Spend 30 seconds in Hong Kong and one thing becomes apparent: this city loves to shop. There are mega malls and hipster boutiques on pretty much every corner, as well as an endless maze of little lanes chock-full of vendors hawking knick-knacks, jade and cultural memorabilia. Don’t want to shop till you literally drop? We’ve turned to the experts — three of Hong Kong’s very own fashion designers — for their recommendations.
Meet the Designers
The poetic yet practical looks from Susanna Soo’s S.Nine label have the modern woman in mind. This award-winning Hong Kong designer graduated from Parsons School of Design and worked for Diane von Fürstenberg in New York before moving to Paris, and eventually making her way back to her hometown of Hong Kong.
Erbert Chong is an Asian American luxury leather designer who has a reputation for creating sensual, envelope-pushing looks that balance structure, Hong Kong heritage, geometry and feminine details. The result is edgy yet graceful — picture a leather bustier paired with a Chinese-inspired pencil skirt.
Longtime Hong Kong favorite Barney Cheng got his start in 1993, following his studies at the Royal College of Art in London and the Parsons School of Design in Paris. He has won numerous awards for his haute-couture designs, which center around cheongsams, evening dresses and wedding gowns. He also offers men’s tailoring services.
What’s your take on Hong Kong style?
Soo: In general, the fashionistas in Hong Kong have a very sophisticated and international style, maybe that’s because the city is a melting pot of international brands. And I find it very inspiring that many people have a strong sense of individuality — even when following some style or trend, they do so with their own interpretation.
Chong: The local style, generally speaking, is very much driven by comfort and sportswear. We see a lot sneakers, an array of colorful athletic outer gear and Korean fast-fashion staples. On the other end of the spectrum is the normal business attire with a suit jacket and slacks even in 100-degrees Fahrenheit summer weather.
Cheng: We’ve come a looong way, baby. Clients used to want designs that made them look like Christmas trees. Nowadays, it’s much more subtle. We place importance on the fit, the cut and delightfully young and intricate embroideries and beadings.
How does Hong Kong inspire your designs?
Soo: The busy, multitasking lifestyle of the women in Hong Kong has inspired me to make pieces that are effortlessly chic. I am thinking of utility without losing the feeling of luxury or sacrificing on the quality of the garment.
Chong: It’s the architecture and how there’s a coexistence of modern and traditional, and a reminiscence of colonialism in the heritage buildings. There are beautiful lines and shapes and many wonderful surprises at every corner.
Cheng: I have a wonderful location right smack in Central district, so I love looking out at the buildings and onto the blue skies and beyond. I love daydreaming up beautiful designs inspired by my surroundings.
What’s the best part about shopping in Hong Kong?
Soo: Convenience, luxury, street style — you have it all on one street. Also there is PMQ [the renovated Police Married Headquarters] that houses local designers and creatives and is a unique shopping experience.
Chong: You can buy virtually anything mainstream, and there is an endless supply of luxury goods and commercialized products at every major corner. That being said, there is also a large variety of Korean- and Japanese-style boutiques scattered in the smaller malls.
Where do you go to shop for accessories?
Soo: I keep an eye out for pop-ups and local markets so that I can purchase accessories from local artisans.
Cheng: Sham Shui Po used to be a designer’s mecca, but that was before the place started going through an urban renewal and rent became prohibitive for many of the old garment-related companies. Wing Kut Street in Central is great for wholesale bling-bling and knick-knacks.
What’s the best store in the SAR for a spurge?
Soo: It is so important to have great pair of shoes to complement your outfit at any occasion. I love Jimmy Choo, Sergio Rossi, Giuseppe Zanotti, Alaia … the list goes on.
Chong: Lane Crawford! Especially the one located in IFC Mall, since that location tends to have a smaller crowd. Culturally, Hong Kong is not exactly sinophile — the anti-Chinese behavior is deeply rooted and it is evident in the shopping behavior where there’s a craving for anything foreign.
Cheng: Well it’s not a store, per se, but there is a “right” time to go shopping in Hong Kong. If you can manage a trip around mid-May, then you can attend all of these private sales of major brands. It’s becoming a destination event for diehard fashion fans around the region — imagine Loubies for HK$500 (US $64), Hermès for 50 percent off and Lanvin sneakers for HK$800 (US $103) as opposed to the usual HK$6,000 (US $774) price tag. Of course, if you’re more interested in local brands, then Pye shirts are brilliant; Etcetera by Edmond Chin is one of Hong Kong’s best-kept secrets and PMQ has great affordable startup jewelry, homeware and fashion brands that are nifty and unique.
Do you have a favorite tailor?
Soo: I go to my own team for all my tailoring needs. That’s one of the perks of my profession, right?
Chong: Kwun Kee Tailor in Tsim Sha Tsui. It is a chain tailor in Hong Kong with decades of experience. I have found that they consistently provide a good fit with reasonable pricing. Perfect for travelers who have a mid-length stay!
Cheng: For my own bespoke menswear designs, I’ve been working with the same tailor for the last 22 years, and I believe he is the very best in Hong Kong. I’d rather not divulge his name, but another tailor that I’ve been to is a social enterprise called Bonham Strand, which gainfully employs disenfranchised people by partnering with local charities and nonprofits. Getting a suit made there not only makes me look good, but also pays it forward to setting someone up for a better future.