and I was introduced by a friend – it was just casual. I was following Mary’s work. And it was so funny that later, on the second day, she Instagram-messaged me for lunch,” Yu said. “I think before that she checked me out. She asked the CEO of the British Fashion Council about me.”
The rise of Yu and her investment empire comes at a time when the global fashion and luxury industry increasingly prioritises Chinese consumers. Yu is helping Katrantzou navigate the Chinese market by introducing her to local consumers.
“We are actually going to host Mary in Shanghai next week. I also said to her, in China, if you want to communicate with young Chinese millennials, you have to have Chinese social media.” Now, Katrantzou has an official WeChat account and is planning to set up a business account for her label.
Yu was reluctant to give away too much about new designers and labels she would be backing in 2018, but she did say, “I can tell you I am hosting Samantha Cameron in China in November.”
The wife of former British Prime Minister James Cameron, Samantha is no socialite. She previously worked as creative director of luxury brand Smythson of Bond Street, and now has her own light-luxury brand, Cefinn. Yu seems to be making another strategic alliance.