I love finding quirky shops and while I was out sourcing in Sham Shui Po the other day I came across Pimary. Former retail merchandiser for high-end boutiques in Hong Kong Dora Lam, decided it was time to open her own atelier selling all things hand-made, ecofriendly and vintage. Her space is reminiscent of little boutiques that you find in the back streets of Tokyo. The wooden boards she sources from the US are well priced and smell delicious. If dried flowers and whimsical style is your thing it is definitely worth popping in. 

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Leather workshops

With craft being a bit of a hit at the moment, Hong Kong’s leather ateliers’ workshops are getting a lot of attendance. The Fungus Workshop designers Baldwin Pui and Phillip Lau started it all with a series of classes way back in 2009. I went along in 2012 and by the end of my last class I had completed a navy leather clutch with my own initials stamped on the front. Others got dog leads, bags, and even sandals out of these classes. There are quite a few stores in Sham Shui Po that now have leather-crafting workshops and there are many leather-focused ateliers opening up. 

So if leather’s your thing, these stores will have what you are looking for:

Leather-craft acccessories, such as stamps and glue, or belts and zippers are available here. Brothers Leather Craft, G/F 208 Tai Nan Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon. Tel: +852 9136 0897.

A new lifestyle store in Sham Shui Po called 22 Degrees North has all the leather bags, cuffs and purses you might want for a gift or for yourself. Go to 88 Nam Cheong Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon. Tel: +852 2568 1148.

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Tipping the scales

We are always on the hunt for classic scales that can bring a bit of extra style to the kitchen you’re living and working in. The great hand-crafted bamboo sets found in Hong Kong are definitely visually beautiful but not necessarily what is needed for day-to-day cooking. However the range of scales in Hong Kong is vast, to say the least and available to suit almost every need, from practical digital or price calculating ones to top-loading scales for your flour or fruits. Mrs Ho at 345 Shek Lung street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon, Tel: +852 2388 5285, is a genius at going from scale to scale as she demonstrates and picks out the perfect set for you. Right next door to Mrs Ho is another small shop selling mechanical baker and industrial type scales if that is your thing. Hop Sing Chinese Scale Shop, on the corner of Wing Sing Lane and Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon. Tel: +852 2780 8544, has every kind of scale you can imagine. Having the right scales makes everything in the kitchen a bit simpler, but good-looking ones definitely cheer me up. 

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The good spices are in

The wonderful aromas of fragrant spices is one of the first things you notice about Hong Kong, and styling up recipes filled with all these truly amazing ingredients is a great job.  If you are looking for high-quality spices, and don’t want to buy at a supermarket, Sunit Dattani, the great-great grandson of Dayalji Purshottam Dattani who started Regency Spices in 1951, has some of the best in Hong Kong.  Here, Sunit explains how it all began at Regency Spices. 

When did your family start Regency Spices and why? Our family business started in 1951 by Mr. Dayalji Purshottam Dattani, my great grandfather, when he migrated back to India from East Africa. Our new consumer range was developed as we noticed there was a lack in high quality spices in the market.  As spice prices have risen year by year, manufacturers/packers/grinders have had to cut costs to keep their prices affordable.  With our unique knowledge in the trade from an export and manufacturing point of view, we want to bring back the traditionally available high quality spices back to consumers.

Why are your spices so fresh and unique? All our spices are naturally farmed and traditionally processed.  While the same spice may grow in several different countries, we take great care to source them from their “best” origin, which we determine to be the best tasting for the season.  Most of the time this is also the traditional origin of the spice from thousands of years ago, as opposed to cheaper producing nations that have only been cultivating the spice for 20-50 years.  We also sell them in their whole form, which makes them infinitely fresher and tastier compared to pre-powdered. Whole spices are much harder to hide quality defects in, because flaws are easily visible.  We hand select wherever possible and only the best are sold by us.

Which spices need to be refrigerated? Under normal circumstances, we recommend not refrigerating any whole spices, as they get badly affected by changes in moisture when taking them in and out of the fridge.  If you have access to a vacuum sealer, that’s a different story!  In which case they should all be kept refrigerated.  What we do recommend, is storing spices in a dark, airtight container, in a cool place.  Spices exposed to light and heat lose flavour and aroma much faster than those kept in these conditions. Some spices attract infestation – for example, nutmeg, mace, coriander, chilli, and some are especially precious – for example, saffron, cardamom, vanilla – all these, if refrigerated, are best kept in air-tight container taking care to prevent moisture from being absorbed and spoiling them.

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Around and about Tai Ping Shan Street

Just a minute walk off Hollywood Road heading up the hill are Tai Ping Shan Street and Sai Street in Sheung Wan.  Sin Sin Man’s atelier and fine art gallery space, 52 Sai Street, Sheung Wan, has some of the most covetable jewellery, both contemporary and historical – she is considered a pioneer of this bustling area.  Her exhibition space is located right opposite her boutique and always has great installations and things going on.

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A new section on the home page celebrates the lives and careers of expatriates living in Asia. A series of interviews will detail the lifestyles and work of people living away from their homes who have become known for their style, from fashion designers and artists, to others founding successful businesses. The first interview is with Melbourne-born owner of Authentiques, Kate Davies. Kate has lived in Hong Kong for over 17 years – she came in the late-90s to work as a television reporter before moving into the finance sector – and even though she still consults, her main focus is planning and carefully considering the beautiful 18th and 19th century antiques she imports from the United Kingdom and Europe. There is an exquisite sofa upholstered in blue Italian velvet, circa 1910, at her atelier in Sheung Wan, Central  which Stylebrief is currently coveting – the arms and back lift off, making it a perfect bed for a guest room. Read on at The Expats…

Where are you from originally?
Born and bred in Melbourne, Australia.

How long have you lived in Hong Kong?
Seventeen fast years, since 1997.

What were you doing that brought you to HK?
I was a TV news reporter with the Seven Network in Melbourne. I knew Melbourne like the back of my hand and wanted to spread my wings and live in another city. I flew home from a European holiday via Hong Kong and fell in love with Hong Kong’s energy. I asked Seven if they could send me to Hong Kong to report on the Handover of Hong Kong in 1997 but they wouldn’t commit and always sent men on the overseas stories so I thought it was best I didn’t wait around to be rejected and miss out all together so I left and moved on my own to Hong Kong and started working with the Nine Network’s bureau in Hong Kong, plus I called in to a radio station 3AW with updates of the imminent Handover and the changes that were taking place in preparation, like the red post office letter boxes with the Queen’s emblem being replaced by plain Hong Kong ones, the “royal” being removed from the titles of clubs and associations, their signs were taken down and replaced. It was an amazing experience to see the Queen’s Yacht Britannia set sail from Victoria Harbour with Prince Charles on board, collecting the Governor, Chris Patten and his wife and daughters. Thinking about it gives me the tingles. After that I switched in to public relations and then moved in-house to ABN Amro to run their events and marketing team.

Why Authentiques now?
In my thirteenth year in banking/equities the business I was with, Samsung Securities, was shut-down. Two years earlier my husband Steve died unexpectedly when our daughter was only ten months old. The abrupt end to my job gave me a chance to sit back and look at my life and reassess my options. The banking world was in a downward spiral, people were working harder for less reward and I wanted to see if I could step back from it and find another business that allowed me to travel less, see my daughter daily and have the flexibility to juggle my responsibilities better. I noticed that there were no European antiques available in Hong Kong and was reading that the Chinese in China had an increasing interest in them. I grew up with parents who bought antiques and mixed them well with contemporary art and furniture and felt comfortable with my level of knowledge, enough to look in to it as a commercial business idea. I opened the doors in July 2013.

What were the challenges?
There were plenty. I had never run a small business before so I have had to surround myself with very good advisors. I have a business coach who firstly was given the task of keeping me from taking tempting roles in other banks. Giving up a salary was hard, I had become very institutionalized so every time I put my hand in my pocket, I think more than twice. My priorities changed, we go without certain luxuries but I have gained the luxury of freedom to explore on so many levels. Staying positive was another challenge in the first year and my coach has helped me there too, showing me that I am fulfilling my objectives which are very different to those of many of my friends and competitors. I bought in to a block of time that is a highly formative period of my daughter’s life (she is now five) so as well as building a business, I am also supporting her growth and trying to be the best role model I can as a single mother and that’s a constant work in progress. I have an investor as well who I have worked with for ten years. She is very supportive so I can bounce ideas around and know that the advice is sound and sensible.

What was one piece of advice someone gave you that really inspired you to open Authentiques?
Choose something that is scalable without adding much to your cost centre. Selling more furniture doesn’t mean we need to add more staff, it requires better systems, suppliers and organization but not salaries and the HR issues that staff bring. In comparison, opening a restaurant or setting up a consulting company on the other hand requires a team of staff and if that business grows bigger, more staff must be hired, and if the business gets smaller or goes through quiet patches, those staff still need to be paid or let go. I didn’t want to rely on an in-house team. I like shopping around for the best supplier at the time within my budget whether it be the buyers sourcing pieces for the business in Europe or the web designer. There is a lot of freedom in the business model to change as we learn more about the market.

What has been the highlight since opening Authentiques?
Buying the furniture in England and Belgium was a rush. Going from dealer to dealer, learning so much more and being surrounded by shedloads of the most beautiful furniture I have ever seen was like a dream. I met wonderful people who have vast knowledge to pass on to future generations. Antique furniture is very practical. Every piece had a purpose so there are wonderful stories and visuals surrounding each piece. The entire experience has reactivated a creative spirit in me and I get a lot of personal reward from that regularly. Essentially we are all creative but often we repress the need to express ourselves. Facebook and Instagram are two amazing examples of how creative the world is. Everyday people posting phenomenal pictures and observations. We are learning so much more about our friends and other people by what they notice and post.

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We love to search for vintage pieces, and I base my looking on the texture, feel and quality of the fabric plus the name Chanel, or Gianfranco Ferre, or Lanvin can also inspire me to add a new beautiful bag, jacket, skirt or dress to my collection. I noticed in the early nineties there was very little in the way of vintage European pieces in Hong Kong, but finally vintage clothing and accessories have caught on here. Now I’ve cast my eye over the pieces available in Reverie. The owner, Hannah Sutton, sources with her sister who is based in London. The boutique is in a fabulous location on Duddell Street, Central – right next to Rennie Fensham’s hair-salon Hollywood Hair. So once you’ve picked up a Chanel classic flap you can then pop over to Rennie’s for a quick blow-dry.

Why Reverie?

I have always had a passion for fashion and all things vintage. In Europe vintage has been very popular in the last few years but not so in Hong Kong. I’ve always dreamt of owning my own vintage shop and realised there was a gap in the market here so my sister (who is based in London) and I made the decision to make our dream a realisation last November by opening Reverie. But it was a few years in the making.

Some of the things you might do in a day?

Each day is different. But my day always starts with getting my children ready for school, followed by exercise. I am in the shop most day’s and you never really know what the day will bring. There can be a photo shoot, an interview, viewing private collections, searching for unusual new stock, getting ready for a fashion show, model fittings and the more boring necessary things like paper work, catching up on Emails, admin etc. But I always manage to fit in seeing friends for lunch or coffee at some point most days.

Describe your style?

My style can vary – and I go through phases. But I’m always on the look out for the latest trend and the latest must have item.

Can you name your three best traits?

You would have to ask my friends and family for an honest opinion. But I would like to think they are loyalty, a sense of humour and great determination.

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Googg Bakery

Just a quick post today. We recently discovered Googg Bakery, not far from the buzz of Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po, the bakers here are making fresh biscuits into novel shapes – Stylebrief particularly loves the ring, horses and alphabet ones. Their delectable handiwork can also be found at Unar Coffee at the Star Ferry in TST. 

Googg Bakery, Shop 12, Ground Floor/ Cheung Fai Building, 401-405 Po On Road, Cheung Sha Wan, Kowloon. Tel: +852 3460 3304

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Indian spices

I love the day-to-day living in Hong Kong. It’s an international mix of people: my neighbour is French; another friend is Spanish (she has the best sandals from San Sebastian); I buy my stationary from the delightful Hong Kong local Mr Ho at Po Man’s in Happy Valley, and when I’m looking for authentic spices to make an Indian dish I visit Chungking Mansions in Kowloon. The building is far from glamorous – design circa 1960s, but inside is a series of stalls selling all the herbs, spices, ghee and flours you would need for an Indian feast. I asked an Indian friend for her chola masala recipe. She explained that chloa masala is a northern Indian dish and that it’s mostly had with Batura (deep fried Indian bread) but following her suggestion, we served it with roti as she explained it was the healthier option.

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Fabric hunting

Our families were always into making things and both our mothers sewed. For me, every time I found something I loved from the editorial pages of Australian Vogue my mum turned the image into a real-life outfit almost magically from air. Now whenever we go to Sham Shui Po the fabric stalls seem to draw us both in. It’s no secret that you have to get to know the streets, otherwise looking is just too overwhelming. It’s become a family tradition to go there hunting for beautiful laces, velvets, cheesecloths, wools and silks, and all the bits of cord and tassels you sometimes need. There is so much to see in Sham Shui Po so we have decided to just cover the open air fabric market this time. One of our favourites is Ki Lung Street between Yen Chow street and Wong Chuk Street where you can buy fabrics straight off the roll. There is one stall that has lovely Japanese cottons; others stock Chinese fabrics, calico and off-cuts from designers. Opposite this open-air market are wholesalers who have some great raw linens, which being pretty strong are perfect for upholstery. Think fabric for deck-chairs or special cushions on outdoor furniture. Sewing pins, fabric pens, zips, sewing cotton and interfacing are available from two stores at either end of the fabric market.

Happy sewing!

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