Growing up, I wanted to do it all. I wanted to be a skater, a yoyo-er, an NBA player, everything. With all the changes in interest, the one constant was fashion. My afternoons were spent watching 106 and Park which led me to fall in love with hip-hop; I wanted to wear a hat like T.I, Timbs like Jay-Z, and over sized jerseys like Dipset. My infatuation with hip-hop culture would eventually take me down the road of sneaker collecting and ultimately, streetwear. But the last place I expected to find inspiration was from my roots, Hong Kong.
The first time I noticed fashion in Hong Kong began with my annual trip back in 2011. My grandparents took me to shop at some department stores in Causeway Bay. As soon as I discovered the city’s local boutiques, I knew I found something special within brands like Clot and X-Large, but I was scared to share it to my peers due to validation. Fast forward a few years, it’s become a traveler’s destination in Hong Kong and is even recognized as a fashion capital. With the rise fashion in Causeway Bay, I felt pride knowing that Hong Kong was getting recognition for what it has to offer. However, over time, I slowly realized that Causeway began to lose some of its “roots” that drew me in. Although brands like Clot still exist, Causeway has turned into something similar to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Local boutiques have been bought out and turned into high-end streetwear retailers with stores like Off-White, Heron Preston, etc.
Being familiar with only half of Hong Kong, I made it a goal for this past trip in October to learn more about its roots within streetwear in the city. I was tired of “shopping” at designer stores knowing damn well I wasn’t going to buy anything. I knew that I wanted to see more, but I didn’t know where to start, where to go, or who to talk to. With some random luck, my friends and I actually ran into Hong Kong’s very own drummer, Kevin Boy. We asked for some store recommendations, for which he pointed to various stores around Causeway. And then he told us that if we want to see more underground brands, we had to go across the harbor to Tsim Sha Tsui where we would find a hidden gem, a store called Loading.
Making the trip to Loading, it was clear that this is where the roots of streetwear still lay true to themselves. Upon entering the intimate location, you’re presented with various local Asian brands. They carried local Hong Kong brand OKOKOK with their outlandish designs, rising Chinese brand Raw Emotions with their vintage 90’s pieces, and music collective Yeti who uses fashion to raise interest on the vibes they’re trying to spread around the area. These brands made me realize that there’s a whole collective of stories waiting to be told. Although these brands aren’t heavily in the mainstream, I felt a connection with them as I learned more. Alongside these local brands were also some prominent streetwear labels that I knew. Despite being a small location, Loading presents a comfortable ambiance that makes you feel like you weren’t at a store, but more like being in someone’s personal closet, showcasing a mix of brands from Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and New York.
In an age where information can be found instantaneously from a quick internet search, it was a breath of fresh air to physically talk to someone about their roots and their stories. Walking the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui and learning about the origin of brands and retailers taught me that there’s always a story beyond the fabric. This past trip to Hong Kong served as a reminder to why I fell in love with fashion and why it’s served as the one constant in my life. It’s always been about what your styles stand for. It’s about letting your fashion express who you are.