The birth of Hong Kong cool

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Trends are not always easy to spot for people who are too close to the action. Outsiders have no such difficulty, though, being able in an instant to assess that which is cool, chic and stylish. It may therefore come as a surprise that Hong Kong, a city we think of first and foremost as being about finance, commerce and trade with a healthy dollop of tourism, is increasingly being viewed internationally in terms of art and style. Clearly, we could do more to capitalise on these perceptions.

As proof of how fashionable Hong Kong has become, some trend-trackers are already calling our city the new Tokyo. Among the evidence cited is the number of luxury brands with Asian headquarters here; the opening in recent years of influential international art galleries; buildings designed by cutting-edge architects like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry; and concerts by the biggest pop stars and hip indie acts. We are not shy about embracing the latest, no matter where it comes from, or modifying it to make it our own. Visitors sitting in a bar or restaurant on Star Street or in SoHo are apt to remark how fashion-forward, polished, chic and stylish Hong Kong people are.

Citizens can be oblivious to such trends until a big name or event opens their eyes to what is happening. Lady Gaga did that with her four sold-out shows this month, firmly putting us on the international entertainment touring circuit. Record-setting art auctions and the exhibition of 55 paintings by Pablo Picasso at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum underscore how important we are seen as being.

Showing how far such perceptions have gone, the second-biggest Japanese carmaker, Nissan, has chosen the city as global headquarters for its luxury division, Infiniti. Proximity to the mainland, the world's biggest and fastest-growing car market, obviously played a part in the decision, but so, too, did our talented workforce, excellent communication and transport networks and appetite for luxury. Selling high-end vehicles to Chinese is not the primary objective; Nissan also believes Hong Kong will be a good regional shop window to promote the Infiniti brand. Given the international attention we are increasingly getting, it would seem the soundest of reasoning.

Luxury goods may be stylish, but they are not necessarily trendy. To promote Hong Kong as a couture paradise while ignoring that the affordable can also be beautiful would be to miss an opportunity. Our biggest asset is the ability to thoroughly embrace the best the world has to offer while retaining an unmistakably local character - with the result being Hong Kong cool. It is a quality that is attracting people who see our city as a desirable place to do business, shop, live and work. Recognising and encouraging what makes our city trendy will benefit all in our society.