有一天，發現藏在深底的混凝土已被復修原好，通過白鐵框、玻璃門，像走進了某年輕設計師的喜樂世界，時而時尚，時而禪寂，靜靜站在一旁的導賞員，總是會把我腦裡的問號化成感嘆號；也漸漸地形成了定期發作的好奇心，成為入大坑必定要走走看看的空間 —— THE SHOPHOUSE。
A dai pai dong meal in Tai Hang, a cup of fragrant coffee, chitchats around the table, then a stroll around to uncover interesting shops, such were my holiday routines. All the while, I have witnessed all the ups and downs around the coffee cup here, especially that 30s tong lau on number 4 second lane, when it was first renovated into a trendy coffee shop, then forced to undergo a tacky makeover. For a time, I thought there was no going back…
One day, I found the concrete lying deep underneath restored, so I entered through the galvanized iron frames and glass door, like stepping into some young designer’s world of delight, at times fashionable, at times quiet as Zen. The guide who stood quietly by the side would always turn my doubts into awe; gradually, all these developed into recurring bouts of curiosity, and this space became one that I just had to drop by every time I visit Tai Hang – THE SHOPHOUSE.
I remember my first entry through the door; Carefully, and with a light audible tap, I landed on a rectangular stone, very ceremonial. One of the owners Alex Chan said, “This was the steppingstone in front of the doorsteps of the shop at the back alley. The new owner gave it up, but we thought it’s beautiful, so we brought it back.” Qing Shan, the other owner, added, “It serves as a doorbell too and signals to us when a customer has entered.” Alex hopes that travelers from different places may set aside their assumptions and destination-travel mentalities, and, with aimless curiosity, explore this union between old things and new perspectives, to feel an authentic Hong Kong.
我的神經總是對布藝和再生創作特別敏感，今次在店裡的地下看見一排繡滿 Kantha stitch 的布袋、杯墊和咕𠱸，一問之下是來自由英國布藝設計師 David Earp創辦，照顧印度無家兒童的 Shuktara Trust 和印度時裝設計 Debasish Das 所合作的Antimacassar。
My senses are especially attuned to textiles and upcycled creations. This time round, I saw on the shop’s ground floor a row of canvas bags, coasters and cushions decorated with Kantha stitch embroideries all over. They turned out to be from Antimacassar. Antimacassar is a collaboration between the Shuktara Trust, founded by English textile designer David Earp to care for homeless children in India, and Indian fashion designer Debasish Das.
一邊喝著用香港唯一的炳記銅煲沖泡的英式早餐茶，一邊聽Alex憶説:「這些布藝品是一次在探訪這茶商 Postcard Teas 時看見的，一看便很喜歡，於是便邀請他們根據 THE SHOPHOUSE 的調子特別製作這些布藝品。 」
Sipping English breakfast tea brewed in a pot from Hong Kong’s one and only Bing Kee Copper Ware, I listened while Alex recalled, “I came across these textile works during a visit to the tea company Postcard Teas. I loved it at first sight and invited them to create these textile works based on the tone of THE SHOPHOUSE.”
沿著恒河離城市兩小時車程的Kolkata，這裡沒有電力供應，Antimacassar 希望透過教導村內婦女和在 Lula Bari 的少女們印度傳統的手針刺繡，讓她們可以在家製作布藝品，賺取穩定收入來改善生活，不至於只能依靠丈夫或製作爆米花維生。另外，部分收益也會用來支持Shuktara Trust 繼續照顧無家可歸的兒童。
Each combination of fabrics is unique, and the fabrics are sourced and handsewn by members of Shuktara Trust and women and youth in the village, based on clients’ requirements.
The village is on the banks of the ganga about 2 hours outside of the city, Kolkata has no electricity supply. Antimacassar teaches women in the village and young girls in Lula Bari to do traditional Indian hand embroidery, to enable them to create textile works at home and earn a stable living to improve their livelihoods, so that they need not be completely reliant on their husbands or making puffed rice. Part of the profits goes to supporting Shuktara Trust to continue their work in caring for homeless children.
We went up the wooden staircase in the tong lau and passed through the tea room in the loft, quietly admiring the exhibits and listening to the guide’s explanation, until we reached the top floor and heard, “These are upcycled from the cardboards that Louis Philo used to cover the floor when colouring his works over the past ten years…” My ears stood up on their own again at once.
Louis 説:「我很喜歡循環再造和重新想像物料如何被重用和被賦予新意義的過程。長久以來，我一直以創新的方式重用材料，特別是那些被認為沒有價值的東西，例如紙皮。 我很喜歡這事實 —— 這種材料雖無處不在並且每天都可以使用，但卻可以被用來創造出美麗而啟發思想的東西。」
Each drop of colour and colour combination on the cardboards documented a different creative journey, natural and unintentional, modern yet familiar. Louis thought of his visits to the museums when he was small, when, seeing things and relics so carefully archived in drawers and shelves, he became drawn to that solemnity. Thus, he grouped the cardboards by colours and tore them by hand for reassembling and framing.
“I love the process of recycling or reimagining how materials can be reused and thus given new meaning. I have long been drawn to reusing materials in a creative way, particularly materials that are thought to have no inherent value such as cardboard. I love the fact that this material is ubiquitous and every day, and yet it can be used to create something beautiful and thought provoking.” Louis said.
Louis Philo擁有顯赫的家族背景，媽媽是曾為David Bowie設計唱片封套的Celia Philo，姐姐是時尚品牌Céline的前創作總監Phoebe Philo，他沒有從中取利而自稱藝術家，反而保持純粹的心態來享受藝術創作，直至找到可以代表自己的方向 —— 仿效古人，用收集回來的樹枝傳遞訊息，以他最當下的心情，聽著不同風格的音樂，組合樹枝的形態和顏色。
Louis Philo hails from a powerful family. His mother is Celia Philo, who designed David Bowie’s album covers, and his sister Phoebe Philo is former creative director of fashion label Céline. He did not take advantage of his privileges to set himself up as an artist, but simply took pleasure in art making, until he found an approach that represents himself – emulating ancient people to convey messages through collected tree branches, taking cues from his feelings in the moment and different musics, he arranges the forms and colours of the branches.
Coincidentally, we also do not quite relate to “Danshari” ideologies that encourage the renouncing of things. Alex said, “I don’t understand people who want brand new things when they move. To an extent, that’s throwing away one’s past.” They emphasized that be it very expensive artworks or very cheap fast fashion products, once things are bought, they should be cherished, used daily, bestowed with one’s own personality and enhanced with new values.
I lifted the teacup in my hand, a work of Steve Harrison’s, priced at over five thousand Hong Kong dollars. They would bring it out to serve their customers for tea tasting, never letting it sit aside for mere appreciation. I asked jokingly, “What if a customer breaks it, does he pay the full price?” Qing Shan said, “Yes, but the full price for the cost of Kintsugi reparation!”
At last, I asked them, what do they expect their customers to take away from this space? Alex said, “Reconsidering everyday life.”