The title of this blog post is only a little bit tongue in cheek. When we first started writing here, almost 5 years ago to the day!, we figured we’d be updating all the time, every week, every few days even, a proposition that seems wildly, even laughably implausible now. We had just finished the second edition of our Moustache Guide to Hong Kong and were determined that every Monday, our weekly day off, would be an adventure to some hitherto unvisited spot in Hong Kong which may or may not make the cut into the Moustache Guide to Hong Kong, but would always be documented on these pages. And now here we are, five years later, wondering 1. does anyone read blogs anymore? 2. is there anywhere else new to go in Hong Kong? 3. do our tips about funky shops and obscure getaways really rate when the tanks of the PLA are poised to roll into town over the young bodies of our young and suddenly radical young Hong Kong people?
Thankfully the answers to all these questions turns out to be a total, resounding yes! I mean, maybe people are all twitter and instagram now, but that doesn’t mean our devoted friends and fans around the world don’t like to sink their teeth into something a bit more substantial once in a blue moon, a bit like a newsletter? Which, incidentally, I was just reading is a very trendy medium in the world of inter-office communications. And so I hereby propose that you, darling readers, will be much less inclined towards getting your hopes dashed by infrequent postings if you henceforth think of this blog as a newsletter, a Quarterly Report, if you will, rather than a blog.
Because, yes, there are certainly many, many more new adventures in Hong Kong, even if they are new adventures in old places. This is the drama of a city, I suppose- something new rising always rising out of the dust or ashes of something old. In Hong Kong everything is suddenly new, new, new! New restaurants everywhere, new brands, or old brands opening new shops, and loads of new brands and shops in previously disused old government buildings. And yes of course these things matter, maybe even more now that the shadow of the boot is upon us!
So of course we were pleased and flattered when Virgin Airlines asked us for our Tsim Sha Tsui shopping tips to share with their customers. Pleased and flattered, yes, but also a bit perplexed, since we are the first to admit our coverage of the city across the harbour in the Moustache Guide is on the skimpy side, our knowledge of its offerings on the shallow side, and our feelings about it on the ambivalent side. But then, I thought, looking back over the past five years, in fact the eight since we landed here, this oft-disparaged burg has been the scene for some pleasant memories, from our first days staying at the Intercontinental Hotel with its ridiculous and probably criminally-obtained views of Hong Kong Island, to our many, many trips ferrying bags of suits from our Kowloon workroom to our shop in Sheung Wan, to the surprisingly relaxing stroll taken one day down the far reaches of Nathan Road. Ellis actually compiled this guide to Tsim Sha Tsui, and I think he’s done a very nice job, capturing some of its crazy juxtapositions and hopefully showing a side not so often seen.
While we’re on the subject of blogs, here is a very nice post from our good friend Diana D’Arenberg, the writer at Post-ism, about Moustache and our working space. Diana took the photo above, which manages to make us all look sun-kissed and healthy despite our rigorous avoidance of sunlight and fresh air. It’s part of a series on working spaces, a subject I’ve always been obsessed by, as I’m sure so have you. If you don’t know Diana, and that’s a big if, she is a wonderful lady that defies categorization: the stylish equestrian, the sexy art critic, the vampy jetsetter, the sultry chanteuse, the rabid rocker chick- she wears all these and many more looks with an ease and sophistication rarely seen in this world. In fact, we have been lucky to know Diana particularly intimately in her singer-ly guises: she performed at the very first Bearded Lady party, and, it turns out, at the very last, with more than a few in between, including unforgettable stomps at Duddell’s and Clockenflap.
At the Duddell’s Palm Court Party
Eating the lyrics people, eating the lyrics
Nothing from Diana’s previous ouvre, however awesome and amazing, could have prepared us for her showstopper performance with Sean Fitzpatrick, another one of the self-evident most stylish people of Hong Kong, called the Belfies, performed during Art Basel Hong Kong. Yes, you’ve probably seen pictures before, but you’re going to see them again dammit! Because, in fact, here is one of the most amazing performances in an art fair chock-a-block with great performance art, maybe more and better than that which was for sale at the fair, this is debatable, but definitely radical refreshment in this heavily commercial landscape.
The Belfies covering Patti Smith’s “Horses” for a true art-house crowd
The Belfies made their debut at Apocalypse Postponed, where many of the week’s finest performance pieces were staged, this year’s entry into the Absolut Art Bar fray by Nadim Abbas. Some may recall that we worked last year with Absolut Art Bar V.1, Wun Dun, by Adrian Wong; some brainiacs may even recall that this is how our wonderful colleague Samantha Reid, tailor in training at Moustache, came into our life, as she is the fiance of Mr. Wong to whom she will very excitingly be tying the knot in less than a month. Mazel Tov and Godspeed you both! If you are of neither camp, and have no idea what I am talking about, I have to wonder why you are still reading at this point. Ha! Just kidding. In fact, Absolut commission an artist to design a pop-up bar during every iteration of Art Basle, in Switzerland, in Miami, and in Hong Kong. For Adrian, we designed costumes; for Nadim, we also designed costumes, though to an entirely different effect. Nadim wanted a bunker crawling with mites, bartenders in haz-mat and Spencer suits- which is basically a tailored jumpsuit, so called for Mr. Winston Churchill, who wore nothing else for his twilight years.
As seen on Mr. Churchill
As imagined by Moustache
Ellis, Paola and me. Paola wears a repurposed gold lame morph suit of her own, on-the-spot design- I can hear Project Runway calling someone’s name!
Adrian, Samantha and a beetroot cocktail served in a bloodbag
Thanks to the costumes, the hundreds of sandbags piled up against all the walls and those blood bags, not to mention the day of the dead makeup, the vibe was quite creepy! It was, nonetheless, a big fun party, but with a big, not-so-fun line down the street to get in: note to other Hong Kong nightlife people, throw a big party on the first night of Art Basel! We truly are sorry for all the folks that waited forever to get in or didn’t at all, but thanks to you, this brand new piece of Causeway Bay mega-property didn’t collapse, and those did make it in were comfortably treated to a stellar line up put together by Nadim, Shane Aspegren, our music guru from Clockenflap and a dash of help from us: The Belfies, a final performance from the now retired erotic dancer Julie Shah, and DJ Maftsai from Bangkok that got the kids dancing like a house on fire. Special mention must be made about what can only be called Ming Wong’s Extravaganza and his museum quality head dress.
It was quite a fitting end to a very spirited run for The Bearded Lady. We had a lot of fun nights throwing this party all around town and working with all the insanely creative people it took to pull one off, and what better way to lay her to rest than at an art exhibition, where she belongs.
Speaking of art, there was actually some of that around for sale too. For the first time since it became Art Basel Hong Kong, Ellis and I had a chance to check out Art Basel proper, and though there was a lot of heavy-hitting, blue chip stuff, our favorite would have to be this group of re-imagined barber shop poles by Adrian.
With the passing of Art Basel so goes the big going out season in Hong Kong, and life assumes its normal slower pace. We were happy to see our old friend Mr. Kurosaki last week- he’s our friend from Tokyo who helped us launch our Moustache Guide to Tokyo and pop-up tailoring salon. He and his team at Media Surf have just put out this super cool guide to Portiand, Oregon of all places.
We got to talking about how much we missed our trips to Japan, consumed with life in Hong Kong as we had been these past couple of years, but now that the Bearded Lady is laid to rest, perhaps we’ll find our way again there sooner rather than later. Until then, stay tuned for the next Quarterly Report.
Signing off with respect, ALEX
Wow, it certainly has been a long time since we stopped in here, hasn’t it? Without making excuses, we will say that just because it’s been a while since we’ve made a post here doesn’t mean we’ve been idle- in fact, quite the opposite: we’ve had so much going on that we’ve barely had time for a proper recap. So please excuse this months-in-a-nutshell report and enjoy the pretty pictures.
Visitors to the shop will know our first big post-Clockenflap, post-Man Museum project has been our annual-ish redecoration. While the rest of the city was visiting relatives and eating pineapple tarts over the Chinese New Year, we were swaying at the top of a ladder in a vertigo-induced panic painting the high beams. For those of you that didn’t have a chance yet to pay us a visit, we asked our good friend Zosia Zacharia take some photos.
We’re particularly excited about our new little makeshift exhibition space- a brick wall running the length of the shop with a metal bars hanging in a grid over it. Apparently, the tenant at 31 Aberdeen Street before us was a scroll painter (and even lived in the small loft at the back of the shop) and installed the bars to clip his paintings to. We had a stack of lovely drawings by James Dignan for the Man Museum, a pop-up we did for Lane Crawford this winter featuring James’ sublime drawings and sculptures of the “tribes of men.” When the pop-up ended, we just couldn’t bear to part ways with the ragtag collection of dandies, manimals, nordiqes nor any of the other tribes, so we binder-clipped them all to the rails for the inaugural exhibition of our new gallery. Now, obviously, we’re not an art gallery, but we are art lovers and also have some very talented friends practicing art, and we figured a rotating roster of works on paper would be a fun way to engage with the art culture of Hong Kong.
A wall of James drawings, available for sale at 800-1200HKD
Now those that have followed our career will doubtlessly be familiar with James’ work- not only is he responsible for the cover to our Moustache Guide to Hong Kong, he’s also painted not one, but two murals for our shop, and traveled with us to our Tokyo pop-up where he smothered the walls with drawings; without a doubt, his work is as much a part of the visual identity of Moustache as our brightly coloured ready-to-wear.
James was particularly instrumental in the look of the Man Museum, a two-month pop-up at Lane Crawford we designed, styled and curated featuring the best holiday gifts for men. Since we went straight from that project to our Cabaret Tent at the Clockenflap music festival, we never properly celebrated the Man Museum, which was great fun and great looking.
Besides James, one other diligent soul without whom we never would have gotten through the past months is our new apprentice Samantha Reid. We first met Samantha last year working with artist Adrian Wong, to whom she is also, incidentally, engaged to be married. Adrian had hired us to make costumes for his Absolut Art Bar during the inaugural Art Basel Hong Kong. Since Adrian was away for a lot of the weeks running up to the fair, we got to work really closely with Sam, who had already been studying tailoring and pattern-making, on the costumes. It was a brilliant experience, so we were over the moon when she accepted our offer to come work with us full time. In addition to already becoming an absolutely indispensible third pair of hands around the shop, Sam and Ellis are finally putting into work an idea we’ve had for a long time of doing some bespoke womenswear. Not everyone knows that we’ve quietly been working with women customers since we opened, but until Samantha joined, it seemed prudent not to be overly solicitous of this market. So all you ladies that have made it this far into my little essay, watch this space as we develop our new women’s capsule collection which will be available made-to-measure in the coming months.
In addition to her skills with the scissors, it turns out Sam is quite nimble on her feet too- a fact she demonstrated in a very public way with the Bearded Lady Dance Troupe in our cabaret tent at the Clockenflap Music Festival, which took place over three days in December. Here’s a funny fact: Ellis and I had never even attended a music festival before we went to work on our little nightclub in the middle of one. It was a big job, and one we definitely could not have done on our own- particularly without one Mr. Shane Aspegren, our musical director and partner, who booked all the acts and really ran the show. It was a blast but utterly exhausting, and once it was over, we kind of closed the book without looking at the pictures, so here, a little late, and cribbed from lots of friends, a not-so-little glimpse of the fun.
Costumes in faux-fur and glitter bikinis for The Bearded Lady Dancers from Ellis and Samantha;
Samantha (left, chatting on the phone) with Christine, Paola and Morgan, looking very glamorous before their first number;
Morgan, Samantha, Louise and Christine in costume number 2;
Altogether now, the gorgeous ladies of the Bearded Lady Sideshow: Tanya, Christine, Julie, Louise, Morgain, Paola and Samantha;
Whirling around the maypole, exhibiting the astonishing breadth of their skirts;
Here’s Shane on the drums with Borderline, our amazing house Karaoke band. Here’s how it worked- you choose a song from our playbook and Borderline plays along while you sing. Here’s Felix, who quite literally saved my life later in the night, giving us a little “Careless Whisper”;
And Adrian serenading bride-to-be Samantha with Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection.”
Not content to profess his love of Samantha with song only, Adrian, after a few cocktails, decided to take advantage of our resident tattoo artist, Megu Kamata, who hopped the red-light from Tokyo to join us.
What a good boyfriend!
I was especially thrilled to welcome my old college roomate Gavin Russom and The Crystal Ark, all the way from New York City. It turns out Shane also knows Gavin from his stint touring with LCD Soundsystem, so it was reunion time all around! Here’s Gavin with Matt, Irene and Jaiko on Queen’s Road, fresh off the plane.
And here, striking a more glamorous pose, are Viva, Irene and Jaiko- getting ready to perform.
And here’s Gavin in action, standing on his synthesizer, whipping the crowd into a frenzy
And here we all are, reuniting- feels so good!
Our headline act was the amazing Har Mar Superstar. Here’s Sean, the night before the festival, playing at a little preview party at Kee Club. It was, without exaggeration, the most extraordinary live musical performance I have ever seen.
Oh yes he did … a head spin.
We also had the pleasure of welcoming from Tokyo the burlesque duo Gaston & Akane. Gaston is an Argentinian living and teaching dance in Tokyo for almost 20 years, Akane his prized pupil, a beautiful woman who was quite popular with the gentlemen!
Here Gaston & Akane kick back post performance with resident magician and emcee Stuart Palm.
We were also honoured to have the lovely and so stylish Diana D’arenberg belting out a bit of Weimar-style cabaret.
Here’s Diana and Joe and Zoe (and a sleepy little fellow along for the ride) from Head Clowns.
Bearded Lady superstar Gigi playing for probably her youngest audience yet, with Good Life.
Here’s Sam and the sublime Lilian Chan, a truly legendary Hong Kong chanteuse.
Though we were most assuredly a grown-up space by night, by day we welcomed our little friends for the phenomenally successful Kids Disco. Above, Shane’s daughters Zari and Avey get the crowd on their feet with their funky DJ skills.
Before they hit the dancefloor, the kids got to indulge in a bit of fancy dress fun- we stuffed a steamer trunk full of feathers, sequins, glitter and makeup. Here Lulu rocks a disco headband.
Everyday started with a stimulating Yoga session led by our lovely Sassy Cassie, who sadly has left us for her native Australia, with musical accompaniment by brand new daddy Jason Nagoy. Congratulations Jason!
Though it was a challenging experience for us, we really and truly loved getting to spend time with so many talented folks. It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And what did we do afterwards?
Yes, we slept. Luckily we had some amazing and quite comfy cushions to crash on.
Now that the tent has been dismantled and West Kowloon is once again a sleepy and very inaccessible empty field, people are wondering what’s next for the Bearded Lady? After our Clockenflap experience, we decided to take a break from nightlife- it’s a dog’s life, particularly when one has a day job. And while we’ll not soon return to the sort of hours we kept during our Salon No.10 days, we will continue to enjoy hosting the occasional gathering when we are feeling inspired (or someone is feeling inspired by us!). Look for us again during Art Basel and beyond, or come say hello to us here on Aberdeen Street.