Five years ago when managing director Tarynn Hatton-Jones first opened the Burnt Oringe showroom in Aberdeen, the growing move towards sustainable, green, fair trade consumer products hadn’t quite reached Hong Kong. The idea is still not at the level it is in other parts of the world, though not for lack of trying by green groups. Awareness is on the rise, but for most Hongkongers “green” is about less soupy air and cleaner development. Fair enough. But for anyone already proudly riding that bandwagon, getting the most basic everyday product that practises what you preach can be tricky.
Enter into this picture Burnt Oringe. Oringe trades in sustainable, fair trade and organic bed linens and bedroom accessories (not those kind of accessories). Bright colours and vivid patterns are rare because dying means chemicals added to organic fabrics, defeating the purpose. Ditto for the fair trade materials (which are not necessarily organic) as Hatton- Jones’ goal is to keep them as healthy after the fact as possible. Burnt Oringe doesn’t carry foam, feather or polyester pillows — its product of choice is Pure Earth’s natural buckwheat (which has been de rigueur in Japan and Korea for centuries). And if you have trouble getting your five hours sleep each night the shop carries the natural Sleep Drops that are free of pharmaceuticals and are non-addictive. All of Burnt Oringe’s products are produced using low-carbon footprint processes and natural materials under fair labour practises.
Hatton-Jones admits not a lot of shoppers come in looking for fair trade goods; Hong Kong remains a Me Me Me city. But it happens by default and that’s better than nothing. “We just don’t give you an option. When people come to us they know us as an organic [product]. In Hong Kong organics has become a lot bigger since we opened,” she states. Things have indeed changed. “Five years ago I had a client argue he’d be sleeping under a tree with a leaf for cover if he was ‘green.’ That was the mentality then,” she recalls with a roll of the eyes. “Initially our clients were largely from overseas or educated there, but there has definitely been a shift.”
A large part of Oringe’s business pivots on customisation, either for personal taste or odd sized mattresses — for yachts, California Kings, the wonderfully bizarre Hong Kong double. Off the shelf queen-sized sheets fit most beds within three centimetres, a careful decision Hatton-Jones was forced to make. There are a lot of IKEA beds in the SAR. “There’s a massive amount. [Size] was one of the biggest issues I had, knowing what I wanted to do and what Hong Kong was all about. There are mattresses from all over the world here.”
Since moving from Aberdeen to Lyndhurst Terrace about six months ago, Hatton-Jones has fine-tuned the shop’s mission: gone are décor and accessories. “We really wanted to specialise on the sleep section. That’s something we just don’t do in Hong Kong. It’s shocking; we don’t sleep anymore,” says Hatton-Jones. Burnt Oringe’s in-store range highlights include its super-silky eucalyptus sheets, which are naturally repellent to dust mites and are specifically farmed for fabric — and never from Australia — and a linen line, a material that’s making something of a comeback. “It’s an age old textile that kind of went away for a long time; everything went cotton-polyester,” enthuses Hatton-Jones. “It’s perfect for Hong Kong — cool in summer and warm in winter. It’s got everything.” There’s also a kids line from the fair trade section because of the ability to include colour through embroidery, which Hatton-Jones welcomes. “For kid’s rooms you want colour. You can get very creative with that too. I love it when people come in with pictures and sketches. It’s great fun,” she finishes. Fun — at fair value.