Meet Yunyi Zhang, founder of online baby & children’s fashion shop Ziraffe, as well as an innovative, new platform called LovedBy_Community ™. Ziraffe is not an e-shop like any other and Yunyi isn’t your typical mother and business woman. She is a unique human being with strong convictions about children and their lifestyles. I crossed paths with Yunyi at the Milk & Biscuits stand at Playtime Paris and it was a great pleasure to find out that we share a few common passions for food and children’s fashion. Yoyo Mom wanted to know more about Yunyi …
Are you a Mom? Yes! I have a 4 year old boy. I love him to death. He has changed my life and it seems like every year, I think, “I just want this age to last forever…it’s perfect”, and then he grows a bit and I think the same thing all over again. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.
What are the ups and downs of being a Mom?
My life has been enriched by this journey of becoming a mom. At the same time, it’s often quite challenging to stay focused on my own well-being and growth. It’s challenging because I sometimes feel like I’m growing as much as my son is on a daily basis. Running a business and learning and knowing all the things I need to know to be successful is hard. Being a mom and the center of a little person’s universe is hard – especially when I know I’m just barely up to the job. I’d say the biggest ups are when I’m able to keep it all together and be the mom I’ve always wanted to be for my son. The biggest downs are when I… can’t keep it all together. The demands of everything are sometimes just too much and I can’t be my best self because I’m just not there yet. And I have to reground and try to do better the next time. But on the plus side, I often *do* – and that’s another up! It’s challenging but rewarding.
What motivates you? Where do you find your inspiration? Good design, great craftsmanship, and art all motivate me. I’m inspired by beauty and it keeps me going. I really love Instagram because it’s an entire world of beauty delivered right to my smart phone. I love to travel and experience new cultures and perspectives. One of the best parts about my job is that I get to travel to Europe a couple times a year for trade shows, and I usually tag on a solo adventure to each visit. I love finding a warm little cafe in some random corner of the globe, imbibing a hot coffee, and watching the world wander by. These visits re-energize me and I come back completely invigorated with a million ideas to implement.
Why/How did you create Ziraffe? Where does the name come from? When my son was born, I had a hard time finding the clothes that I felt really represented who he was. I knew that there must be more than just the mass-produced and generic looking big names out there. So I set out to look for more options – and the rest is history. I started a business that carries clothes that I feel allow parents and kids to truly express themselves. My business partner and I believe that this truly empower children to make their mark on the world.
As for the name, I’ve always loved giraffes. They are such majestic and beautiful creatures. I wish there was more to it, but it came down to a fun play on words to arrive at Ziraffe. I always wish I had a better story for this 😀
How do you select clothing and products for the shop?
Several times a year, I travel to different parts of the world (Copenhagen, Paris, Iceland, London, & Berlin to name a few) to attend trade shows and meet with designers. Every item in our store is hand picked by me – and I stand behind its utility, craftsmanship, beauty and versatility. It’s really important that I see and touch every item in-person, and also that I hear the story behind each collection’s design. Each of these elements is an important element of my decision to carry an item or collection in our shop.
What is your dream for the company? How do you see Ziraffe in the next 5-10 years?
The core principle behind Ziraffe is to help children thrive. We aim to support each child’s self-expression and creativity and to make a better world for their respective futures. I’d love to build Ziraffe into a company that helps children feel empowered to express themselves – and become their best selves; where they learn to appreciate craftsmanship and good design and where they can have fun and stimulate their imaginations – and a place where they learn about sustainability and ethical practices. In the future, I see us growing beyond just kids clothing. I would like us to move into media, education, and beyond. There are unlimited opportunities when it comes to empowering kids.
Recently, my partner and I launched our LovedBy_Community ™ platform, which I suppose sort of makes us a technology company, as well. It allows parents to browse and purchase previously loved high-quality and well-designed clothing from our store – which they can purchase alongside other Ziraffe items. LovedBy_ (LBC) items ship directly from other parents around the world, and you can learn more about their children via their profiles on our site.
We’ve realized that one of the biggest barriers to supporting truly sustainable and high-quality children’s’ brands is the price. It’s hard for some parents to justify paying for higher quality when your kids are going to outgrow something in less than a year. With LBC though, you can buy from trusted families (and whom you can follow on Instagram or other social media platforms to learn more!) and truly partake in a cycle of sustainability. And better yet, when your kids outgrow something, you can resell it on our platform, and in the end, better clothes end up costing less than cheap and soulless big-named brands. At the end of the day, we are what we consume – and we believe that when you dress your children with clothes that have been manufactured from labor that might make you cringe a little bit…that this rubs off a bit on your life. And sometimes the price is right and you’re busy so you just roll with it (I get it). But we want to offer a sustainable alternative that makes the world a better place. And this is what LBC is…and this is what Ziraffe is all about.
Do you have any tips or advice for young people and the parents who are interested in buying from Ziraffe? It’s really hard to say no to fast fashion especially when it’s ‘convenient’ and ‘cheap’.
I think I covered this above. Fast fashion can be wasteful. I’ve spoken with manufacturers – really great companies! – that have said, “Enough! We can’t keep up the pace and quality!”. Sometimes, I feel like we need to take a look at the level of consumption we’re partaking in and slow down a little bit. I guess my advice would be find well-made clothes that you like, that represent you and your kids, and that will last. You pay a little more for it, but it’s GOOD. I guess the other tip I’d have is to let your little one pick his or her own clothes. Let them have fun! Let them express themselves! One of my biggest joys is when I see what my son has picked out for the day based on his mood and what’s going on in his life. This little bit of expression is huge for him, and I think it’s an important part of every kid’s day!
What are your best sellers?
100% organic cotton canvas lunch bags from Canada, gorgeous dresses from Lithuania, buttery soft 100% alpaca sweaters from Iceland, hand-crafted leather scooter satchel from England, 100% premium japanese cotton muslin bibs from California.
What are your must-haves for the entire family (for dad, mom and the kids), whether it be beauty, fashion, accessories, books, websites, magazines, etc.?
For my husband, it’s a good beer. My husband is actually partner at a brewery – Ale Industries, so we have lots of that around…and I *highly* recommend it 😉
For kids, legos. Can you ever go wrong with Lego? We take a box of Legos everywhere we go!
For me…hmm…how about the latest edition of Monocle magazine, The End of the Affair narrated by Colin Firth on Audible (highly highly highly recommend it), a dainty pinky ring, or a good organic lavender infused body oil? Or a night out with my girlfriends where I’m able to leave all the family responsibilities to my husband and just have fun? You can’t beat that, am I right??
You are based in Northern California. Are you from California? How did you get there? What type of spots do you recommend in your hometown or where you live for the family? for Moms and or Dads?
I was born in China, but came to the US when I was very young. I studied interior design in college. Eventually I ended up in the Bay Area through work, where I worked for a top-tier architecture & design firm. Although I didn’t grow up here, I feel like my home is the Bay Area. I love it. I’m a short drive away from the SF nightlife, Napa, hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains (or really, anywhere around here!), the ocean, Tahoe, the tech scene…I don’t think it gets any better than this!
Thank you Yunyi!
This post is also available in: French