The retail scene in Hong Kong is dominated by big names and international luxury brands. Local designers and shops are forever in the shadows but they are hidden gems. Big factories have long disappeared but the talents and the fashion industry have continued to develop. There are many locally grown talents, but the difficult of running a small business in this city has pushed many of them into the corporate fashion world instead.
However, times have changed. Just like the food industry in which local produce is now held in high regard, the support for local designs is also growing. If you are tired of the uniformity of mass produced fashion, it will be worthwhile to venture off the beaten path of large shopping malls, and dive into the world of local creativity from hip street styles to stylish office wear, from hand-made jewellery to bespoke handbags.
A decade ago we might be dreaming of the ubiquitous days of internet shopping, when everything under the sun is at our finger tips just a click away. But now that we are here, we realise we actually yearn for human touch. This is what you will get when you shop local and indie. At these shops, you will receive more personalised service, and chances are you will get to know the designer of the products that you are interested in, something you are unlikely to experience with mainstream brands.
You can also rest assured that whatever you buy from local designers, they are of a limited production quantity. In fact, some are made locally in small workshops employing skilled seamstresses who once lost their jobs to factories in mainland China, but are now given a chance to pick up their craft again. There is passion behind the scenes all around.
Launched as a website in 2011, Novelty Lane has opened its concept store in Wanchai and is the place to go to check out local designers online or offline. Stocking over 80 indie fashion brands from all over Asia but with a special focus on Hong Kong design, Novelty Lane offers a wide range of fascinating clothing and accessories in one easy-to-shop website. Its co-founder Cindy Tang handpicks brands with unique styles, ranging from niche fashion to delicately crafted garments. Its menswear section is also rapidly growing. There is no geographical boundaries for online businesses but Novelty Lane is proud to be locally rooted, serving as a platform for Hong Kong designers.
PMQ in Central is the arts and design hub where you can find a lot of local designs. Among them is Coney & Co., founded by former fashion designer Coney R. Ko in 2008. True to her fashion design background, Coney started making accessories in a more playful style but soon discovered the possibilities of gemstones and brass, thus developing her signature modern vintage style. Her designs are inspired by Art Deco, but reinvented to become eclectic, statement making jewellery.
She calls her jewellery “a piece of happiness”, carrying with it a unique sense of style, passion and joie de vivre.
If men used to feel relatively unloved by the fashion industry, they have reasons to rejoice now. A number of local designers have made menswear their primary focus, offering a diverse range of styles to satisfy every taste. Harrison Wong is an experienced designer well versed in both womenswear and menswear but he has chosen to open a boutique focussing on menswear at PMQ. The award winning designer has launched seasonal collections for the runways in New York, Milan, Shanghai, Taipei, Sydney and Hong Kong, and now creates original contemporary apparel and accessories for fit, urban males. With black as the main colour, his designs are edgy but also exude an understated elegance. Popular among the fashion conscious, his apparel and accessories collections are of the highest quality but also affordable, demonstrating that fine design and good taste are not determined by the price tag.
A number of select shops also stock a good variety of local labels. Next time you visit Magenta and Gumgumgum in Causeway Bay, The Refinery in PMQ or Walk on Water in K11, Tsimshatsui, check out their selection of local designer brands.