Main Image: Courtesy of Mary Katrantzou

The Woman Behind Fashion’s Latest Investments

Chinese heiress-turned-investor, Wendy Yu, has quickly become a key figure in the west’s financial landscape; now she’s turning her attention to promoting local designers abroad.

During Shanghai Fashion Week, at the Business of Fashion’s second annual BoF China Summit, Wendy Yu, Chinese investor and philanthropist, spoke on “Investing in China’s Fashion Stars of the Future.” She announced the launch of the BoF China Prize, a new venture in partnership with the BoF to give worldwide exposure to China’s promising young talents. Fresh from backing a curatorial position at New York’s Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute in March, Yu is now yielding her power to promote Chinese designers in the east.

Although still in the early stages of her investment career — she established Hong Kong-based investment firm, Yu Capital in 2015 to focus on emerging businesses in fashion, lifestyle and technology sectors – she has quickly become a leader in the field. Thanks to her astute eye for innovation and creativity — and the ability to negotiate the labyrinth of ways for international businesses to break into China’s market — her stamp of approval is no small matter.

“When independent designers try to enter new markets, they often don’t have big budgets, and they can’t afford to go very far,” Yu explained during the talk. “I realised that I’m in a very unique position to bridge the gap between China and the rest of the world through funding and business development.”

“British designers are always fascinated by China’s market, but the country is such a huge mystery to them”

Attributing much of her success, thus far, to her passion and intuition, she told the audience that she tends to be more personally involved with her fashion investments over tech: “I’ve met a lot of young designers through the British Fashion Council, and many became my friends before I even considered going into business with them. It’s like a marriage; you have to share a long-term common vision and see where you can complement each other.”

Yu is indeed London-focused. She has already made donations to the Victoria & Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Trust; she is also the youngest member of the BFC’s board of trustees. The young entrepreneur has also invested in a number of international designers and helped them expand in China. Most recently, in late 2017, she acquired a minority stake in London-based womenswear label, Mary Katrantzou. “British designers are always fascinated by China’s market, but the country is such a huge mystery to them,” she said. “I feel I have the means to connect them with Chinese consumers and become an advisor for them.”

The rise to prominence of Yu’s investment empire comes at a time when Chinese consumers continue to grow as one of the biggest forces in global luxury spending. She adds: “We are constantly fine tuning our direction, but ultimately we want to add value to the global fashion ecosystem especially in relation to China — it’s not just about our financial investments, we also want to increase the strategic value of the brands we support and invest with.”

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