“Why Hong Kong” Part IV features Norbyah Nolasco: vintage inspired style blogger, Hong Kong insider and Australian-Malaysian-Chinese hybrid.
What do you do in the fashion industry?
I run my own fashion blog called I’m a Norbyah where I mostly blog about vintage fashion, supporting local designers and second hand clothing and my thrifting adventures. Snippets of my life as a mother and teacher usually enter my blog posts as it’s always a balancing act, really. I’m a teacher by day and blogger by night. I also contribute to a second blog called Sisters In Vintage HK which is part of Style by Asia, a website that has all kinds of contributing bloggers from topics ranging from art, design and fashion.
How did you start a fashion blog?
For me, fashion started as a hobby. I’ve always enjoyed getting dressed, finding a good bargain and exploring quirky trends. I remember wearing Cleopatra type eyeliner and knee high socks as a junior in high school (anything to distinguish myself since we wore school uniforms). I was voted “Most Unique” for our class superlatives. When we moved to Hong Kong in 2006, I kept a blog about our new city and our adjustment to it. In about 2010, I started to post outfits and included my thrifted finds on my blog. I met some interesting people (artists, designers, bloggers) at various events in Hong Kong and before I knew it, I had some really great collaborations under my belt. I love Hong Kong for how small it is and how collaborative and supportive the community is. I support local designers and sustainable fashion so my adoration for vintage fits right in.
Do you have any examples of how people in the industry are using technology in their day-to-day lives?
When I first became more involved in fashion in Hong Kong, blogs were much bigger than they are now. Blogging is still important, but I’ve noticed that people are far more influenced by images. Instagram has risen as a big platform for fashion bloggers, designers, retail stores and for the community in general. Lately, I’ve noticed how some bloggers and other notable people ‘in the industry’ are using Snapchat. Whereas blogs and Instagram present a more filtered and finished view of events or outfits, Snapchat gives a rougher and perhaps more genuine backstage view of what happens in the biz. People can get a feel for what ‘behind-the-scenes’ of a photo shoot or a fashion show might really be like, and I like that it makes the fashion world feel more close and real.
What are some of the misconceptions people have about the local fashion scene in Hong Kong?
I feel like a big misconception for those outside of Hong Kong is that we’re all about luxury goods. Sure, when you look down in Central, we have massive stores which are all the likes of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Prada, etc. But I feel like Hong Kong is becoming more boutique-y. People (at least those in the community I am a part of) tend to appreciate more independent designers and smaller design companies. I also find that our community really supports its locally based designers as well. We have so much budding talent!
How has the scene changed in the last 5 years?
People are becoming more mindful consumers. Hong Kong’s landfills will have reached capacity by 2018 and yet we still send tens of thousands of tonnes of textile waste to our landfills each year. I’ve noticed NGOs like Redress raising awareness for this issue, and consumers becoming more willing to shop second hand. People in the industry are having pop-ups all the time (Swap and Shop, Pre-Loved Pop Up, Get Redressed Pop Up) and some boutiques sell secondhand exclusively (Label Chic Boutique). Similarly, there are several Facebook groups (Swap it HK, Hardly Worn It) based in Hong Kong which are platforms for selling second hand clothing, etc. Hong Kong also hosts the Eco Chic Design Award Grand Final during Hong Kong Fashion Week, where budding designers from all over the world showcase their designs created entirely using sustainable techniques.
How do you think it will change in the next 5 years?
My hope is that this trend of mindful consumption will continue. With the rise of local brands and the government committing funds to the development of the fashion industry, I think Hong Kongers will continue to turn inward and support the talent that we have within our borders. It’s so diverse already and with sustainable fashion becoming such a global issue, it really forces us to re-evaluate how we consume and to minimize the impact our fashion choices make on the environment.
Do you think Mainland China’s economic slowdown is going to have a large impact on Hong Kong’s fashion industry in the near future?
It certainly could as it will probably have an impact on other industries as well. I think while it’s convenient and cost effective for production to turn to our nearest neighbour, companies are looking elsewhere for production as well. South Asian and Southeast Asian countries are perhaps even cheaper, but the risk there is that the low cost of production comes at the expense of the health and safety of the workers or the cost to our environment.
Who are some emerging local influencers we should watch? Who are your favourite Hong Kong / China designers?
I’m a huge fan of the handbag and accessories brand Louella Odie, whose designs feature Hong Kong inspired artwork (the brand is a mother-daughter team: Karen and Lauren Mead). They’ve just celebrated their two year anniversary.
Print House is a local screen printing company located in Stanley Market who are leading the charge on revitalizing the artistic and creative vibe in Hong Kong. They’re providing a platform for budding designers and artists to display their talent and artwork and really shaking up the street art scene on the Southside of Hong Kong.
Jasmine Smith who is a Hong Kong based stylist and blogger (her blog is Dress Me Blog Me) has just launched her lingerie brand called Raven + Rose. She’s really taken the lead on fostering a community for the Hong Kong Fashion industry by creating Hong Kong Fashion Bloggers and hosting networking events.
What are some of Hong Kong’s advantages over other major Asian cities?
As I mentioned before, we’re a small community. People feel connected and we all want to help each other. I don’t find a competitive edge in this industry like in other cities. People here in Hong Kong love to collaborate.
What advice do you have for fashion companies trying to engage consumers in Hong Kong?
Know your consumer — Hong Kong is unique from those places around us. We take pride in our identity as Hong Kongers and I think we have the potential to really push ourselves creatively. The potential for arts, design and fashion has yet to really explode here, but I hope that we will see it soon. I think that fashion companies should be tapping into that local spirit. Also, while our retail stores seem to all be big chains (both high-end luxury and fast fashion), I think fashion companies need to engage consumers by recognizing that we like to be on trend, wherever that takes us. There is a strong urban DIY vibe here where people are just going out on their own. I love it.