I think it’s fair to say, that I am completely addicted to textiles. Yarn too, but that’s a story for another post. It doesn’t matter where I travel to, I can always find textiles that just have to come home with me. Sometimes the textile might come from a small village outside Luang Prabang, in Laos, or a piece of Liberty from Liberty of London, but last October I discovered the joy of textile shopping in Hong Kong.
Unlike my other textile shopping experiences, this was a guided tour with the wonderful Ingrid Keneally of stylebriefhongkong and it was a revelation. Ingrid has been a long time resident of Hong Kong and has fantastic insider knowledge. She was also a journalist with English magazine Tatler and is now the go to sourcer for stores such as Anthropologie, Country Road and now, Mulberry and Flax.
Despite the two typhoons and the wettest day in October for 45 years, Ingrid guided a small group of women around the back streets of Sham Shui Po’s fabric district. Shops stacked floor to ceiling with silks, satins, wools, cottons and linens. Shops full of designer fabrics from Europe with very recognizable names such as Chanel, Burberry, Tory Birch and JCrew and local favourite, Shanghai Tang. Some of these shops are tucked away up narrow staircases or behind bolts of cheaper fabrics set out along the footpath. There is a whole block of market stalls – open on the wettest day, but hidden under metres of black plastic and tarpaulin. There are shops that sell only buttons or ribbons and trims, shops that specialise in haberdashery, beads and ropes.
It was four days of inspiration. In fact, so inspiring that I have just spent another few days over there buying for Mulberry and Flax and this time I booked Ingrid for a personal tour.
A day’s shopping in the working class area of Sham Shui Po requires some preparation. This isn’t the sleek, glass luxury of a Central shopping mall. It’s a good idea to have extra carry bags, an MTR map, international roaming for Google Maps and a stop at a Marks and Spencer supermarket for their excellent ready made sandwiches and snacks is a must because you will be eating on the run. If you have more time, there are excellent dumpling restaurants everywhere. Some idea of what you want to buy is also a good idea, because there’s every chance you will be overwhelmed by choices. I’ve been back for nearly two weeks and I’m already making a list for my next trip.
The large empty suitcase that left Newcastle, came home with 29.7kg of fabric, trims and buttons. The fabrics are the most beautiful collection of silks, satins, silk blends and cottons sourced from European suppliers. The buttons are gorgeous mother-of-pearl, sized from the daintiest heart, star round-shaped, perfect for baby cardies through to feature sized that would look beautiful as one- off on a shawl. There are designs in coconut shell, felt and velvet that I can safely say, I’ve never seen in Spotlight.
Oh and the ribbons and trims… really, you just need to visit Mulberry and Flax to see the full range.
Hope to see you soon!
Jennifer Smart – owner of Mulberry & Flax