Wing Yau at her studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
WWAKE offers a fresh perspective on heirloom jewelry; Closer by WWAKE is a line that imbues hand-made, artful, and geometric silhouettes. It should come as no surprise, then, that the founder and designer of these brands, Wing Yau, is a trained sculptor.
“I have a background in sculpture,” she recounts. “I grew up in the recession and had such a hard time getting started with my artist practice. It was a tough time, and I really didn’t understand how the industry worked and how it was hurting then. So I ended up just making stuff; I made small sculptures, and they slowly turned into jewelry.”
Now, after six years since founding WWAKE, Yau has a bustling studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that has a full time staff of 12. She is also about to present her vision, aesthetic, and extensive collections at Couture, the esteemed jewelry trade show in Las Vegas, to a coterie of fashion editors and retailers.
“WWAKE is a metaphor for the way I like to design,” says Yau. “Like the waves in a body of water, I like to design many integrations of the same gesture and let the collections speak for themselves.”
“I work in an old industrial area in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that is still protected,” she said. “There are a lot of t-shirt factories. Some of the buildings are just empty, and I’m starting to see them change over. The cool thing is that we’re in the Brooklyn Art Studio network with a lot of artists. We moved here around four years ago. One of my best friends is a photographer who shot all of our look books and until last year, had her studio here.”
“I live in Clinton Hill,” she says. “It’s a neighborhood that has amazing old-school architecture. It’s really diverse. It’s not changing, which I really appreciate, having lived in New York for a handful of years now. My favorite room in my home is the bedroom. Natural light is super important to me, and having big credenzas to lay all my little collectibles on. I’m a big collector. I collect rocks and little souvenirs.”
“Homecoming is my favorite neighborhood coffee shop. Filled with cute plants and cheeky pottery, it's the best place to grab a coffee before my short walk to the studio! It inspires me to fill our work space with interesting plants and objects."
“I also love Achilles Heel because they have awesome food and are always experimenting with their menu. It has a casual bar setting, and used to be a 1930s sailor’s bar. In Clinton Hill, I love to eat at Romans and this new place Meta, which is a restaurant that does a lot of Mediterranean food. At Meta, I like to order this really amazing romaine salad and a whole fish. At Romans, I usually go for the small plates. They change their menu so frequently, but they always have chicken pâté, which is apparently my go-to, as well as their root vegetable dishes.”
“Oh man! I am just a couch potato,” says Yau. "I love relaxing at home, watching TV. Lately, I’ve been returning to early episodes of The Office. I also have major bath rituals. I use epsom salts and add in monk oil and lavender oil, then I get in the bath with a good book and sheet mask.”
“I love this straw bag from Colombia,” she says. "It is a snail-shaped purse made out of straw by artisans, where we get our Fairmined gold. This piece is new and from my recent trip, when I was visiting our mines. So I’ve only had it for two months and it’s waiting for spring. I’ll pair it with a kaftan and sandals.”
“I also love my mom's boots, from her days when she said she was a 'so-called wannabe hippie'. My mom doesn’t have a lot items that she kept because she thought she was never going to get married or have kids," explains Yau. "But these boots are one of the oldest pieces from her wardrobe that she's actually been able to pass along to me. I wear them all the time. They’re super comfortable and the leather is really good.”
“In Paris, I go to this place called Nice Piece in the Marais,” she says. I also love Dusty Rose Vintage here in New York. Dusty Rose has a warehouse on the way to my studio.”
I think there is a lot to be discovered in Colombia,” explains Yau. “Growing up, I spent a ton of time in South America, but not really in Colombia.”