Hot seats

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 August, 2010, 12:00am

When whizzing around Hong Kong in one of its many taxis, do you ever wonder, 'What a gorgeous fashion accessory this would make'? Functional and plentiful they might be, but cabs can never be funky and fashionable, can they?

Parts of them can, according to Billy Potts and Joseph Ng. The young entrepreneurs have come up with the wacky idea of recycling the interiors of taxis and turning them into tote bags, sunglass cases and mobile-phone sleeves.

Says Potts: 'I've always had a thing for public transport and one day I was riding around in a taxi and I noticed all these garages and places that cater specifically for cabs - such as shops that sell only certain parts. I found out there are about 18,000 cabs in Hong Kong, which have their interiors replaced regularly, and I wondered what they did with the material they stripped off the seats. I discovered there's a lot of waste.'

Potts, a lawyer, and Ng, an architect, both have a keen interest in design and sustainability, so they thought it 'would be fun' to use waste fabric from rundown taxis and create something out of it. They first made a Ron Arad-inspired rocking chair, which was such a success it lead to them forming accessories brand Handsome Bag Co. Potts and Ng design the items and source all the materials - which include seatbelts for use as the bags' straps - then they pay the Hong Kong Women Workers' Association, a non-profit NGO in Kwun Tong, to sew them.

'It's a very specific Hong Kong story,' Potts says. 'The taxis are a big part of the urban landscape, which is why we wanted to keep production local.

'It's an exciting find. Every item is unique because we don't just use the top layer of the seat, [but also] a lot of the material on the bottom layers, [which are] very bright - red or orange, for example - and you never know what colour it will be until you strip it off the seat.'

The tote bags cost HK$1,000 each and are made to order, which takes up to two weeks. For details, go to