Tessa Vermeulen, founder of Hai bags and Gennaro Leone, senior curator at Boiler Room
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.