Hong Kong's heartbeat
An innovative retailer and designer is helping to celebrate our city's street markets, writesMabel Sieh
Hong Kong street markets are a feast for all our senses, says Douglas Young Chi-chiu, founder and chief executive of local retailer G.O.D. The 47-year-old designer, who set up his company Goods of Desire in 1996, is so proud of the city's heritage that he is helping to celebrate its markets in a new exhibition.
"In a wet market, you can smell the fresh fish, see the colours of the vegetables, hear the shop owners shouting about their produce, touch and hold things in your hands and feel the lively atmosphere," says Young, who trained as an architect in Britain.
The frequent traveller hunts out local markets so he can "feel" the heartbeat of a place. "There is Borough market in London, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Chatuchak market in Bangkok, Thailand," he says. "They're all interesting places where you can experience the real culture of a place."
In Hong Kong, Young likes to visit Graham Street Market in Central. "It is the city's oldest existing market with a history of more than 100 years," he says. "I used to go there a lot when my office was nearby. I'd buy food or just to look at things; it kept changing.
"The flower shop owner always talked to me when I bought her ginger flowers. People are very friendly, more personal in the wet market; it's something you don't find in a supermarket. We live in a world of globalisation and see many chain stores that all look the same. But street markets are never the same. They're what gives a city its sense of character. And character is important: that's what makes us human - unique."
Young collaborated with Olympian City and Sino Art in the current exhibition, "The Street Market Symphony", which celebrates Hong Kong's street markets. It uses some of his designs based on the iconic red street-market lamps.
He created lamps which hang from the ceiling, "like flying UFOs", he says. He also made chairs to look like gigantic lamps, where people can sit and chat, as if in a park. And he designed exhibition rooms in the style of giant red lamps.
"Whenever I see the red lamps, I know I'm in a wet market; the lamps represent the market," Young says. "But rather than displaying real lamps as they are, I've turned them into different sizes and functions: it's more fun and humorous."
To re-create the vibrancy of a market environment, Young and his design team made a video recording of the sights and sounds of different markets in Hong Kong.
The Hulu Culture, a non-profit organisation that works to preserve Hong Kong's culture and heritage, organised a photography tour of the market in Mong Kok for 18teenagers. More than 300of their photographs have been arranged by Young in a collage.
"I hope that the exhibition will help Hongkongers to better appreciate our unique character," he says.
"Our street markets may be noisy and chaotic, but they're also jolly, exciting places. They're irreplaceable; they're Hong Kong's identity and legacy."
The Street Market Symphony exhibition runs until October 23 at the Central Atrium of Olympian City in West Kowloon. Sound tours and calligraphy workshops are open to the public. For more details, go to www.facebook.com/artinhk