I'mperfect Mug Eddy Yu & Hung Lam I'mperfect Eddy Yu and Hung Lam are founders of socially-conscious design studio 3X. Their I’mperfect movement exists to make us think differently about our lives—and our coffee mugs. This project takes mugs that would usually be thrown away and points out the defect, turning it into the reason they’re worth keeping. The history: “It stemmed from a project with Loveramics, a local ceramic brand, from whom we learned that the defective rate of ceramic production can be as high as 15%! Many are rejected for a small defect that has no effect on the product’s functionality or quality. We realized that the waste was due to the consumer’s quest for perfection—and we found that people are demanding perfection not only from the things they use, but also from people and even from themselves. We turn the defect into a feature of the product. It’s the core concept of I’mperfect: to promote acceptance and an appreciation of imperfection in our lives.“ Why do it here? “While the issue of the quest for perfection is universal, we think its negative impact is particularly evident here. In Hong Kong, on the one hand people are encouraged to consume under the banner of better living, and on the other hand their individuality is confined within a rigid and defined social system. People can easily be considered imperfect if they don’t adhere to society’s perceived values.” On HK design: “The Hong Kong market is becoming more and more monopolized, particularly because of high rental costs. The situation doesn’t encourage real creativity, and this is definitely reflected in Hong Kong’s general design output.” I’mperfect mugs, $50 from www.loveramics.com . Visit www.i-mperfect.org for more perfectly imperfect items. Sai Wan Kite Michael Leung & Martin Cheung HK Salt Michael Leung is behind urban farmers HK Farm and beekeeping concern HK Honey. He expands his empire with HK Salt, a project where he moved to a Sai Kung village to produce salt locally. This bamboo and paper kite was built by Martin Cheung, and is part of HK Salt’s Inventory and Object collection; items sourced and inspired by Sai Wan itself. The history: “In January I spent a month camping in Sai Wan in Sai Kung as part of the HK Salt project. I invited Martin to come camping. We had tried making and flying a kite on our Yau Ma Tei studio rooftop once, but failed. We tried again, in Sai Wan, where the wind is much stronger. I asked Martin to design and make a kite using local resources and materials, so he used Sai Wan’s bamboo to make the frame. Bamboo is perfect; it’s lightweight and flexible in the wind.” Why do it here? “We like the idea of making kites today—to encourage people to stop playing Candy Crush and start enjoying the great outdoors.” On HK design: “HK design can be separated into two categories: designers who fuel consumption with superfluous objects made outside of Hong Kong in unsustainable ways; and designers trying to create real social change in valuable and meaningful ways, who have relevance in Hong Kong and are connected to communities. We enjoy seeing the work of designers and students in that second category.” Sai Wan Kite is available at hksalt.org. Denim Qipao Janko Lam Mutt Museum Janko Lam founded Mutt Museum with Arkoo Koo in 2010. It’s a line based around sustainable fashion and recycled fabrics: right down to recycling one of the most classic pieces of fashion in the world—the qipao. The history: “This is one of the products I’m most proud of. Primarily because the sample was entirely made by me; from the concept, to the design, to the research into traditional handcrafting skills, and to the actual manufacturing process. The final product was able to illustrate the evolution of traditional Chinese cheongsams.” Why do it here? “I’ve used to work in the costumes department at TVB. This is where I first came in contact with cheongsams, and it sparked my interest. When a jeans factory donated some denim fabric to Mutt Museum, I thought: why not use this fabric to make Cheongsams with a modern twist? This is how I first came up with the concept. I think the choice of denim fabric was able to break through the limitations of the old-style cheongsam, and that modification made it suitable for women’s daily wear.” On HK design: “The Hong Kong market is currently favouring mass-produced products or cheap products from imported ‘big’ brands. To be able to stand out from the crowd of aspiring designers, it’s important to have an unique vision and the ability to express that through your designs and products.” Denim qipao, from $1,650, www.muttmuseum.com . Taxi Bags Billy Potts Handsome Co. Billy Potts was walking though Tai Hang a few years ago, back when it was all garages, when he noticed the taxi upholstery shots. With Jospeh Ng, he formed Handsome Co. and developed a line of bags and accessories made from used taxi seat vinyl. The history: “It’s a material that is very familiar to everyone, but only in a subtle way. Everybody’s been in a taxi, everybody’s seen that funny fake stitch pattern and felt that vinyl. It’s something that’s there all the time, but in the periphery. Taxi seats are always getting torn. And they’re always torn in the same way. In Hong Kong we drive on the left, so usually when you get into a taxi you get in on the left side, and you’re probably going to sit on the left side. So the left side gets a lot of wear. Look at the material and you start to understand how people behave with it, and how it connects to everything: even to something as basic as which side of the road we drive on. People used to think that it was a way to diss us: ‘Somebody’s probably puked on it.’ That’s what makes it real. If it was pristine and new, it would just be a worthless piece of vinyl.“ Why do it here? “There are pros and cons to doing things in HK. There are certain processes that you can’t do, because there aren’t the economies of scale. But in Hong Kong you can come into direct contact with whoever’s making it, and it becomes more of a hands-on collaboration. When you’re talking to the person who’s doing the sewing, they’re not another anonymous worker. You realize this is a skilled person, who has good days and bad days. They know things that you don’t.” On HK design: “There’s some really great stuff coming out of Hong Kong. There are a lot of young designers. They’re very idealistic, very out there. There are some really good ideas. Not all of them have found a practical application yet, but that’s part of the process. The younger generation is willing to take some chances.” Joyce Book Bag, $350 from www.handsomeco.com . Squiggle Henry Chu Pill & Pillow Since listing his resume of awards would dominate this entire issue, let’s just say that Henry Chu is one of Hong Kong’s hottest web designers. His interests have shifted in recent years to crafting clever apps, and while his earlier SoundYeah and SoundGyro garnered critical acclaim, Squiggle wound up as part of an exhibition at MoMA. It’s simple and addictive: users draw lines that become strings on an instrument, each playing a note determined by the line’s length. The history: “It started as an experiment to find out what the device was capable of. [While prototyping] I was wondering what else I could do with geometrical shapes. I thought, ‘how about adding sounds to it, and making sound while drawing the shapes?’” Why do it here? “I don’t think it is a very ‘Hong Kong’ style; it doesn’t take its form from any traditional culture and the design is quite minimal. It’s the opposite of the general taste of Hong Kong, I guess!” On HK design: “I’m happy to see so many small shops and people starting their own small businesses to do things that they specialize in. There are tons of new ideas around, and it always reminds me that ‘you don’t have to do it that way.’ Although the economy is not in great shape, it won’t kill creativity and the love of beautiful design. Design finds its own way.” Download Squiggle from the iTunes App Store. Zixag Airbag Michael Young Michael Young Studio Michael Young is a doyen of the Hong Kong design scene, and he puts together everything from bikes to restaurants to headphones—to suitcases. The Airbag is a design for Hong Kong-grown concept boutique Zixag, a dual-compartment carry-on for the busy traveler. The history: “One too many flights. ‘Lightweight’ was the idea. We used two different materials, and split hardware from software: the rear of the bag is made of an ABS plastic, which protects goods and keeps paperwork, computers and cables away. The soft front can be accessed independently, for things like clothes, magazines, and passports.” Why do it here? “Although it’s a very obvious thing to do, it’s the first time I’ve seen it in a piece of luggage in such a coherent way.” On HK design: “I think the products you see Hong Kong designers doing reflect the environment a lot. It reflects two things: a fearless approach to looking at and engineering a way though a problem to create a product, and a lot of investment in the idea. We’re not afraid of that. It’s second nature to the culture here, and I think that comes from local industry. It’s very special.” Zixag Airbag, $1,800 from Zixag, 40 Sai St., Sheung Wan, www.zixag.com . “Feel Love” ring Carmen Chan Carmen Chan Jewelry Carmen Chan is an exciting new arrival on the scene. But it’s not her vibrant, colorful, chunky statement necklaces (above) that are her favorite design: instead it’s a ring with a purpose. The history: “Jewelry reflects attitude or character. I designed the ring to carry the message “Feel Love” [the other ring in the series says “Live Life”] so the wearer can carry the message as a small reminder, or an aspiration, every day. To me, it’s more than just a piece of jewelry—it’s also a method of self-reflection.” Why do it here? “I was born and raised in Hong Kong. Most of us are trying far too hard to be better, faster or bigger. Sometimes we forget to treat ourselves well and to live the life we want. I came up with this hoping we can carry positivity and gratitude in their daily lives.” On HK design: “It’s a wonderful city with so many emerging designers and artists; and many from elsewhere come to develop their brand. The atmosphere is encouraging and nurtures ideas.” “Feel Love” ring, $1,180 from www.carmenchanjewelry.com . Qee Raymond Choy Toy2R Raymond Choy started out as a toy collector, but he started designing them instead. His “Qee” figurines have become iconic “designer toys,” constantly updated blank palettes for international artists. The history: “My Qee figurine is a design concept that’s based on the human form. There are lots of toys out there with robotic structures, and I wanted to stay away from that. You can derive many human emotions from the Qee figure.” Why do it here? “Design-wise, the Qee toy is very global and not particularly Hong Kong. But management-wise, Qee is very Hong Kong. Hong Kong people think very fast, they are up to speed on the latest styles and trends, and our product’s development process really reflects this.” On HK design: “I started studying design 20 years ago. Back then, there weren’t many schools that specialized in design. The ones that did were more like private schools for students whose grades weren’t good enough to go to university. The way I see it is this: If you have the talent, you will find the right support.” Qee, various locations including HKTDC Design Gallery, G/F, HKCEC, 1 Harbour Rd., Wan Chai, 2584-4146, hkdesigngallery.hktdc.com .