Summer’s most luxurious beach bag is the MVP of keeping your gear dry

Yu Mei’s first foray out of leather, UTILITY does what it says on the tin

It’s been said that a true Parisienne treats her handbag with the same nonchalance of a soaked beach towel.

Jammed full of newspapers, compacts and other necessities before being flung across metro seats and café tables, her bag gathers a collection of lipstick and ink stains on the inside, and scratched hardware and faded leather on the outside, all to a very lived-in and yes, effortless effect. 

For those of us who can’t quite bring ourselves to take such a relaxed approach to our expensive luggage and instead treat our bags like an eccentric pensioner does her pedigree cat, Yu Mei’s new line provides a bridge between being life-proof, while staying understatedly luxurious. 

UTILITY is the answer to the demands of summer – and then some. Made from an entirely regenerated nylon, the creamy Portrait Tote and coffee Landscape Tote headline a collection that weathers wetness, sand and anything a beach day may, quite literally, throw at it. 

Then there are the three insertable organisers in small, medium and large, designed to save you the admin nightmare of transferring the essentials (phone, wallet, keys) from beach bag to work tote and back again, or worse – not transferring these essentials, and suddenly finding yourself locked out of your house in your togs.

Upping the utility factor of these organisers is that they make for very chic handbags on their own — no leather exoskeleton needed. 

Take the pearly blue and wasabi-kissed medium organiser and tell us it wouldn’t look out of place by the pool. Your towel folded neatly within, bikini in one side pocket, a full-size bottle of Raaie SPF in another, and dog-eared novel somewhere in the centre. Your snooze in the sun might be mildly ruined by over-zealous splashes, but its integrity will not, and you have its trusty nylon build to thank for that – and for ensuring grains of sand smooth right off, post-beach day.

Yu Mei Utility organiser

Now for the nitty gritty: a regenerated nylon, ECONYL®, forms the backbone of the UTILITY collection which comprises the aforementioned big totes, three sizes of insertable organisers, and the smaller cosmetic and cable carriers. 

It represents two big steps for Aotearoa’s handbag scene. For one, it’s Yu Mei’s first move away from their signature deer napa leather (although the organisers each feature a leather drawstring).

But it’s also the byproduct of an exclusive partnership behind Italy-based sustainable textile makers Aquafil and ECONYL®, a special regenerated nylon. 

In simple terms, this innovative material sees carpets, fishing nets and other industrial waste transformed into the nylon 6 polymer. The result? A special fabric that can be recycled, recreated and remoulded infinitely, no new resources necessary. 

For every 10,000 tons of ECONYL® produced, 70,000 barrels of crude oil are saved and 65,100 tonnes of co2 avoided.  

The result of three years of hard graft for Yu Mei founder and creative director, Jessie Wong, UTILITY is the answer to a question the designer posed to her community: what exactly do wearers want from a bag?

“It turns out, a lot of us are out of the house for 10-12 hours a day. We need gym bags, baby bags, travel bags – they need to be hard wearing, but also need to speak to the understated luxury aesthetic of our community,” she says.

It’s the perfect safety net as you smugly start to think about setting your OOO for the year. While you’re relaxing on the beach this summer, you can trust that your Yu Mei Utility tote will be putting in the work.