Off the beaten track Wong Chuk Hang is a magnet for fashion companies

The industrial area of Wong Chuk Hang is proving a magnet for the hip and fashionable, writes Abid Rahman

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 9:46am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 9:46am

Grey, noisy and dotted with characterless buildings and giant cranes, the nondescript industrial neighbourhood of Wong Chuk Hang is the last place you'd expect to find a cluster of high fashion brands.

But in the past few years fashion companies have been relocating to the area. And the recent opening of men's fashion showroom space Ed1tus there reinforces the view that the neighbourhood has become a fashion business hub.

Located on Wong Chuk Hang Road and open since the end of April, Ed1tus is a new concept for Hong Kong: a large fashion, home and lifestyle buyers and press showroom dedicated to the men's market.

It's not be as convenient as Wan Chai, but we get three times the space
Jimmy chan, semeiotics 

"At the moment, there are no other multibrand showrooms like this here," says co-founder and co-creative director Jino Khidhr. "If we did this in Milan, there would be a lot of competition; same in New York. So we thought we'd try it in Hong Kong, which is a hub for Asia."

Khidhr dreamed up Ed1tus with David Wakely, the former menswear buying manager at Lane Crawford. The huge cavernous space, with an equally massive rooftop, is a platform for niche men's luxury brands such as Mauro Grifoni, Drumohr, Cire Trudon, FPM Luggage and many others.

Styled by Wakely, the space emphasises the visual side of fashion retail, with beautiful presentation of products. Khidhr says the aim is to make life as easy as possible for buyers by giving them advice on how to present brands at retail.

The Wong Chuk Hang area gives Khidhr and Wakely the space to fully realise their vision, but the overriding reason for locating to the area was more practical and commercial.

"David was really keen to open it here because Lane Crawford and Joyce are around the corner. Everyone is here, and David knows them. Because he was a buyer himself, he knows how lazy buyers are sometimes," says Khidhr, adding playfully, "so they don't have an excuse to not come here now."

The most notable business headquartered in Wong Chuk Hang, and a key reason the area has become a magnet for fashion companies, is the Lane Crawford Joyce Group, located at the One Island South office development.

One Island South is also the home of fashion retail and distribution arm Imaginex and the shoes and accessories subsidiary Pedder Group.

Wong Chuk Hang is now also home to the main offices and showroom of multibrand retailer I.T Group, fashion distributors Electric sekki and District Distribution, brands such as Ground Zero and Clot as well as retailers Hilary Tsui and Dorothy Hui's Liger, among others.

Fashion marketing and communications agency Social/Capital has its offices in the same building as Clot and District Distribution, in a building development called The Factory.

"There's the allure of space here, the costs are lower, the rents are reasonable, and more than that, there's the industrial aesthetic.

You have high ceilings, and you can really design the space however you want," says Federico Tan, founder and director of Social/Capital.

"Why Wong Chuk Hang? Well, a lot of it started with Lane Crawford moving its HQ here. But now the area has this good energy, good vibe, it's full of young, fashionable people. So it's the area to be in," Tan says.

The Factory markets itself as an unconventional workspace with many of the walls painted by the Italian graffiti artist Mauro Marchesi. Tan feels that Wong Chuk Hang has tuned-in landlords, who see the benefit of young hip companies as tenants.

Another new tenant of The Factory is fashion distribution, design and branding company Semeiotics, who moved to a new space from offices in Wan Chai in early June.

"The major factors for us moving were space and rent. Wong Chuk Hang may not be as convenient as Wan Chai, but we get three times the space for the same rent," says Jimmy Chan, Semeiotics founder and chairman. Chan was attracted by the buzz in the area, and thinks it is going to get better.

"It's quite inspiring to be working in these spaces, but it's also good to be neighbours to all these other businesses. All of the people in this area are doers; it's great, as you can bounce ideas around. Your mind starts to race," Chan says.

Both Chan and Tan talk passionately about the rise of a community in Wong Chuk Hang, where people help each other out and promote each other's brands and companies. Chan has plans to set up weekly barbecues on The Factory rooftop, inviting fellow tenants, and others in the area, to mix socially.

Tan is keen to collaborate with the growing talent pool of fashion and non-fashion people in the area. But he's aware that Wong Chuk Hang is not for everybody.

"The first thing people ask me about this area is, 'Where do you eat?' There were three or four restaurants inside One Island South, and that was it, so it used to get boring and options were limited," says Tan, adding that the situation is improving, with restaurants like Noodlemi opening, along with a range of private kitchens.

Chan laments the food options, too, but adds that some are also put off by the transport issues affecting the area. The MTR is planning to open stations for both the South Island Line East and South Island Line West routes that will go through Wong Chuk Hang. But opening dates continue to be pushed back with no clear idea as to when the station will open.

The creators of Ed1tus also see food and transport as challenges but are taking a much more proactive role in providing solutions. "If you took a taxi from Causeway Bay, through the tunnel, you would be here in eight minutes, so it really isn't that far," says Khidhr.

"People always say that there is no good place around here for lunch, so we brought in The Butchers Club to create a restaurant in our space. It's open daily, so the buyers can come see the products and eat, too. We have plenty of fashion people from the area come here just to eat," Khidhr says.