We’ve been so preoccupied with getting our new spring / summer collection out before the dreaded humidity arrives in force that we’ve not made so much good on our Mondays off regimen; luckily, the winter lingers, with plenty of cool-ish days, and now that the collection is all but finished, we were able to enjoy a half day stroll around our favorite Hong Kong neighborhood: our own. After what should have been a delightful outdoor lunch of clams and rose, nearly ruined by the obnoxious yet ubiquitous city jackhammers digging up the street in front of us, we followed the windy lanes and stairways of Sheung Wan up the hillside, where, for the moment at least, nary a jackhammer lives, and in their place little art galleries and design studios are tucked in among the crumbling old tenements. One such establishment, Fungus Workshop, at 17 Wa In Fong East, is home to an incredibly rare Hong Kong breed: an artisan.
We found Mr. Phillip Lau, the workshop’s proprietor, hunched over a skin of leather when we arrived; so intent was he on his work that for a moment it seemed rude to interrupt, despite obvious signs that we were in a bonafide shop: pricetags, and the like. Glad we did, though, as Mr. Lau turned out to be a most genial shopkeeper and generously allowed me to photograph some of what is on offer.
Cowrice is the name of the larger concern; in addition to crafting leather goods, Phillip is a photographer and collector of vintage cameras; his wife, Grace, is a designer and illustrator- together the couple has created one of the quirkiest and most charming shops I’ve seen in Hong Kong. They also teach leather sewing workshops at the weekends, though I wonder how much room there is to improve on their own designs…
This is such an interesting area to wander about, filled with deserted looking deco-ish buildings and shuttered businesses this close to being overtaken by jungle, literally just a half a block away from SoHo and Hollywood Road.
This one is in excellent repair and has a kind of Memphis vibe to it.
Not so this one (previous view is of the back), though it really is pretty spectacular.
There are disturbing signs up around the neighborhood calling for more escalators to replace the ladder streets which do so much to give the area its charm and character, usually made by local politicians who one hopes mean to appeal to the area’s elderly population and not the property owners and developers who would doubtless make bank should the steps be made to move. I can see two distinct futures for this part of town: in the cheerier scenario, the whole area is given landmark status, more small boutiques, workshops and the like take up residence and a vibrant, cute but lowkey neighborhood happens. Sadly, though, I think we can all guess the more likely scenario.
Both Ellis and I are great fans of Monocle so we were flattered and very proud to be featured in their Hong Kong City Survey alongside our friends at bFelix and Loveramics.
In addition to being something of a personal cheap thrill, the survey is chock full of useful and interesting tidbits, such as: did you know that Hong Kong ranks fifth in the world for life expectancy? With our air pollution, and given the fact that 4 out of 5 people here still smoke, I find that very, um, thought provoking. Also, there are only 560,000 foreigners? You really do learn a thing or two everytime you pick up this magazine!