Designers / Industry

How I Got Here: Ming Yu Wang Embraces Her Heritage to Create a Jewelry Legacy


Ming Yu “Jennifer” Wang was the type of child who was glued to her mother’s side, watching her and her aunties playing mah-jongg and seeing how their subtle hand movements created a kind of drama around the game.

“Everyone wore their best on these occasions, and I remember thinking they looked like real-life movie stars,” Wang says. “From their bangles and bracelets, sometimes a featured ring, the style was all about their hands and how they played their mah-jongg tiles. Their style was mesmerizing.”

Fashion would occupy Wang’s early career, stints at designer brands like Liz Claiborne and DKNY Jeans offering lessons in form and structure. She figured out her skills in draping fabric to complement the body could translate to other materials, including metal. Today, Ming Yu Wang New York gives her a place to explore her fascination with wearable art, bold statement jewelry, and heirloom-quality pieces.

ming yu wang ring
The Primer ring ($288) reminds Ming Yu Wang of the dramatic jewelry she saw on her mother and friends when they played mah-jongg, one of Wang’s fondest childhood memories.

It was a long journey from Wang’s birthplace, Taipei, to Vancouver—where her family moved when she was an adolescent in the early ’90s—to New York City, where she debuted her jewelry collection in 2013 using her given name, Ming Yu.

Because of the contrasts between Taiwan and Canada, Wang feels like she had two separate childhoods. But those different cultures also helped form who she is. Her first job was in a Taiwanese noodle shop, whose legendary broth was such a tightly held secret that its owners considered it the essence of the business.

“The owners divided up the portions of the broth when they parted ways,” Wang recalls. “The broth represented the core of the business, and it taught me to be original and authentic with everything in life.” And to pursue work that let her build her own legacy.

ming yu wang bean earrings
These Bean earrings ($298) are an example of the statement pieces with a sculptural feel that Wang wanted to design when she switched her career to jewelry.

Wang majored in Japanese and literature at the University of British Columbia, graduating in 2001. She went back to school in 2004, in New York, and earned an associate’s degree in fashion and apparel design from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).

“I started my career as a design intern at Liz Claiborne in 2005 and worked on knitwear,” Wang says. “I later went on to DKNY Jeans and focused on woven apparel and denim, where I started experimenting more with embellishments and washes.”

The speed at which fashion designs come and go in retail stores and how much material gets wasted made Wang realize she wanted to do something else with her skills.

Ming yu wang bracelet
Wang created the Yu bangle bracelet ($288) to highlight jade’s natural lustrous qualities. Her name includes the Chinese characters for jade (Yu) and king (Wang).

“Maybe it was me daydreaming at work or seeing how fast fashion was affecting the industry—maybe both,” Wang says. “But I wanted to make something with longevity in mind. I loved how keepsakes were passed down in families, just like certain things my mother wanted me to have. I wanted to make jewelry like this.”

As mother to a 3-year-old and a business owner, Wang says she is proud of how far her creative process has come in the past decade.

“It took me a long time to feel more comfortable with what I do and how the stories from my heritage influenced my design. Now that I’m a mom raising my son in Brooklyn, my brand is even closer to my heart than ever,” Wang says. “I think taking time to understand and trust yourself is the compass that I’ve been going by. This brand is so personal to me, so I try to use this platform as my voice.”

Top: Ming Yu “Jennifer” Wang moved from women’s apparel into jewelry when the clothing industry’s focus on fast fashion proved unsustainable for her as a creator and designer. (Photos courtesy of Ming Yu Wang New York)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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