Getting a certain look for the home — Mediterranean casual, country French, super-bling, futuristic — can be tricky when dealing with small spaces. What works at Versailles simply looks gaudy in 200 square feet. It can be done, however, with the right kind of accessorising. The trouble then becomes where to find the right stuff in Hong Kong. Enter Grace Leo and her new online interiors boutique.
Coming to retailing from over two decades in the hospitality industry (and Grace Leo International), Hong Kong native Leo launched the luxury online concept store A Touch of Grace in May. The idea is to bring a touch of European elegance and lifestyle to consumers here and in China through an interactive platform, complete with two-way conversations and retailer-consumer exchanges (like “Ask Grace”). Leo sourced the stock herself from among Europe’s most sophisticated artisans and manufacturers, and it now includes Apto bags, Vittorio Martini writing instruments, bone china by Dibbern, Garnier-Thiebaut linens, leather furnishings by Giobagnara and porcelain from Médard de Noblat among others.
“The products I have chosen for my website must first and foremost reflect the tastes and standards I have adhered to as a professional designer for the last twenty-five years,” explains Leo of the process of choosing what goes onto A Touch of Grace’s site and what doesn’t. “This means they must all be made only in Europe, be representative of only the highest degree of craftsmanship and quality, and must only come from those world-renowned European luxury goods companies I have consistently worked with or implicitly trust.”
Like most shops that cater to repeat customers, AToG will feature wish lists and an order history of products broken down into four categories for easy browsing: tableware, décor, bed & bath, pampering — summed up as fashion accessories — and gifts. Beyond that, Leo has grouped everything into themes according to city: “curated ensembles” that pair disparate parts for maximum impact. The themes are built around some of the Continent’s most vivid cities, including London (recalling the manicured chic of Mayfair), Paris (an ode to the romantic luxury of the Left Bank) and Florence (celebrating the artisanal craftsmanship of the Renaissance town).
The question, of course, is what makes A Touch of Grace different from every other concept store that’s opened in Hong Kong in the last decade. Design and lifestyle are bigger business than ever, so what keeps AToG from being overwhelmed by so much white noise? Some of it has to do with exclusivity but a great deal has to do with catering to Chinese consumers, who can’t drop into the local department store because of that most basic hurdle: distance. “By shopping with A Touch of Grace, consumers from all over China … can now finally select a fine array of artisan luxury products, without leaving their homes,” says Leo. The site features new brands previously unavailable in the PRC, and, as a bonus, “You can benefit from my many years of experience, by getting the kind of personalised and first-class advice that many retail stores simply can’t provide.” And the sometimes tactile nature of shopping hasn’t been ignored, more like re-envisioned for the digital age. As Leo assures, “Our online boutique possesses the interactive and aesthetic capabilities to showcase a luxury product’s finest benefits or virtues, with great finesse, acumen, attention to detail and appeal.”