The world of fashion couture is infamously private. Who the customers are and what they choose to buy, is traditionally kept as far away from the fashion press as humanly possible. But here in a rare interview, Charlotte Moore spent a day with Chinese influencer/entrepreneur Wendy Yu, to discover what it’s really like to be a couture customer.
Wendy Yu is swapping looks. Why wouldn’t she be? This is a woman whose insane wardrobe is bursting with Miu Miu, Prada, Gucci and Dior. A woman who seemingly owns every ‘it’ frock from the last 12 months. Whose shoes – sparkling, crazily colourful, perspex heels, tassled toes and beautifully crafted boots – are fashioned out of velvets, suedes and silks.
Who is Wendy Yu?
We are in Paris at the dripping-in-chic Shangri La hotel, two hours before the Christian Dior Couture show, arguably one of the biggest moments in the annual fashion calendar. ‘Dior is every girl’s dream, so timeless, so classic, so feminine,’ gushes Wendy. While most magazine or fashion editors are lucky enough to get one invitation to a show as grandiose as this, she has four. Born in China, educated in UK at just 27 years old she is a businesswoman, an influencer, a billionaire and a fashion fanatic. Welcome to the wonderful world of Wendy Yu.
Wendy’s Pre-Show Prep
Her hotel suite is rammed. Mostly by people, all of them beautiful, slight, quiet and incredibly chic. They speak softly in Chinese. There is no music. Dumplings have been delivered in pretty bamboo steamers, boxes of clothes are being un-packed, tea is being served, the bell is ringing constantly. At least ten Dior bags are lined up in the wardrobe, endless pairs of shoes are arranged underneath. A makeup artist is finishing off Wendy while she ponders about what to wear. She loves the floor length Gucci in a blue toile de vie print but knows that for the show she has to do Dior. She opts for the Dior t-shirt with a Natasha Zinko skirt. She is every bit the cool, young Dior customer. When we finally to sit down and wait for her chauffeur (courtesy of the Dior fashion house) in the ornate delicated scented lobby of the Shangri La we talk frocks, business deals and why she is so excited about today in Paris.
Dior and Jennifer Lawrence
‘Right now I am buying my first piece of Dior couture. The dress I tried on at my first fitting was the one Jennifer Lawrence actually wore to the Oscars. The design team at Dior are recreating it to suit and my needs. I wanted something I could wear to different occasions. They are making the train a little longer, they are adding a piece around the shoulder to make it more versatile. I also wanted to change the colour.
My First Dior
‘I started collecting vintage Dior in my early twenties. I was sent to an English boarding school as a child but had always loved fashion. Studying in England brought me closer to it. I started buying designer pieces in my teens and as my taste developed I discovered vintage Dior. Even now when I wear them now, they still feel relevant. You really feel the magic, the bar shape of the jackets, the tailoring. Every woman who wears Dior looks incredibly beautiful.’
Feels Like Teen Fashion
‘What made me fall in love with fashion? Woah! I have always been so passionate about it. But I was 15 when I got my first ‘wow’ piece – a Burberry backpack. It wasn’t the most chic piece I’ve ever bought, but it felt pretty amazing to own it when I first opened it up at home’
On Blair Waldorf
‘I think the piece that really feels like magic though was a Matthew Williamson gown I bought. Blair Waldorf had worn it in Gossip Girl. I remember thinking how beautiful it was and thinking I just have to have it. It really ignited my passion for designer gowns. I have been collecting them ever since.’
The cost of couture
I don’t see it as just clothing, for me it is a piece of art. I love Giambattista Valli and I recently bought a Valli piece (it’s actually two pieces and incredibly versatile). It was 75K. Art and fashion are connected to my soul. I am building a collection. At some point in the future I would love to have museum for all of my couture gowns.
Flirting with Flamboyance
‘Yes I can be quite flamboyant but during the day I have to dress down a little. For business meetings I love to wear Balmain, Armani, Valentino and of-course Dior. It’s more low-key and sophisticated and suits the geeky side of what I do.’
The Business of Fashion
‘Fashion is like my la la land but the important parts of my life are business and philanthropy. My vision is to connect finance with innovation, creativity and East and West cultures. I am a patron of the British Fashion Council and right now fashion is 20-30% of my portfolio. I have invested in companies that are the Chinese equivalent of Uber and the Chinese equivalent of Air BnB, but fashion excites me far more than my technology investments’.
‘When I told my parents I was going to the London College of Fashion I think they were surprised. I was very good at Maths as a child. My father said: ‘What are you going to do? Sell clothes. I was like ‘no’! Fashion is not just about selling clothes, it’s so much more than that. At that time I think China had very biased opinion and presumed it wasn’t a serious business. In my family you either had to either be in either the banking or business. Now I think I’m doing the things they’re doing, but in a different way. I want to connect proper finance with creativity. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing now and why I love what I do’.