Now that I no longer live in New York, I’m not used to walking around cities for miles and miles: I think I actually might have shin splints. But, worth it, because Wan Chai (which is just a stone’s throw from our hotel) has some pretty great independent shopping. There’s a tiny little square of streets—Sun, Star, Moon, St. Francis Yard—that’s a quiet hotbed of boutique activity. The buildings are one-story, there aren’t any malls to be seen, and it feels almost sleepy—unheard of for this city. After that, we zigzagged our way over to Causeway Bay, where the offerings are similar to those in Tsim Sha Tsui: Lots of Japanese boutiques, a few French imports (Isabel Marant!) plus a smattering of streetwear shops. Finally, we rounded off the day with a pit-stop on the other side of the island, at the long-standing Stanley Market, a relative mecca for tchotchkes: It’s part of any trip to Hong Kong, but we pretty much walked away empty handed (there’s nothing here that you can’t get at any import store back in the states).
Daydream Nation: Hong Kong shopping is heavily weighted toward imports, which makes for fun browsing, but not necessarily the most sensible buys: I don’t really need to buy Tucker in China, when it’s available two blocks from my house in California. But I can’t find Daydream Nation (though it looks like Anthro and Pixie Market carry a bit of the line), one of the stand-out labels coming out of the city. It’s helmed by a brother and sister, and is laden with fantastical prints and cool shapes. (The current store concept is Circus-themed.) Bonus: They’re one of the few stores that offers e-commerce (and everything is super affordable).
45rpm: Like its counterparts in the U.S. and Japan, the emphasis here is on Japanese denim, just as it has been since 1977.
Vein & Vie: Filippa K jeans, Hasbeens clogs, and dresses from Humanoid make up part of the array at this Scandinavian-focused shop. It might seem strange to shop for Swedish and Danish brands in Hong Kong, but the muted palette tempts from the street (plus, there are some curveballs, like Repetto flats, as well as home goods.) A smaller sister shop called Vie—which also offers menswear—is right around the corner.
Cocktail: Occupying an expansive, sun-lit corner, the mix here is much as it is at its mall-based shops. Local labels like Johanna Ho and Venna are reason enough to step inside. (See Day 2.)
Monocle: Sure, you can get past and present issues of the magazine here, but you can also snap up Kitsuné sweaters, utilitarian Porter Baby totes, and the house line of notebooks. Like its counterparts around the world, the actual selling space is closet-sized.
Kapok & Kapok Lifestyle: Since 2006, Kapok has slowly been building an international reputation for spot-on taste (it helps that they’ve had a web-shop for years). There are two locations in the area, one that focuses almost exclusively on accessories, and a second, more spacious store that has a homewares angle. At the former, cardboard-box-like shelves are laden with Le Mont St. Michel tasseled loafers, Maxx & Unicorn wallets, enamel lockets, and Marais slip-ons; at the latter, you can pick up solid perfume from Paris, exquisitely papered chocolates, and a pop-up shop from New York-based Salvor Kiosk.
Russell Street: If you’re craving U.S. based labels like Society For Rational Dress, this multi-label shop is likely your ticket. (And there are branches scattered across the city.)
Wudai Shiguo (WDSG): To say that the Hong Kong retail scene has a fascination with American heritage brands would be an understatement: This brand-new spot sells reproduction furniture from the ’30s, plus clothing from L.A.-based vintage store Mister Freedom. It’s dark, it’s gloomy, and it’s expertly art-directed.
Liger: Situated on the second floor of an unassuming building, you’d never guess it boasts airily-stocked racks of Pleasure Principle dresses and blouses by Bless.
Adam Kimmel x Carhartt: Though it’s best new for its sand-hued work pants and jackets, this unexpected collaboration is focused instead on streetwear. It’s plaid shirts, skinny jeans, and a smattering of high-concept accessories, like Rolex watches with fluoro hands, Leica cameras, and rare New Balances.
Fashion Walk: Sprawling across a handful of blocks, this is essentially just a horizontal string of boutiques (no escalators for once!): There are a lot of Japanese players here like Beams and Love Girls Market, as well as Frapbois (fun accessories), the sneaker-centric Juice, Isabel Marant, Zadig et Voltaire, and of course, an Initial.
Times Square: Sure, the big guys are here, but there’s something about this mall that seems lifeless and sad: We walked in, and left just as quickly.
Island Beverley: We had dinner with one of Rob’s high school friends, Charisse, who just moved back to Hong Kong from New York with her husband Aldo. She explained that most of the malls are the stomping ground of mainland Chinese tourists, who prefer to buy their Chanel and Louis Vuitton in Hong Kong to ensure that it’s above board and authentic. Meanwhile, she and her sister Candice Luk, a super-talented jewelry designer who operates a by-appointment showroom in Sheung Wan, prefer to do their shopping at places like Island Beverley. It’s a multi-floor arcade with little shopping stalls: Generally, what you see on the racks is what’s available (often there’s only one of each piece, and little size disparity), and nary a dressing room in sight, but the prices are shockingly good, and everything is so cute, you’ll want to shop, and if all else fails, re-gift later. There are also some random surprises in the mix, like the custom bobble-head outfit Unusually. Obviously, Rob and I are going to buy one.
No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a voyage to the back side of the island, a.k.a. Stanley. Truly, it’s worth it just for the bus ride along, which will swoop you past Repluse Bay and other beach-y town (don’t take the express buses, unless you want to head through the mountain via tunnel, which isn’t quite as picturesque). There, you’ll find the open-air, Stanley Market, which beckons with its stalls upon stalls of tchotchkes: iPhone cases, chop sticks, chops, cheap jade, crystal-embellished clothing, some decent embroidery. You’ll likely wander away empty-handed (particularly if you have an import mall in your hometown), but if you want lunch, or a drink, head just beyond the boardwalk to a newish center where there are a lot of outposts of the franchises expats love most, like Classified.
You can also begin or finish a trip to Stanley with a hike. The two that seem most popular are Dragon’s Back, which drops you into the surfer town of Shek O, or The Twins, via Violet Hill, which drops you on a road where you can catch a bus to Stanley. And a note about the buses: They’re double-deckers (so go upstairs), and everyone takes them (the tram, and MTR, too). You’ll want an Octopus Card, which you can get on arrival, which is the most expedient way to pay fares (you can also use it at 7-11s). You can also you it on the express train from the city to the airport, which is so slick and cheap you’ll be double-bummed we don’t have something similar in the states.
We spent a fourth day in Hong Kong that involved no shopping (shock! horror!) but a memorable meal or two, which I’ve included below.
There is a lot to be said for having as many dim sum brunches as possible, and you have to have at least one (or tea) at the Mandarin Oriental or Peninsula, just to experience their over-the-top Colonial opulence, but, should you tire of shui mai, you can always get a more American breakfast at one of the expat joints like Classified. Our favorite outpost is the one in Wan Chai, which is adjacent to the shopping above. It’s tiny, and cute, and has free WiFi.
After being thwarted on Day One, we finally made it to Maxim’s, which lives on the third floor of City Hall (strange, right?). It’s one of Hong Kong’s most famous dim sum joints thanks to its sweeping ballroom setting (complete with a million chandeliers), white table cloths, and uniformed ladies pushing old-fashioned carts. I thought it was decent, but if you want anything other than what they’re pushing around via trolley (i.e., chili paste or a Diet Coke), it’s hard fought for.
We had two pretty extraordinary dinners out with Rob’s Hong Kong friends which taught us a valuable lesson: Many of Hong Kong’s most intense culinary delights are on random floors in random office buildings: I.e., you’d never know they’re there. So, well, look up!
We had Japanese Teppenyaki with Charisse and Aldo (see Island Beverley) at Iroha, located on the 7th floor of an office building in Causeway Bay. We sat in a semi-private room and roasted all sorts of Japanese meats on our own little grill. I don’t even eat meat normally, but couldn’t resist: Worth it.
The following night, we went with a group of Rob’s friends for hot pot at 三希樓-御膳閣, which sits on the 22nd floor of the Coda Building in Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels. Truly, truly random but so fun and delicious. Essentially, they place a cauldron in the middle of the table: One half features super spicy oil, the other is a broth infused with lemon and tomato. Then you drop all sorts of things—fish and meat balls, corn on the cob, mushrooms, slabs of tofu—into both sides, use your little wire basket to pull them out in time, and nosh.
We only went out one night: Rob DJ’d with his friend Swamy at a new-ish, tiny, tucked-away bar called Dandy, and then we went to Fly, which is a club that hosts a lot of parties (or so we’re told). Most of the action is on Wyndham Street, just north of the historic club and bar district, Lan Kwai Fong.