Walk past Vie, a suitably clean white shop tucked in a corner not far from Star Street and you’re likely to breeze on past if you’re on the hunt for a storage unit for the home office or bedroom. On a particular day in April it appears to be another funky fashion outlet. But look closer and you’ll find it does indeed have that storage unit you’re looking for. Like the products it carries, Vie is misleadingly functional underneath its aesthetic charm.
Since opening in the fall of 2011, Vie has become Hong Kong’s go-to destination for all things Scandinavian. With a rotating supply of limited seasonal items (largely clothing) and a growing portfolio of “permanent” home furnishings and accessories, equally funky founder and director Melinda Wong is serving a small but dedicated Nordic design fan base while cultivating a broader appreciation for the famously elegant, functional and downright cool design from the region. As Wong sees it, Vie is there to, “Give [customers] inspiration and ideas. We inspire customers not just to dress beautifully but to live beautifully.”
For most of us, Scandinavian design is one in the same with IKEA, Volvo and H&M. To say there’s more to it than that is an understatement. Wong spent 15 years in retailing and brand management and eventually parlayed her passion for the Scandinavian philosophy into Vie. “Scandinavian design has always been my passion. It’s iconic,” she states. Every item Vie carries is made in Europe, many by hand, and contrary to popular perception won’t break the bank.
Vie’s small space manages to incorporate a little of everything, from shoes and jewellery to larger home accessories and furniture, which Wong hopes to expand as the store grows. The home items are used in the store — literally everything is for sale — which also gives browsers and idea of how a piece would work in their own homes.
Standout products include Muuto’s The Dots (a collection of simple round coat hooks that belie their multiple uses) and its OTO100 storage system that is a grouping of simple tubes held together with a single elasticised band. Plain but sculptural, the cabinet breaks down for easy movement and fits any space, demonstrating what Wong sees as the strength of Scandinavian design. “It challenges the concept of our products and allows users to play around and participate in design,” she states.
Though Scandinavia technically comprises Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Wong is looking to add products from Iceland (a more complicated process) and already stocks items from Finland. To the untrained eye, is there a way to distinguish Danish design from Norwegian? “That’s a good question, and not a lot of people ask me that,” Wong begins. “They have a common language but they do have their own distinguishing elements. The Swedes are ‘cool’, and they work a lot in fashion. The Danes are slightly more commercially minded and realistic,” she pauses, glancing around the shop. “The Finns are their own thing altogether. There’s a purity to Finnish design that defines it.” That’s evident in the bead-based items by Aarikka, a family firm whose singular spherical touch can be seen in everything they produce.
But the common language Wong mentions is what makes Vie’s varied contents slot together in the shop so seamlessly. “[Scandinavian design] is always understated but impactful. Designers are honest to the materials and respectful of the users,” Wong finishes. “The aesthetics are equal to the function.”