Amanda Yip, Senior Manager, Museum Retail Merchandising, answers five questions about her job at M+!
What brought you to M+?
I had been working in product development and merchandising in the retail business for almost twenty years and was starting to think about what was next in my career and in my life. That’s why, when I saw that M+ was looking for someone to do product development, I applied. I had heard about the M+ project for so many years, and was very curious about it. Although I was never particularly interested in art, once I started, I realised that it was something that I wanted to explore more. During my twenty years in the commercial world, I would sometimes work with artists, but never on this level.
It’s very different, and very challenging, especially for someone with my background. I came from the commercial world and studied mechanical engineering, so I'm used to applying my logical and commercial skills to solve problems—but when it comes to art, you can’t always use logic to explain it. It’s quite an interesting experience for me.
Describe a typical day for you
I don’t really have a typical day! But usually, when I come to the office, the first thing I do is to make myself a cup of tea. Then, there are a lot of different things I do in a day. For example, I look for potential vendors, designers, and collaboration partners to develop something for the M+ Pavilion shop and future museum stores. I also work on merchandise strategy with supporting charts and spreadsheets, communicate with different partners on how to have more community engagement via museum retail, and research new materials and technologies which can be adapted to our merchandise development. And of course, I have lots of meetings with different departments, as well as outside of the company, whether in Hong Kong or elsewhere—like China, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, and even in Europe—to explore different projects and attend trade shows.
If time allows, I will usually spend about thirty minutes every day just for myself learning about art and visual culture and the M+ Collections. We have so many different artists and makers in our collections, and I want to understand them all before the opening of the museum building...if possible!
Recently, I’ve also been working on the new online M+ shop with my team, launching in April. We started this project earlier than we had planned, because we got a lot of feedback from visitors asking if they could buy our products online. Previously, we had an online order form on the West Kowloon Cultural District website—still workable, but it’s always better to have something more user friendly. I hope the M+ visitors like it.
What’s a moment at M+ that you’ll always remember?
I will always remember the day when the M+ Shop opened in November last year in the M+ Pavilion, as part of Noguchi for Danh Vo: Counterpoint. At the time, the M+ retail team only had two people: Kirstin Mearns (Head, Museum Retail and Commerce at M+) and myself. The shop is not big, but it is not easy when you only have a few months and need to start it from scratch. I basically took on seven people’s workload—vendor sourcing, working with designers for concept, communicating with factories, arranging logistics, packing and unpacking, quality checking, working with the marketing team and editorial team for the website content, developing the shop furniture, arranging visual merchandising, and even being a salesperson when the shop opened.
Creating something like this was very similar to having a baby and raising a kid. And honestly, without the support of my department head, it would never have happened. On opening night, I felt like the baby was finally born. I could see real feedback to what I had been working hard on. When I saw my colleagues buy things and put them in shopping bags with smiling faces, I felt like crying a little bit. It was a very touching moment.
Choose a work or object from the M+ Collections that you like or feel inspired by
I find Wilson Shieh’s works very inspiring. One of his series depicts women wearing different outfits, and it just gives me a lot of inspiration for merchandise—sorry to talk about retail again! Every time I see his work, it is so inspiring. I easily think about hundreds of items I can develop.
Name one thing you don’t think your co-workers know about you…
A lot of people don’t know that I’m a mechanical engineer. I worked in a factory environment for almost eight years. I love learning new things, which is why I also have two Masters degrees: one in Nutrition and one in Business Administration. I do a lot of travelling too, which always gives me lots of inspiration. My friends always wonder how I manage my time…
Another thing about me, that my team knows but no one else in the organisation, yet: I have a dog named Snowy, and he is the love of my life. He’s so cute. If you have a bad day, I can just show you pictures of him and you’ll feel better.
This article was originally published on M+ Stories.