By: Claire Locking
Joanne Pereira is style-savvy. She knows what’s hot and what’s not, everywhere from right here on her doorstep in Hong Kong to the neighbourhoods of her native Sydney, and to the streets of San Francisco and New York. Her findings are chronicled in her hugely popular design blog, Eclectic Cool, and can be seen in reality in her design boutiques.
Being so in the know, it’s no surprise that Joanne chose to expand the retail side of her business from Ap Lei Chau to Hong Kong’s very own design hub, PoHo in Sheung Wan, at the end of last year and in doing so join the ranks of a growing number of designers, retailers, property developers, architects and restaurateurs now calling this neighbourhood home.
Historically, this area was not quite so attractive. Pound Street is so named as it was the site of the government pound in the 1800s where stray livestock including cows and sheep were kept. Further down, the now pleasant and green Blake Garden is the site of a plaque marking the 1894 bubonic plague which took hold in the Tai Ping Shan area due to its dense population and deplorable sanitary conditions.
Today, life in Pound Lane, Tai Ping Shan Street and Po Hing Fong is a very different story. Yes, galleries sit next to coffin shops, boutiques next to traditional printers, but it’s this melting pot of old and new, east and west and a desire of most of the residents to combine the best of the past with the best of the new that gives the place such charm and individuality.
Joanne, a former interior architect from Sydney, is delighted to be joining those lucky enough to set up shop in this inspiring corner of the island but she admits it happened almost by chance.
“We already had our warehouse and showroom in Ap Lei Chau but I wanted to expand closer to Central,” she admits. “I’d never heard of PoHo but a retailer friend recommended it so one weekend my husband and I came down here and wandered round and within a few days I’d signed a lease. I loved the green outlook and the feeling of space; to me, it’s an idyllic version of Hong Kong, there is nowhere else in the city like it.”
Po means treasure in Chinese and Joanne’s new store on Po Yan Street is certainly that. Located just a stone’s throw from Central in one of the most densely populated cities on earth, its huge glass shopfront has a green and leafy outlook over the basketball courts of Blake Park and down to Hollywood Road and beyond.
Inside, Jacqui showcases her carefully curated collection of furniture, accessories and homewares sourced during her numerous buying and research trips to the US, Europe and her native Australia. She doesn’t class herself as a retailer, more a curator and designer. She prides herself on sourcing well made, design driven products that her clients will love forever. Examples include lighting and furniture by Danish design house Gubi, simple modular sofas by Hay, and natural wool, hemp and sisal rugs by Australian brand Armadillo.
Joanne loves to travel both to source products and find inspiration from other retailers. She loves Paris for its antique markets and merchandising, Japan for its stationery, and San Francisco and New York for their inspiring interior design industries. Back home, she tries to bring this knowledge to her customers through the merchandise she chooses to stock as well as her interior design service and own brand product lines. “Hong Kong is very international which means lots of different styles and lots of different cultures. Locals have more cutesy tastes, Americans like earthy tones; I hope I’m able to provide solutions for all. ”
Joanne is not the only new arrival in the area. Further along the street is her favourite coffee and lunch spot, Po’s Atelier. The brainchild of art director and photographer Vincent Cheng and Jonathan Leijonhufvud, the bakery and adjoining Café Deadend are like nowhere else in Hong Kong. Sit here at an outside table and there is no noise, no construction, no passing traffic, just a green outlook and the sound of birds overhead.
Po’s prides itself on offering some of the best baked products in the city and has worked with renowned Japanese baker Masami Asano on their creations. Local French customers have even given Po’s the ultimate accolade, saying their croissants are the best they’ve ever tasted!
Around the corner is Lof 10, a new arrival that opened its doors in October. It’s the only location in Hong Kong to serve Handsome Coffee, the LA-based coffee brand run by a former World Barista champion and described by Time Out LA as a “coffee nerd’s delight”.
Unlike many other areas of the city, thankfully this part of Sheung Wan is still clinging on to its past and remains relatively low rise. Many of the tong lau tenement buildings are still very much in tact, admittedly some in various stages of disrepair.
Helen Lindman, a Swedish expat, is another who has been seduced by Tai Ping Shan’s unique charm and ambience. A former lawyer, she has now turned her hand to property development and has preserved and revived two tong lau, 55 Tung Street and 11 Upper Station Street, into stunning duplex apartments and penthouses. Her projects successfully modernise the interiors but thankfully retain and preserve the charm of the original buildings. Next on her “to do” list is to transform the ground floor of Upper Station into an Australian style café. Watch this space.
Teakha is a place to unwind, read a book and sit a while. Owner Nana Chan has turned tea into an art form and sources her brews from her extensive travels; her Masala Chai is truly authentic – she learnt the brewing technique from a local family in Darjeeling!
If you fancy more lunch than tea then pop over to Antipodean, where Kiwi owner offers a stunning menu of homemade pasta, pies and cakes, a relaxed vibe and the best breakfast in Hong Kong according to Joanne, my neighbourhood guide.
Around the corner on Square Street, just behind Hollywood Road’s Man Mo temple, is SquareStreet, a Scandinavian-owned menswear boutique showcasing original handmade shoes and accessories that has just this month launched its first women’s wear collection. Inspired by vintage Hong Kong shoe designs, these pieces are indicative of the creativity and originality of the area.
More modern classics can be found at Sambag where Australian owner Sam Wagner has opened her first boutique outside her native Oz. Her ballet pumps, wedges and classic daywear are loved by celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and her shop is gaining a loyal following of HK-based expats.
Sin Sin is the Grande Dame of this area and rightly so. She opened her first gallery on Sai Street in 2006, championing both the neighbourhood and Indonesian fine art. Back then, most people thought she was mad. Her neighbours were an oyster sauce maker, a fruit wholesaler, a printing press and a wood hut run by an old lady. “It was like something from an old Chinese movie”, Sin Sin admits. Nearly a decade on she has proved her sceptics wrong; she now has three ateliers on Sai Street which showcase her own stunning jewellery and clothing designs, and are a platform for local and international creativity.
Sadly, however, nowhere in Hong Kong seems immune to the pace of change and the District Council is currently spearheading a project to build a 200-metre long escalator along Pound Lane at the cost of HK$200 million. Critics of the plan argue the escalator will destroy the heritage and unique atmosphere of this mostly residential area. For now, those lucky enough to spend their days in this green and pleasant neighbourhood alive with creativity and promise should just sit back and enjoy.
Eclectic Cool online: eclectic-cool.com
Eclectic Cool stores: G/F 58 Po Hing Fong, Sheung Wan
5699 6882 | 2549 6682
Studio 8, 21/F Harbour Industrial Centre
10 Lee Hing Street, Ap Lei Chau
G/F, 16 Upper Station Street
2857 7368 | aesop.com
3 Upper Station Street
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Helen Lindman Design
70 Po Hing Fong
6056 8005 | facebook.com/posatelier
6 Po Yan Street
2968 1285 | sambag.com.au
52-54 Sai Street
2858 5072 | sinsin.com.hk
G/F, 15 Square Street
2362 1086 | squarestreet.se
Shop B, 18 Tai Ping Shan Street
2858 9185 | teakha.com.hk