Sidestep Hong Kong’s malls and international chains for a clutch of free-spirited independent stores
It’s more or less universally acknowledged that Hong Kong is run by large corporations that put their heads together so that they won’t bid against each other for contracts. So it’s all the more heartening to find a host of independent stores, run by passionate entrepreneurs who’ve come up with a designer label that maybe you just haven't about yet.
Fashion leads the pack, with a number of designers beavering away in their own ateliers, often with an exclusive A-List clientele. Voulez Vous (Shop 4, G/F, 3 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay; 2806 2616) stars ahead-of-the-curve, one-off eclectic fashion, while DYOS – Do Your Own Shoes – (1/F, 33 Yiu Wa Street,Causeway Bay; 2204 3043) features a huge range of women’s shoes, which can be altered to taste. Bank on paying about HK$800 a pair.
Cheongsams are the quintessential Chinese garb, and Leung Ching-wah of Linva Tailor (38 Cochrane Street, Central; 2544 2456) has been in business for the best part of half a century. Off-the-peg numbers of these figure-hugging dresses cost about HK$2,000.
Ecols (8-10 Gough Street, Central; 3006 4918) showcases clothing and accessories which are all made from recyclable materials. If Ming Kee’s (30 Bowring Street, Austin; 2730 4815) hand-made shoes are good enough for Jackie Chan, then surely they’ll fit you? The shop appears to be in some disorder, but like a cluttered desk being the sign of a genius, it’s simply that they’re concentrating on getting your shoes right, with no time for fussy cleaning up. Expect to pay around HK$1,600 and up.
Something for the home makes for an ideal souvenir. Interpret (5 St Francis Street, Wan Chai; 2838 3408) specialises in antique homeware and furnishings, with prices from a few hundred HK dollars to many thousands. Out of Stock (12 On Wo Lane, Central; 2369 6008) is an inspired name from somewhere that hosts 1960s gear, from clunky cameras to Scandinavian memorabilia. And Tang Gallery (60 Fung Tak Road, Diamond Hill; 2329 8811) has a glorious assembly of handicrafts from all around Asia.
Tea is another great Chinese takeaway, and Sun Sing Tea Shop (32/F, Soundwill Plaza, 38 Russell Street, Causeway Bay; 2832 2889) sells tea cups, tea pots, and loose-leaf teas of all persuasions. In a similar sort of vein, Man Kee Chopping Board (G/F, 340-3 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei; 2332 2784) sells not just chopping boards, but everything for the kitchen. Shanghai Street, incidentally, is crammed kitchenware shops, interior designers and builders’ merchants.
Hong Kongers are great collectors, partly with an eye on investment, but also purely as a hobby. White Noise Records (1901, Workingview Commercial Building, 21 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay; 2591 0499) puts paid to the myth that vinyl is dead, and also sells tickets for upcoming gigs by alternative bands.
Photography buffs will find much to enjoy at Lomography (2 Po Yan Street, Sheung Wan; 2915 2205) with its selection of first-edition cameras and other paraphernalia.
It’s a rare main street in Hong Kong that doesn’t include at least one shop selling watches. But for classic, vintage timepieces, dating from the early years of the 20th century to more recent times, there’s no substitute for Good Old Days (4/F, World Trade Centre, Causeway Bay; 2116 0088). A 1930 Patek Phillipe will set you back about HK$120,000, but there are cheaper options available.
Looking for an antidote to Kindle? Lok Man Rare Books (6 Chancery Lane, Central; 2868 1056) should be the first port of call. Another bookshop that looks more like a private library, Indosiam (89 Hollywood Road, Central; 2854 2853) is also well worth dropping by. If you don’t see what you want, the owner, retired French teacher Yves Azemar, can very probably source it for you.
For more mainstream books, try Flow Books and Music (1/F, 40 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central; 2694 9483). It’s a labour of love – and second-hand heaven. I love this place, and have to set myself a budget before I cross the threshold.
Finally, if for some reason you haven’t been able to find exactly the right Hong Kong souvenir, Global Handicrafts (2 Castle Peak Road, Tuen Mun; 2272 9333) may have the answer. Run on strict fair-trade principles, it’s also a charitable venture supporting refugees throughout the Third World.
The proprietors of many of these stores are often both messenger and manager, running the place single-handedly or with minimal staff. It’s best to call ahead to check (sometimes eccentric) opening hours, and to verify the address, as they do have a tendency to move at short notice. The Yellow Pages online map – www.ypmap.com – is invaluable for searching out the more obscure addresses as well as indicating how
best to reach them.