Tessa, we’re really excited here at YMC to start stocking Hai bags. Can you tell us a bit about the brand?
I grew up between the Netherlands and China, and for a long time I had this idea to create a brand using ethically-sourced silk from China. My professional background is in music, so I was nervous about starting my own fashion brand, but last year I decided to bite the bullet. Otherwise, I feared I’d never take the plunge. Hai officially launched in August 2018 and it’s been an amazing journey so far.
Sounds brilliant. So you got it off the ground without any experience or contacts?
Yeah, I got some designs together, and then I went to some suppliers and manufacturers in China when I was over visiting family. Call it fearlessness or naivety, when I got back to the UK I knocked on the doors of some stores that I admired. Now I’m stocked in Liberty London and I’ve created an exclusive bag for Luisaviaroma. And, of course, now I’m going into YMC, so I’m really pleased with what I’ve achieved so far.
How did you come up with the name?
Hai means sea in Mandarin; I see the lightness of silk mirroring the movement of the sea. It’s also the second half of the word Shanghai, which was my home for quite some years. That period of my life is, for sure, one of the biggest inspirations behind starting the brand.
And Gennaro, you work at Boiler Room. That sounds like fun.
Yes. Fun as well as stressful; lots of parties, emails, travel. No seriously, of course, it can be hard work but Boiler Room is a very important platform in so many ways. And my job is amazing. It’s exhilarating to discover emerging scenes and sounds every day.
Being senior curator at Boiler Room means you know your stuff and get access to all the great new music coming out. What’s exciting you right now?
Well, there’s just too much to mention, but lately I’ve been listening to Carla dal Forno, Laraaji, Mohammad Reza Mortazavi, Bullion, Sandro Perri and Not Waving to name a few. And Song of the Sex Monk by Tom of England is currently stuck in my mind, too.
Before you came to London, you ran a club night in Naples.
Yes, LSC. Actually it still exists. It used to be monthly, but now I do it on a seasonal basis with my best friend, Adriano. We started it because we wanted to host the artists we liked from across the globe and bring vital new sounds to Naples.
How did you end up coming to the UK?
I woke up one day feeling I needed some fresh air, new challenges … and the day after, I moved to London. Five years later, I’m still here.
And how did you guys met?
Through mutual friends at an event at St. John at Hackney. We both share a deep love of music; that was definitely a big connection for us.
Gennaro, it’s such a cliché that as an Italian you must be a food lover, but it is true that you are launching a monthly supper club in the next few days, isn’t it?
When I was younger, I spent as much time in kitchens as I did in clubs, dark rooms and concert halls. Over time, the balance tipped and music took over, but the impulse to source, prepare and cook exceptional food didn’t go away. Last week my brother and I launched a new supper club called September. The focus is to create delicious, exciting dishes from the highest quality locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. You can find out more information on Instagram at @september.london
Do you have any tips for someone thinking of starting their own bags or accessories brand?
Just start! If you have an idea that you feel excited about, go for it. Start small and see where it all takes you. And don’t be afraid to ask people for help along the way. Also, don’t quit your day job; this way, there is less pressure, and any profits can be reinvested in the brand.
Oh, one last thing. We’ve put together a special playlist for YMC of new and old music we love. You should check it out.