Hong Kong's fashion fetish is obvious: we're definitely a designer-dud-dreaming, couture-clad mad generation (or wish to be). The laws imposed by the government should be damned, people will stand in over-crowded trains, and shove and jostle across a ridiculously packed border crossing to Shenzhen to get their hands on something that looks like it has been plucked straight off the pages of a magazine.
But there is a better way to satisfy the designer craving.
With Christmas soon upon us, these are some of the most coveted labels in town and there are things out there that are very affordable.
For the budget- and brand-conscious shopper, there is a cornucopia of recognisable knick-knacks to impress fussy loved ones.
Loco for Coco
Mabel Yeung, from Chanel, assures label-cravers that there are trinkets in their five Hong Kong outlets that need not stretch one's credit card to snapping point. Accessories such as bracelets, lockets, wrist and/or headbands or a towelling sports kit (all with the emblematic interlocking Cs) fall under $1,000.
For those who can stretch to a bit more, the square, ode-to-70s shades ($1,500) or the Coco-cool leather belt ($1,600) could put that extra twinkle in someone's eye this festive season.
Blanc & write
Inspired by the glow of animal eyes, Montblanc's jewelled pen - set in platinum, white gold and silver - gives the writing hand a look worthy of a Pulitzer, even if the written words fall short. Here is an instrument that wants you to divorce the keyboard and find a thick sheet of creamy paper, immediately. True, it is a bit heavy on the wrist and on the wallet, but the gem of a pen is yours for $8,500 (the smaller version with gold Palmeira Citrine draws a fine line at $6,800). But rest assured that it is a gift that can last a lifetime, not just the current season. For artists and architects, Montblanc's stocky Leonardo sketch pen ($1,500) will be a handy tool. With a soft, 5.5mm thick lead that comes with a sharpened integrated head (thereby keeping the tip perennially sharp), it carries the white star and gold-ringed signature look, and comes in an elegant leather pouch.
Be wise and organise
Running late yet again? Missed the flight? The deadline? The date? Do yourself or a friend a favour and get an organiser. If a digital, battery-operated gadget simply does not do it for you, perhaps you should check out Cartier's organiser collection. These soft leather books are clad with precious metals, and there are over a dozen styles available. The gilt-edged small pocket organiser ($1,250) of burgundy calfskin could easily substitute for a wallet - there is enough room for paperwork and pouches for credit-cards. The larger Pasha line ($1,250), black leather with a logo in 18-carat white gold, are for busier bees.
Black, white and red all over
Even if Madonna swears by rhinestone-studded belts with the large bull-and-horn centre clasps that are every bit as subtle as she is, rest assured it is just an evanescent trend being belted out by the effervescent diva. Nothing beats the old black classic, especially when it is by Armani. The slick strips of premium leather, with silver clasps, range from $890-$1,400. Emporio Armani's Fall/Winter collection is a return to simple sophistication without a sparkle or vulgar colour in sight. For the ladies, a range of efficient, unassuming black purses is up for grabs at any of the four outlets in Hong Kong. Prices begin at $2,500 and end in five-figure numerals. Thin is in (was it ever out?) when it comes to straps on sandals, bags or even watches. The winter look is all black and white - with flashes of red in belts, shoes (including men's) and purses. Even the jewellery collection is predominantly black. Earrings, simple string necklaces and other accessories range from $690-$1,400. Soft leather or suede gloves come in neoclassic shades of brown, black or white at $800-$900.
Cuddling up to the leather boys
The unmistakable look of Salvatore Ferragamo in shoes, bags, wallets and belts, made of premium leather, has stood the test of time and trend. However, for the impending season, new arrivals in their shops have a softer, cuter and cuddlier look! What can you get for the young or the young-at-heart designer slave? The Ferragamo teddy bear, of course. Made of genuine silk, (in fact, they are made from signature scarves from this Florentine fashion house) teddy bears of both sexes (the gentleman bears sport bow-ties, while the lady bears wear bonnets) are already on display in Times Square, and soon every Ferragamo outlet will carry these distinctive designer bears. They are not fuzzy and cartoonish creatures but brightly coloured, soft-touch accessories more suitable for decoration than being chewed and dribbled on by infants. While the multi-coloured scarves are perennially available (around $1,500 each) the bears are a seasonal specialty ($2,000). Accessories such as silver scarf rings ($700) and colour-coordinated hair bands ($400) are also in the offing.
An oval idea
Legend has it that King Edward VII provided the phrase that helped launch an advertising campaign that money cannot buy: 'Cartier, jeweller of Kings and King of jewellers.' Stamped with their definitive look, the company has maintained an unblemished standard since the mid-19th century. One of their most recognisable products is their signature lighter collection (originally introduced in 1968) and just in time for Christmas, a spanking new selection has been released to style-seekers. The oval shaped, invisibly-hinged lighters come in black with gold or platinum finish, as well as the standard monochromatic gold or platinum. Prices range from $1,950 to $2,400. They can be engraved upon request.
A crystal ball
As you watch Satine, the 'Sparkling Diamond' in Moulin Rouge, trapeze down to the stage crooning Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend in one of cinema's glitziest entries, take note that she was in fact glittering in Swarovski crystals. Ditto Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina Fair and Grace Kelly in High Society. With outlets scattered around town, Swarovski has already placed their Christmas collection on sale. The winter specials, such as the crystal Christmas tree, capped with a gold-plated star ($850), the reindeer ($1,275), angel ($1,460) or the little Santa ($1,960) are decorative pieces for the collectors. Their faux-diamond jewellery collection ranges from $450-$1,500. An earring and pendant set can easily fall under $1,000, and the snowflake brooch, this season's main attraction, is just $700.