Hong Kong editor of indesignlive.com, Ben McCarthy, this month explores the underground business of vintage and ’pre-loved’ goods.
September 12th, 2008
Hong Kong is a well known shopping hub. Most high profile western brands have a presence in the city. But where Hong Kong thrives in brand name availability, it lacks in vintage dealers and underground peddlers of pre-loved goodies.
I recently visited my favourite vintage store in Hong Kong, Select 18 in Sheung Wan to ask owner Thomas Lee his feelings on the lack of vintage dealers in Hong Kong, compared to the thriving institution in neighbouring cities like Tokyo.
“People in Hong Kong like new stuff” he eloquently explained to me holding a beer in one hand. “People may see something and think… ‘oh, that’s nice’ but when they find it’s second hand, they won’t buy it.” Culturally, Chinese look condescendingly at recycled goods and vintage objects don’t have the perceived character and thus value that new ones do. “Which is why I try to find some brand names second-hand,” explains Lee, showing me an 80’s style Lacoste polo in an ‘uber fly’ lime green.
From glass pendant lights, to a spherical TV, and a Chinese riot police shield; the two Select 18 stores are full of hidden gems, but more importantly, they offer a ‘quality filter’ and give some prestige to the vintage market that is distinctly undernourished in Hong Kong.
The shop also offers support to some boutique Hong Kong brands and designers, like hand made hats, stencil art painted ‘live’ at a local bar and ‘Void’ watches, which exhibit a nod to the 70’s, yet is beautifully balanced in proportion and blend of materials.
Lee’s lackadaisical approach to business is also admirable, “I’m thinking about starting a bar here,” he explains looking around the already cramped store, “but it would feel weird selling drinks to people who come here to hang out.”
Such is representative of the store’s atmosphere – come, hang out, tell a story and buy something if you fancy. Oh and Lee’s former training as a hair stylist is also offered by appointment. The ultimate boutique-bohemian Hong Kong experience.
Select 18: 18 Bridges street and
Select 18*: Corner of Peel street and Hollywood Road.
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