Wendy is a handbag designer based in Hong Kong with showrooms in the UK, USA, Switzerland, Italy, China and 5 stand-alone stores in Hong Kong. Her passion for leather started at an early stage when her father bought her her first handbag. Being a new mother & brand owner, Wendy shares with us how she manages her time between her family and her business.
- Name: Wendy Mak
- Graduating Year: 2002
- Years at CIS: 2
- College & Degree: University of Nottingham, England (Bachelor of Business Management)
- Current city of residence: Hong Kong
Could you introduce yourself a bit (background & profession)?
I am a brand owner, bag designer, as well as a wife and a mother to an 8-month-old baby girl.
How did you start your journey in making leather goods?
I have a great passion for materials, especially leather, since a very young age. I used to travel to tanneries in Europe with my father during the summer holidays, sat around with leather technicians, watched them discuss new ways of leather processing techniques while other children went to Disney. I was totally in love with the smell of leather, and from that moment, I knew one day I’d find my way to create my own leather. I hung out with their kids too and now we become business partners of our generation.
Where do you get your designs inspiration from?
I love stories. Stories that I heard during trips or stories of my own. ’Story‘ is like a painting, it‘s filled with vivid colours and strong characters. My stories are full of details, sometimes real sometimes fiction but always inviting people to dive in. I create an oneiric narrative scenario full of characters, which transmits beauty and calm but also lead you to a deeper meaning in observations. My designs are all about them. I invite you to sink and get carried away.
What is the most rewarding/exciting experience you’ve had since you’ve created Cocomojo?
Self-discovery. Nothing strategic, nothing about money. The process of creating something of my own is unbeatable. The most rewarding moments are seeing someone on the street wearing a worn Cocomojo bag from years ago; someone putting an effort in styling her outfit to match with my bag; someone running over tapping my shoulder pointing to my Cocomojo bag and asking where I get my bag… These are the genuine moments of recognition.
What is your advice for any young alumni looking to start a career in your field?
Work in the industry before you decide to do it as a lifetime career. It may sound glamorous and fun, but that‘s only the surface. You will probably spend 90% of your time doing things you are not good at or not interested in. You may need a partner who is good at the things you aren’t, at the same time, he or she has 100% trust in your artistic ability and decision making. For example, in most cases, designers are not good salesmen, they should not be good salesmen either. If there’s too much pressure on sales, it limits your freedom to create something new but not profit-guaranteed. However, a designer’s job is to create something new! So you will need to understand and find this balance before you get yourself into it. Entrepreneurship is a state of mind, you don’t need to have your ‘own business’ in order to be entrepreneurial. Don‘t rush into it.
What are your plans for the future?
My daughter, Gisele Ma, is 8 months old now. She has been my inspiration lately. Unlike other fashion brands, they create seasonal collections. In Cocomojo, we do a lot of customized collections for private shops or customers. Therefore, I will continue and perhaps focus more on collaboration projects that give me flexible time to be with my daughter and family.
Where can we find you and your products?
I am based in Hong Kong now. So you can always reach me! I switched from retail to wholesale business gradually 3 years ago, as I’d like to focus more on product development instead of frontline sales and operation. You may check out my website to find some of my products (www.cocomojoworld.com). I also run showrooms in the UK, USA, Switzerland, Italy and China for private orders.
What was your most memorable CIS moment?
I joined the CIS at grade 12, which was very different from my previous school in the sense of teaching style. Instead of being taught knowledge, I was asked to give my personal opinion on different topics, and they always transform into group discussions and brainstorming sessions. I felt involved as a member, and I find this study environment extremely stimulating.
How did your CIS experience contribute to who you are today?
I was truly touched on my first day at CIS (year 12!) when teachers came over to me and tried to learn my name. It meant a lot to me as a new student. They were transparent and real to me as a stranger, their love was very motivated and positive in a powerful way. Since that day, I have made the decision to love others even if they are not likeable, I believed perhaps one day, someone would be inspired too! The experience in CIS was not only academic but very humane. The feeling of being in a supportive community like CIS has been the foundation of my team management nowadays.
What was your favourite subject at CIS and was it related to anything you actually ended up doing?
My favourite subject was Geography, I guess it is not particularly related to my profession, but it gave me experimental experience on the nature around me, and allowed me to appreciate the beauty of nature more.
Please read the following questions and write down the first answer to pop into your mind (3-second limit ):
- What’s your favourite piece of clothing you own/owned? A dirty pink Vivienne Westwood dress.
- Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished? My father. He has always been my role model.
- What would be your ideal way to spend the weekend? A nice, non-disturbing outdoor play time with my husband, baby daughter and my 2-year-old poodle.
- What could you give a 40-minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation? Anything about leather.
You can find out more about Wendy and her work here: https://www.cocomojoworld.com/