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Fashion

Hong Kong-themed watches turn dim sum, Star Ferry and more into wearable art

  • Red taxis, old tin letterboxes and lucky fortune cats have been immortalised in a new watch range
  • Designer looks to make bands out of recycled plastic bottles in the future
PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 November, 2018, 12:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 November, 2018, 7:59pm

Like an old-school travelling salesman, Niall Westley lifts a large briefcase onto the table, opens it and removes a grey pouch. Inside are six watches neatly lined up with the sort of precision that matches their time-telling abilities.

“You can store your watches in this pouch with different bands that you can switch depending on what mood you’re in,” says 30-year-old Westley, showing off the storage pouch.

His tagline is ‘I make glamorous clothes out of trash’. Hong Kong trash

Westley loves design. He runs quirky Hong Kong-focused creative agency Funkeh, that covers product and web design, as well as video and branding.

But today, he’s here to talk about his watches that celebrate iconic Hong Kong scenes. “So far we have nine designs,” says Westley, placing a selection on a table.

For those familiar with Hong Kong, the images are instantly recognisable. There’s a watchband featuring old tin letterboxes, the lucky fortune cats found in many local shops and an assortment of dim sum. There’s even a Star Ferry band.

How young Hong Kong designers are turning waste into wearables

“And that’s Archie the Hong Kong rescue dog,” he says, pointing to a band covered with Westley’s sketch of a smiley dog face.

“I’m in conversation with Hong Kong Dog Rescue [HKDR] and the Hong Kong Neon Heritage to release a series of watches printed with shelter dogs and Hong Kong’s remaining neon signs. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to these charities,” he says.

But recreating the neon has been challenging for Westley, who says perfecting the “popped” colour has involved a decent amount of trial and error.

“There was a lot of going back and forward ... to get the colour and outlines of the images perfect,” he says.

Westley also has green ambitions for his product.

At the moment the bands are made from sturdy canvas, but Westley hopes to switch to Repreve, the company that uses recycled materials including used plastic bottles. More than 10 billion plastic bottles have been recycled by Repreve, which aims to recycling another 10 billion by 2020.

“The company takes plastic bottles and shreds them,” says Westley, a watersports lover who often combines kayaking adventures in Hong Kong with a rubbish clean-up.

And his design horizon is not limited to Hong Kong.

“My dad’s British and my mum’s from Singapore so I spent some time living there, so it would be cool to have a range of Singapore-themed stuff,” he says, adding a range of stationery and cards could follow. “I’d also love to do a calendar with HKDR.”

For now, Westley is negotiating with Bookazine and G.O.D., the latter a perfect fit for his watches that celebrate Hong Kong design. In the meantime they are available online at funkeh.com and chronocuckoo.com for HK$509 (US$65).