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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Wendy Yu: China's Formidable Force In Fashion Investments - Forbes

Wendy YuPhoto Credit: Chang Qing

Wendy Yu is the founder and chief executive of Yu Holdings, a cutting edge, globally positioned company that makes strategic investments in areas associated with innovation, creativity and philanthropy through its subsidiaries Yu Capital, Yu Fashion and Yu Culture. Yu’s investments include fashion brands Mary Katrantzou (who recently collaborated Victoria’s Secret on their 2019 fashion show), Cefinn (founded by Samantha Cameron) as well as technology giants DiDi (the Uber of China) and Tujia (the AirBnb Of China).

Yu grew up learning first hand lessons about drive and vision from her father, the founder of Mengtian Group, the largest wooden door manufacturer in China. At the age of 15, Yu moved to London to study Fashion Management at the London College of Fashion where she began to build her own vision of a career that was more than a profession, but was a way to make a social, artistic, business and cultural impact — a vision she has both realized and continued to expand on.

In 2017, as part of Yu’s pledge to nurture creativity, Yu partnered with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the endowment of Andrew Bolton’s position, awarding him the prestigious title of Wendy Yu Curator in Charge at the Costume Institute. In 2018, Yu’s commitment to the development of the fashion industry in China saw Yu Holdings partner with the Business of Fashion (BoF) to launch the first Business of Fashion China Prize: a global fashion award dedicated to emerging Chinese design talent that carries a cash prize of $100,000, a slot on the official fashion calendars of Shanghai Fashion Week and London Fashion Week and mentorship from industry leaders.

Most recently, Yu was featured on the cover of Forbes China forming part of their “30 under 30” list as an industry leader in Fashion and Arts. Yu is fast becoming one of the world’s most influential millennial entrepreneurs to be shaping the creative and cultural landscape.

Carrie Hammer: What was behind your desire to create Yu Holdings?

Wendy Yu: Ever since I was a child, I had the urge to become an entrepreneur, however not the traditional type of entrepreneur like my father. My father has been a huge influence - he has always encouraged me to keep asking myself where I want to go and how I want to get there. From a young age, I’ve had the mindset of not just finding the right position for myself, but also finding the right pathway to get me there. I see myself as a creative entrepreneur on the global stage, building the bridge that connects investment with creativity. As a millennial, I’m passionate about philanthropy and supporting social and cultural impact as much entrepreneurship and making money. I want all that I do to be new and refreshing.

Hammer: What was something that you learned about yourself as you developed the investment firm?

Yu: I have learned so much about myself. I have started to become more and more aware of my strengths and weaknesses. To be a leader you have to really know who you are and you have to find a team that complements you. I have big vision and I’m a great delegator, which means I’m happy to empower. This also means that I need strong planners and executors around me who share my high standards. Ultimately though it’s not just about my vision though. You have to find that perfect balance between you are good at and what you love, whilst also asking, “does the market really need this?”

Hammer: As a highly accomplished, successful young business woman, you must find yourself in situations where people underestimate you. How do you use that to your advantage?

Yu: I think it is an advantage if people underestimate you. With every ugly obstacle there is an opportunity. I’m a rebel at heart. I feel that the more challenges there are, the more it makes me excited.

Hammer: Why is it important for you to be a role model and whats a role model to you?

Yu: My father is definitely my role model because he is so determined, so positive, so driven but also so kind. Anna Wintour is another. Anna leads by example and has built a trusted name and reputation as someone who you know as having the highest possible standards, acute business sense and the ability to spot opportunity and be ahead of the game. You know that when she gets behind something, it’s worthy of your attention. She is also incredibly supportive of people in their careers and designers, which I think sometimes is not known outside of the industry. I’m inspired by women who are hard working, who know what they want and are not afraid of being who they are. Women who are not afraid of falling, of breaking the rules and disrupting the status quo.

Hammer: Personal connections figure strongly into your journey as a business woman. What do you want other professional women to know about the value of curating friendships?

Yu: For me, the relationship has to be authentic. My father taught me that before asking something from someone else, ask yourself, “What can I give to them?” There are takers and givers in life; I would rather be a giver.

Hammer: What are the first things you do to break down a challenge or begin to solve a problem?

Yu: I’m very intuitive and a problem solver by nature. I like to find solutions and move forward, rather than spend time dwelling. In the first instance, I look to analyze a situation by detaching my emotions in order to obtain a more pragmatic overview of the issue at hand. I often call upon my mentors for a second opinion if I feel it is needed, as I know they will have experienced similar challenges over the course of their careers. Then it’s often about finding the most efficient way to resolve a matter - as much as possible, it has to make business sense as well as feel like the “right” decision. As an entrepreneur you have to welcome the challenge and try to remain positive and determined about what you’re able to achieve.

Hammer: What are your views on Shanghai Fashion Week and its place on the global stage? How do you think it will continue to grow?

Yu: Shanghai Fashion Week is definitely becoming more and more influential. Shanghai itself seems to be the fashion capital of China, many brands are choosing to base themselves or, in the case of international designers, showcase here. For the Business of Fashion China Prize, which is in partnership with Yu Holdings, the five finalists will be presenting their collections during SFW in the Spring of next year as we felt it would be an important platform as part of the global initiative. In China though, we still don’t have a sounding board like the BFC (British Fashion Council) or CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America). I hope that a like-minded official body will exist in the not too distant future in order to provide consistent mentoring and a support system for younger designers.

Hammer: What does being a philanthropist mean to you? How has philanthropy informed your business philosophies?

Yu: I’m very passionate about education, especially for children and women. When I am able to make a difference in someone else’s life, it makes me really happy. I think that at the end of the day, when we’re no longer on this planet, what’s left behind is intellectual and social legacies, and the lives that we’ve touched and changed. I think about it a lot—what I want to achieve and leave behind when I’m gone. Life is so short. The things that bring substantial happiness are acts and experiences that have meaning and substance. When you have a bigger perspective, you can more easily take action. The life I would be most proud of is the one that makes positive impact to many people’s lives. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to do what I do right now - I see business and philanthropy as one.

Hammer: How do you see the influence and presence of women in leadership positions in Asia changing? How are you seeing women in business in China changing?

Yu: Things have definitely progressed over the last two decades. I think society’s view of how women should be has changed as we celebrate inspirational female entrepreneurs. Women feel more empowered to be independent and are conscious about being positive role models for their children, which should not necessarily mean sacrificing a career. I think you have to live and lead by your own example and encourage others to do the same.

 

 

 

 



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