The missing items include three irreplaceable bags that were created as part of a special collaboration for Matariki. Photo / Supplied
Designer of luxury leather handbag brand Yu Mei is “gutted” after a thief broke into her studio and stole 70 bags.
The burglary took place a few floors above Yu Mei’s flagship store on Wellington’s Victoria Street on the morning of January 4, when designer Jessie Wong was on vacation.
“It’s obviously a blow and not the best way to start the new year,” Wong told the Herald.
She said the thief “emptied as much as he could in one go”. Of the 70 missing handbags, three are irreplaceable, which were created as part of a special collaboration to celebrate Matariki.
The total retail value of the stolen goods would be close to $50,000, Wong estimated.
A police spokesperson said investigations into the burglary are ongoing and at this stage no charges have been laid.
“We ask members of the public to beware of high-end handbags potentially being sold online after the burglary.”
Wong believed the culprit must have inspected the building in advance to plan the break-in.
She said they entered the building’s fourth floor and broke through the locked studio door, likely with some kind of metallic object.
“We can hear someone force the door open on the camera system and then hear something that sounds like metal falling to the floor.”
The thief then disabled the camera system by removing the connecting cables, Wong said.
Boxes of stock were taken and rolled onto a cart already in the studio. None of the handbags have been seen since.
Wong is very upset to lose the three created by a Maori-led Matariki kaupapa, titled Whānau Mārama (Heavenly Bodies).
Wong worked with artist Nikau Hindin on the bags.
“These bags were a real labor of love and Nikau and I would really love to see them return, even if it’s anonymous,” Wong said.
“The bags were one of my proudest moments at Yu Mei last year. It was just a special thing, we just can’t do it again or make another copy.”
Hindin was devastated.
She lost track of the number of hours spent painting the bags over several weeks.
“These are really special pieces. It’s kind of unimaginable that they were taken and we don’t have them anymore, because it was an important project for both of us.
“I wish they would come back.”
Wong has since tightened security at the studio.
Police have asked anyone who has seen such handbags for sale, or has any information that might help them in their search, to get in touch via 105 and quote case number 220104/7961.
Information can also be provided anonymously via Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.