Hong Kong’s new retail complex and creative center PMQ opened its doors last year. The two six-story blocks overlooking a large courtyard are a former residence for married police officers. They have been completely revamped into one of the city’s trendiest addresses in Soho as part of a government-sponsored revitalization scheme. It is home to more than 130 cafés, restaurants and stores. The more-established shops such as Found Muji and Vivienne Tam are located on the lower floors, while emerging design talents are on the higher floors.
This story first appeared in the February 24, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Here are several accessories players from PMQ worth watching.
Janko Lam’s brand Classics Anew focuses on Chinese-inspired bags and clothing with a modern twist. Each piece is crafted individually, so no two are exactly alike. Her clutches with metal fixtures make smart use of material recycled from the cutting-room floor.
“I use the fabric that’s left over from the dress or top to make the bag. I look at the size of the fabric and decide what shape and size bag to make. Nothing is wasted,” said Lam, who founded her label in 2012.
Lam’s first job was with local television station TVB as a costume designer. In 2011, she became a freelance brand-design assistant for Dutch brand Gaastra, a position that not only helped her establish good contacts with factories in China but also shaped her outlook.
“After two years in mainstream fashion, I decided I didn’t want to be part of the mass-produced fashion world. I wanted to do a more Chinese style,” said Lam, whose bags retail from 480 to 1,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $62 to $129.
“I want to promote the Chinese style to more people in Hong Kong,” she said, “and my big dream is to reach out to people around the world.”
Eyewear designer Bengogh Chung said many Hong Kongers don’t realize that their brand-name glasses are actually designed in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong is number three in the world for the export of eyewear. Fashionable glasses, like sunglasses, usually come from Italy, but many of the more basic designs are by Hong Kong designers,” said Chung.
He is nostalgic for the Sixties and Seventies, what he refers to as the “golden years” for eyewear in Hong Kong. A longing for this period convinced him to set up Eyepopper Design Ltd. four years ago. The big move followed 11 years in the industry designing glasses for brands like Levi’s, so Chung knew that black was by far the most-popular color for glasses. That’s something he aims to change.
“Acetate is available in 1,000 colors, but when you go into an optical shop, you just see black or brown. We make colorful glasses — blue, red and green — and people seem to like them a lot,” said Chung.
Chung designs retro-inspired glasses with oversize, round frames. He names each style after a street in the PMQ neighborhood. There is Stanley, after Stanley Street, as well as Wellington and Aberdeen. Glasses retail for about 800 Hong Kong dollars, or $103, each.
“We want to set the origin of our brand at PMQ and then expand…out of Hong Kong to the whole world,” said Chung.
Fashion designer Cecilia Ma worked for local and international brands including Vivienne Tam and Hong Kong-based Moiselle for 10 years before taking the plunge and setting up her own brand in 2011. Although Ma initially started out designing apparel — and she still has a clothing line — she has since shifted her brand’s focus to accessories.
“The first week I set up my company, I went to the Paris trade shows and displayed accessories with my fashion,” said Ma. “Buyers kept asking me the price and I said the jewelry was just for display, but people kept asking and eventually the collection got bigger and bigger.”
Today, accessories dominate Ma’s retail space at PMQ. Inspired by tribal cultures, her jewelry is an edgy mix of materials, colors and intricate detailing, like a necklace of neon-colored resin, bright gemstones and elegant Swarovski crystals. Pieces retail for 1,600 Hong Kong dollars, or $206.37, to 2,200 Hong Kong dollars, or $283.71.
Ma has also turned her attention to bags. Her signature pieces include box clutches made from acrylic and wood, all hand-painted by her team of six. Her bags retail for about 2,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $258.
“I like to mix different materials in the same item. People never use porcelain or wood in handbags,” said Ma. “My collection is very colorful, with a lot of materials, a lot of ideas.”
Coney Ko founded her own fashion label in 2001. As she developed her brand, she traveled regularly to Japan and developed an appreciation for the jewelry she saw there. She also bought materials on her trips, like glass beads and metal chains and closures, and taught herself how to make jewelry.
“It’s always been very easy for me, like a basic instinct. I look at the new materials or the stones and immediately I have an idea,” said Ko, who sold her fashion label in 2009 to focus exclusively on jewelry.
She uses semiprecious stones, making all the pieces by hand in her PMQ store-cum-studio with the help of an assistant.
Ko’s collection includes a range of styles — a classic line using pearls, bold statement pieces with lapis lazuli and colored stones, edgy pieces that weave in coral sticks and crystals, and a petite line that incorporates tiny stones on a delicate chain. An Art Deco-inspired necklace sells for about 2,800 Hong Kong dollars, or $361.
“I enjoy a timeless style, something you can wear for years,” said Ko. “Some of the pieces have the aesthetic of the past, like Art Deco, but it’s not imitating the past — it’s a fashion piece.”
Maggie Tse spent a decade working as designer in Hong Kong for Anteprima and agnès b. In her free time, she made jewelry, creating bracelets and necklaces to give as gifts. When she heard about the chance to open her own store at PMQ, she decided to set up her own brand of handmade baubles.
“It’s difficult to set up your own shop in Hong Kong because the rent is so high, but at PMQ I pay about [$1,290] a month, which is just about affordable for me,” said Tse. “I design and develop all the prototypes and samples here.”
Her experience as a fashion designer is apparent in the look and feel of her jewelry. Most of it is made of plated brass, and she occasionally incorporates crystal or stone. For one piece, Tse painstakingly connected small sections of brass to create a wide, scarflike necklace that can be wound around the neck.
“When I’m designing, I always start thinking about weight and balance and how to place it on the body. I think about how to design it so I don’t need to use a hook — I want it to look as nice on the display as it does on the body,” said Tse.
Necklaces retail from 1,780 to 2,400 Hong Kong dollars, or about $230 to $310.