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Instead of demolishing them, however, the owners recognised the cultural worth of the structures and embarked on a revitalisation plan that would preserve the buildings’ history, enrich the local community and establish a new creative hotspot. Welcome to: a groundbreaking project that includes a non-profit cultural institute, a retail area, and a business incubator focused on startups straddling technology and style aka ‘techstyle’.
The first textile manufacturers arrived in Hong Kong in the 1940s from Shanghai, seeking a less turbulent place for their factories following wartime and post-war social and political upheavals in China. By the mid-1950s, business was booming. When Nan Fung Textiles factory was founded in 1954, 30 per cent of manufacturing workers were in textiles. “The textile industry was a large contributor in shaping Hong Kong’s economy and people,” Cheung elaborates. “It supported the livelihoods of over 230,000 people during the 1970s. It was also instrumental in shifting cultural norms as it was women who made up a significant proportion of the workforce in the textile industry.”
The Mills will also be cultivating new businesses related to ‘techstyle’ at incubator Fabrica. Brands that have already taken advantage of the resources and networking opportunities the organisation has to offer include Unspun, which is dedicated to improving sustainability through 3D weaving technology and customised denim, and Origami Labs (ORii), which is creating a voice-assistant smart ring.
Of course it wouldn’t be Hong Kong without retail. The Shopfloor is home to a slew of independent and artisanal stores and workshops, spanning sleek Book B and Modena Stationery to homegrown multi-brand art, design and gift shop Concept to Go.
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