Our series of online people profiles covers a wide range of backgrounds, careers and personalities of HK-based individuals. Here, we meet TERESA LITTLEWOOD from Teresa’s Turkish Towels. She explains how important both Hong Kong and Turkey have been in her life after leaving the UK as a 23-year-old.
Where are you from originally? What do you miss about it?
I’m from the UK; I came to Hong Kong in 1987. I miss my siblings – we’re a small family but we’re very close and always laughing; we have lots of private silly jokes between us, and you just can’t beat that dry British sense of humour.
Tell us about your expat “trail”. When did you first come here? Where else have you lived?
I don’t really have a trail – I came to Hong Kong directly from the UK. It was the best decision I ever made! I knew I wanted to come here at age 21. Then I saved up for two years and bought a one-way ticket and told my parents I was off to Hong Kong! My mum and dad gave me lots of encouragement; they never made me feel guilty or showed me how worried they were.
I left at 23, and it was so incredibly exciting arriving in such an exotic place in the August humidity. I wanted to kiss the ground, I was so happy!
Is Hong Kong “home”?
Yes, I considered Hong Kong my home from the day I arrived. I’ve spent most of my life here now. I met my husband here and we have three children who were born here.
What do you do here?
When I first came, I got a job at the Excelsior Hotel (part of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group) and worked my way up to Director of Sales. What a wonderful industry to work in – so glamorous, and Mandarin Oriental were very good to their staff. My husband was actually a guest but that’s another story!
The hours were extremely long; not that I minded that, but when I had my first child I decided to be a full-time mum for a few years whilst they were so young. After my son was born, I started trading some household items between China and the Netherlands. A couple of years later I started my own company manufacturing outdoor leisure items for the UK. My husband eventually left his job with IBM and joined me; I keep reminding him he’s still on probation! We started importing Turkish towels just five years ago and I enjoy this side of work much more.
Tell us about your connection to Turkey – and about discovering the towels that would form the basis of your brand.
My husband is Turkish/Canadian and we were travelling to Istanbul quite frequently to visit family. I used to bring back the towels for friends and everyone loved them. There were times when poor hubby had to carry bags and bags of towels around the cobbled streets of Istanbul; so we started having them couriered. This was from a shop that gave us a small discount; it was a good way to start but not profitable.
When we realised how popular the towels were in Hong Kong, we took a trip to the factories and now we buy direct, which is much better because we can see what colour combos other countries are ordering for the next season and we can keep on trend.
Also, it’s so wonderful to see how happy the workers in Turkey are. We have often sat down with them for lunch; they find me very interesting and want to see photos of our kids and Hong Kong!
What do you think readers will love most about the towels?
We have the biggest selection of Turkish towels in Hong Kong, and Asia. We have literally thousands of towels in over 50 colours. They’re popular here because HK is so humid. Big, thick terry towels just don’t dry unless you put them into a dryer each time which is expensive; they’re also bulky and heavy.
The Turkish towels are flat-weave pure cotton and Turkish cotton is made of long fibres and is very absorbent. They dry quickly and can roll up quite small so you can put them into your bag easily, and they’re light. They are the best multi-functional accessory you can have, as they can also be used as a sarong, wrap, chair throw, table cloth, picnic rug and more. We can also embroider names, dates and messages on the towels as we have our own machine in the office.
How and where can they be purchased?
We sell online and in various clubs, but we always encourage customers to visit us at our “secret shop” only a few minutes’ walk from Wan Chai MTR. Not all our towels are on the website as we have so many and we are continuously testing the market with new colour combos and designs.
Give us an insight into a typical working day for you.
Our shop is always open but I’m not always there myself as I need to visit our stockists and sometimes help with displays. My two daughters were studying in Toronto but they’re home now because of the pandemic; so some of my time is spent cooking vegan recipes for them. I can work from home and nip in and out of the kitchen while waiting for bread to rise or a pie to come out of the oven!
We are usually busy planning pop-ups and fairs too, but this year, of course, we’ve barely done any. I will host my own pre-Christmas pop-up so please keep an eye on our Insta account or Facebook for details.
What neighbourhood do you live in, and why did you choose it?
Once the children left for university, we downsized from Happy Valley to a much smaller place in Causeway Bay. It’s still got three bedrooms but it’s small. With the kids here too, we’re a bit cramped; I had to go to Ikea and buy bunkbeds! Not that it’s a complaint – it’s so nice snuggling up on the sofa and watching Netflix together as a family!
What are three things you like about your neighbourhood?
It’s very convenient to the MTR and the many shops around the corner towards the Happy Valley racetrack; it’s great for exercise; and our apartment is very quiet with extremely friendly residents in our block!
Describe your home to us.
I have my small apartment in Hong Kong but what I dream of every night is my beautiful home in Southern Turkey. It’s in a town called Kalkan with a crystal-clear turquoise sea and cloudless skies; the homes are shrouded in bougainvillea and it’s definitely the place I want to be as I get older. Friends who visited us from Hong Kong bought a home there within their first week! If you google it, you’ll fall in love with it too.
Our house is close to the quaint picturesque town with its small harbour and many of Turkey’s finest restaurants. Whether you want to just have a coffee or go for a lavish meal, there’s something for everyone. As it’s small, there are no coachloads of tourists or huge hotels – the emphasis is on “small is beautiful”!
We also have a house up in the mountains of Turkey, which my husband prefers as he loves to watch the goats and sheep walk past several times a day and it’s so peaceful. Each evening, we leave a Turkish lira in a bag hanging from a tree in our garden; in the morning, there’s a fresh loaf straight from the oven! It’s so dark at night, you can see millions of stars. A wonderful place to be, on so many levels.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
I am a very passionate hiker! I gained a few pounds during my quarantine from Turkey last March so I decided to take it up. Initially, I couldn’t even finish 6km along Bowen Road; I’d be gasping for breath every 20 steps going uphill. But now I hike four times a week, once with my girlfriend and sometimes with the Meetup organisation, but often alone. I like to download a book from Audible.com and hike along the Hong Kong Trail or up Violet Hill while being read a story! It’s very relaxing, and now that it’s cooler I can take my dog.
Quick questions about Hong Kong: what is your favourite …
Casual restaurant? I love the vibe at Fineprint and their Ricotta with honey, blueberries and thyme on sourdough is heaven!
Date night restaurant? Somewhere Italian – we are pasta fans!
Local food? Metropole for Dim Sum!
Thing to do with visitors? Big Buddha, Star Ferry and hiking, if they’re fit enough!
Thing to do with kids? The Peak, Ocean Park, dim sum followed by a walk along Black’s Link.
Nearby holiday destination? I love visiting Nara in Japan to feed the deer!
Teresa’s Turkish Towels is located at 3F Xiu Hua Commercial Building, 211 – 213 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai.
6102 4220 | hkturkish.com
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