Bringing Christmas into Your Home

All the world’s a stage. Shakespeare’s oft quoted line from As You Like It could not be truer in Andy Tong’s case. One of the first batches of graduates from The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts’ theatre design programme, Tong worked on Cantopop stars Leslie Cheung and Sammi Cheng’s live concert stage sets at Hong Kong Coliseum. One day, Harbour City came knocking on his door.

“Karen (Tam, Harbour City’s assistant general manager, promotions and marketing) knew me from my concert days and sought me out to design the Christmas decorations for Harbour City’s entrance near Star Ferry,” recalls Tong. “Retail design is like a theatrical platform. If what’s inside can move outdoors, more people will see it. More and more shopping malls have since adopted this approach.”

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Tong has been designing Harbour City’s Christmas and Chinese New Year decorations for the past 14 years. “I am very familiar with the site,” he notes. “At first, Harbour City gave me a free hand, as there was no competition and no precedent. Now, there is more pressure to do something never before seen. Over time, the area has expanded to take up the almost to the flag poles near the Star Ferry, for a total area of 290 square metres.”

This year, Harbour City celebrates its 50th year and Tong was once again tasked with creating something special for the holidays. “I tend to collect ideas over time,” Tong explains. “I tap into my memories and put them together to tell a story. For Harbour City, not only do I have to develop a theme, but I also have to think of how the theme can be extended to generate further noise through its other marketing channels. Harbour City is not the end user—its customers are. I have to consider what their purchasing habits are.”

This year, the theme was based on the lovably rotund snowman. “Snowmen? Again?” Tong smiles. “There are no new ideas, really—just new ways of packaging them and fresh approaches. This year, the economy was bad. Hong Kong people are unhappy. My theme attempts to bring more joy to their every day lives. The snowmen are decorated with colourful, cheerful patterns. Families of snowmen are created by combining different patterns—such as horizontal and vertical stripes to form checks. Children love to hug snowmen. They are fun to take selfies with. And snowmen are friends with birds. When there is a bird sitting on their shoulder, it’s like a bit of freedom and lightness.”

Tong has some simple suggestions for recreate his winter wonderland at home. “I like playful, small scale DIY decorations,” he says. “To make a sweet snowman, you can build a globe out of sugar cubes and outfit him with a nose, hat and other items to bring him to life; this can be a useable table centre piece. For a snowy effect, take a few cotton balls, string them together with fishing wire and suspend these in your windows. Crumple some cling film over a string of lights woven around the room, and it will appear like a pretty glacier at night. Don’t be afraid to go for a wow effect.”