We meet Reika Shetty, founder of Hong Kong’s first fashion-forward maternity-wear boutique, and discover how she has managed to combine launching a business, renovating a family home and raising two small children, all in just under three years since arriving in Hong Kong.
Reika Shetty’s parents must have realised she had an independent streak when, as a teenager studying at a girls’ school in Japan, she asked if she could go abroad to international school in Switzerland. Her reason? She didn’t want to follow the usual path of her peers – that of school, work then marriage – and she wanted to try somewhere different.
Her request was answered and her years spent studying in Lugano were to be the first of many international adventures. College in Boston followed, then eight years in New York and Japan building a successful career in retail, before Reika finally settled in Hong Kong with her husband, Sid, in 2010.
“Sid is originally from India and, although we met in New York, we chose Hong Kong to bring up our family as it’s halfway between Japan and India, and also good for business,” explains Reika. “I’d never lived here before but I loved it almost immediately. I’m a city girl, so I appreciate that Hong Kong is so cosmopolitan. I love the energy; it’s very similar to New York – very vibrant – and the organised chaos is part of the city’s beauty.”
Home for Reika is a renovated walk-up off Stubbs Road in eastern Mid-Levels with unobstructed views over Happy Valley. “We fell in love with this property almost immediately as it just doesn’t feel as if we’re living in a concrete jungle; it’s very light and we love the mix of the green and the urban views. Very Hong Kong!”
Reika and Sid got the keys just a few months after Reika had given birth to her first child, son Arya, but that didn’t deter her gutting and redesigning the place before moving in just three months later. They opened up the original small rooms to create one open kitchen, living and dining space. The loft feel was created with the use of open brickwork, solid wood and the kitchen worktop created from aluminium sheets and wrought-iron screws. The floor, which is Burmese teak, was sourced on Lockhart Road.
“The wooden wall almost caused my marriage to break up, it was such a huge job,” admits Reika. “It was Sid’s idea and I thought it was too masculine. It’s created from reclaimed ship’s wood and off-cuts from the floor. I tried to mix the rustic with new, and now I admit I quite like it.”
The expanse of wood has been broken up with a selection of artefacts from the couple’s travels, including a framed Burmese scripture, a Moon Dance mask from Zambia and a framed photo from the couple’s honeymoon in Cambodia. There’s also a huge clock sourced here at Aluminium.
The interior style, Reika admits, is very similar to her home in New York. She has mixed blocks of white with pops of colour, and combined modern with old. The sofas were sourced here in Hong Kong at OVO, the cowhide ottoman is from G.O.D., and the dining table from TREE. The flowers are by her friend Jyunko.
Along the corridor is where Reika shows her collection of contemporary art and family photographs. Many of the larger pieces are by her multi-talented mother, Harumi Koto, a trained fashion designer who is now a renowned artist in Tokyo.
It’s obvious that Reika is very close to her family and is inspired and encouraged by both her father’s business success and her mother’s creative talents. Her dad has had a successful career in finance but has always had a dream to open his own clothing store, a dream that Reika has now made her own reality.
Mayarya, named after Reika’s children Arya and Maya, is a maternity store with a difference. Reika, through her own experience with pregnancy fashion, wanted to offer Hong Kong’s style-conscious expectant mums fashion labels that were fashion forward. “I don’t think you have to compromise your style when you’re pregnant; I also think it’s a waste to buy clothes that you only wear for nine months. Our collections are designed for pregnancy but many can be worn afterwards and we even have customers shopping at Mayarya who aren’t pregnant. We call it ‘maternity-friendly’ not ‘maternity-only’!”
As well as offering exclusive fashion, accessory and lingerie labels online and at her two stores in child-friendly locations in Sheung Wan and Stanley, Reika is also offering a level of customer service rarely seen in Hong Kong. Her career in retail with leading US brands Intermix, Kirna Zabete and Hollywood boutique Satine have led Reika to realise that shopping has to be a pleasurable experience rather than just a necessity – even more important when you’re time-starved and pregnant. Mayarya has a car service arrange to collect you from home or the office and drop you back after a successful shopping spree, there are even car seats in case you have your baby in tow. There is a home-styling service where the Mayarya collections effectively come to you. For busy working mums or mums to be, the store will stay open before or after hours meaning you don’t have to stress and shoehorn a shopping trip into a lunch hour or a precious weekend.
In her own precious downtime, Reika loves to take the kids to nearby Bowen Road or to the beach at Shek O or South Bay. The couple also loves to experience Hong Kong’s restaurant scene. “I’m a real foodie; I love to cook but I also love to find new and exciting places, whether it’s a great French place or a Chinese down an alley in Wanchai. Our current favourites are Plaza Mayor which does authentic tapas from Madrid and Serge et Le Phoque which does Japanese-influenced French food.”
“What we love most about being here is the mix of adventurous, entrepreneurial people. There are lots of mixed-race couples like us that we socialise with and there are lots of our peers starting their own ventures. It’s very exciting and very inspiring to be a small part of that.”
Aluminium. Room 1003, 10/F Horizon Plaza, Ap Lei Chau. 2375 0298
G.O.D.. Flat 1-6, 4/F Horizon Plaza, Ap Lei Chau, 2580 2290
Mayarya, Sheung Wan Store, G/F, 26 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan. 2968 0929 – and – Stanley Plaza Store. Shop 104, 1/F, Stanley Plaza, Stanley, 2968 0939
OVO, Suite 2002, Horizon Plaza, Ap Lei Chau, 2529 6020
Plaza Mayor, G/F 9-11 Moon Street, 2866 6644
Serge et Le Phoque, B2, G/F, Tower 1, The Zenith, 3 Wanchai Road, Wanchai. 5465 2000
TREE, 28/F Horizon Plaza, Ap Lei Chau, 2870 1582/83