On a walk along the waterfront from Central to Kennedy Town with her husband and their son Rocco recently, Victoria Tang-Owen stumbled across a monumental pile of bamboo waiting to be constructed. “Raw materials inspire me,” the creative director and co-founder of multi-disciplinary studio Thirty30 Creative says. “It’s the underappreciated skills that go into them — like transforming a heap of raw bamboo into an intricate scaffolding structure — that inspire a chain reaction of thoughts in my head.”
Hong Kong provides endless stimulation for Tang-Owen, who spends weekends exploring the city in which she was raised. In Sheung Wan, she knows where to find dim sum steamers being made by hand and the best shop for traditional plimsolls on Hollywood Road. Some days she looks at the shapes and colours of nature. On others, it’s the art, porcelain and curiosities exhibited at major auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s that inspire her collection.
“I love the juxtaposition of everything,” she explains of her passion for both the high- and lowbrow. “Opposites attract and I just live by that saying. I find balance in the extremities.” She appreciates the beauty of the new K11 Musea with its fusion of art, shopping and gastronomy for example, but is equally excited by laid-back Tai Hang, where she lives. Prince Edward’s vibrant flower market and Sham Shui Po’s unique personality remind Victoria of the abundant ways to be creative with what you can find.
“Hong Kong is a thriving city,” she adds, “but I don't want to neglect the smaller businesses as well. For example, I always get my bananas from an old man who owns a kiosk on the corner [of my neighbourhood] who just sells bananas, fruits and water.”
For the designer, the people of Hong Kong are inspiring. “[They] are very expressive,” she says. “They have a unique attitude to language, food and socialising. I think this is reflected in their clothing choices too. We obviously have a great tradition in garment making and textiles, so I think the idea of dressing up has been in the city’s DNA for a long time.”
She remembers her mother pairing luxury brands such as Yohji Yamamoto and Gucci slogan T-shirts with no-name pieces, while her father was never one to shy away from traditional tang jackets, kung fu pants or even a classic cheongsam as daily wear. They embraced being different, accepting the dualities of life, in the same way as her favourite Hong Kong style icons: Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung and Faye Wong. Dubbed the ‘Madonna of Asia,’ Canto-pop star Mui was known for her boundary-breaking costumes both on- and off-stage.
“I often incorporate a mix-and-match approach, whether it's juxtaposing masculine or feminine or applying a contemporary twist to traditional silhouettes,” explains Tang-Owen, who is a firm believer that we represent who we are by how we dress. “My design philosophy reflects my story, my passion and my interests. And Hong Kong plays a huge role in that.”
Hong Kong native Payal Shah is best known for her cult jewellery brand L’Dezen, which counts among its followers Rihanna, J. Lo and Michelle Obama. “This urban jungle's nature, rhythms, and sounds of the streets, the endless skyline of architecture are abundant sources of inspiration and motivation,” she says. “[It gives] me an endless stock of ideas to re-invent by re-interpreting all that I see in my adventures on the daily in my designs and the energy I radiate. My favourite compliment is 'You are so Hong Kong'.”
Creator of local heritage brand G.O.D., Douglas Young has been one of the biggest contributors to local visual culture with designs that play on tongue-in-cheek Cantonese terms, like his notorious Delay No More T-shirts. For him, “‘5354’ — Cantonese slang for ‘neither here nor there’ — is like a mishmash and that is what Hong Kong style and fashion is about. We should see ‘5354’ as a positive and we should celebrate it!” he says.
Anne Wang Liu is influential in the world of philanthropy and is on the board of directors for the Hong Kong Ballet. She says, “the city is a true merger of East and West; modernity and tradition; high-street fashion and urban style — a concrete playground surrounded by mother nature where the pulse of the city creates a symphony of delights.”
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