Category Archive for Art + Design
If a single photo could sum up the awesomeness of Hong Kong, it would be this one: Cats in space! “Ground control to Major Tom-Cat…”
Hong Kong is known as a shopping and eating destination, but I always associate the city with modern art. There’s a wonderful annual art fair, and cute public installations such as the one above (see also the 100 Doraemons and Hello Kitty cafe).
Did you know that Hong Kong’s cool art scene extends even to restaurants? Let me take you on a tour of “edible art” in the city, from Basquiat murals to strawberry molecular desserts… and Miffy Cake!
For my foray into “cats space travelling,” I wore a Shakuhachi Future Minimal dress from West LA Boutique. It’s become one of my go-to pieces: the spongy fabric and pleated skirt are comfortable, yet give you a polished look.
Filmmaker Melissa Rundle and I turned the robot-cat into a Scottish Fold, by covering its ears. This funny mural was by the entrance of Hung Hom station (the exhibit constantly changes, but is usually something cute). This character is Jentle-Cat, a Hong Kong mascot.
Time to experience more art, this time combined with food. My friends and I went to Bibo, a new French restaurant that takes “the art of fine dining” quite literally.
John Skeleton shares his impressions of this eccentric Sheung Wan restaurant.”Even if there wasn’t any food to rave about, it would still be well worth your time to check out this strangely eclectic mix of pop and street art, all seamlessly blended into an integrated experience that calls to mind Paris of the 1930s.”
Every crevice of Bibo is decorated with modern masterpieces by artists I’m sure you’ve heard of: Keith Haring, Banksy, Takashi Murakami, Invader.
Even though the works are so eclectic, the interior design feels cohesive.
Each dining space was surrounded by different works. We had Space Invaders and an 8-bit princess next to us.
Within minutes of sitting down, we knew Bibo was a gem. Our waiter was fun to chat with, and the warm bread was so satisfying (served with red pepper spread) that we devoured two orders. The creative cocktails, with flavors like Asian 5-spice, were some of the best I’ve had in the city.
John writes, “The gastronomic delights are just as fabulous as the décor. Using the finest ingredients and heavy on luxurious items like truffles and foie gras, the contemporary French menu is sure to please.”
“Even better, for Goths and those with a passion for the Belle Époque, what is most likely the best selection of absinthe in Hong Kong is presented in the traditional style – mixed with ice-cold water slowly dripped from an elegant fountain over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon.
Highly recommended is Butterfly, a take on a U.S. pre-Prohibition recipe that uses mint and other herbs to put a unique spin on the classic Green Faerie.”
When we set up this photo, our waiter joked, “I don’t think Jean-Michel Basquiat wants to eat lobster tonight!” But we were delighted by this dish, as well as a Dover sole and Australian Wagyu filet mignon.
Dessert was both tasty and a work of abstract art: spiced rum sponge cake with vanilla chantilly and strawberry sorbet. We devoured the baked-to-order chocolate and black currant soufflé so quickly that I wasn’t able to take a photo of it! Trust us, it’s a must-eat.
Everything about Bibo works: the smartly-dressed staff, expertly prepared food, and cheeky decor.
On another evening, we ate at a new Chinese restaurant inside the art hub, PMQ.
John says, “If you’ve sampled the exquisite international delights of Hong Kong’s gourmet scene and are looking for something a little more local, SOHOFAMA offers a little slice of Chinese home cooking with a healthy philosophy of sustainable eating to back it up.”
I confess that I usually am not fond of Chinese food. It tends to be heavy and often seasoned with monosodium glutamate, which makes me nauseous. What a relief to eat at Sohofama, where the chefs use “locally sourced, organic ingredients to create Cantonese comfort food without any MSG or excessive grease.”
True to this approach, the art mixes Chinese and modern, all with a clean and warm feeling. The interior design is by G.O.D., a local design collective.
Co-owner Edwin Chuang (who also invited us to his Pacific Cebu Resort) told us that the chandelier was an impromptu piece, made from colorful toy water guns.
Sohofama has its own organic herb garden, and uses these ingredients in its dishes. We tried mocktails made from fresh berries and mint.
John’s favorite “was the xiao long bao, well-balanced dumplings with a thin skin surrounding savory soup and meat without any unnecessary oil.” Also marvelous are the 24-hour drunken prawns, and a seared organic pork with garlic that tastes just like beef.
Next, we returned to one of the most creative and delicious restaurants in all of Hong Kong: Naked Gurume Gyarari (グルメ画廊).
John raves, “Once again Justin Chan’s Japanese fusion tapas establishment came out the winner among all of the amazing places we visited this time around. ” Above is the “Sexy Naked” sushi — we had it the first time we visited, and couldn’t get it out of our minds.
“Naked never fails to impress with its menu, from black truffle lotus root chips to a poached crow’s egg with big-eye tuna on a crispy wonton wrap.” On the right, Justin wowed us with tapas that combine sea urchin and an olive oil roe (made using molecular gastronomy).
Like last time, each dish was a winner, and drew from the chef’s personal experiences. We adored this grilled hamachi collar with vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Chef Justin ended with a flourish: a dessert plate full of strawberries in just about every form imaginable, including freeze-dried and sun-dried. “Friendly staff and an elegant, chic modern Asian atmosphere, its always good to get Naked in Hong Kong!”
Ready to admire more food and art? “Hong Kong is known for having just about every variety of cuisine available from around the world, so the problem becomes how to figure out just which place to visit when you have a hankering for a specific culinary genre. If you’re in the mood for authentic Thai, Chachawan is the place to go,” says John.
“Highlights of our meal included Khao Pad wok of fried rice with crab meat, egg, and spring onions, and the succulent Pla Phao Glua, a salt-encrusted whole sea bass stuffed with lemongrass, pandanus, and lime leaf, lovingly cooked over a fire and served with a chili dipping sauce, perfect for sharing with a group of friends!”
The atmosphere at Chachawan is just as inspired, with an intricate mural by Caratoes. Love the detailing on the golden claws.
Finally, we tried the cutest food of all… a Miffy cake! These confectioneries, shaped like the Dutch characters Miffy and Melanie, are sold at Arome Bakery (which has many locations all over Hong Kong).
You can pre-order the adorable cake online, and pick it up from any branch. At one restaurant, the diners next to us brought out a Miffy cake! It was so sad when they cut off her ears.
To celebrate Eric’s birthday, we ordered him a chocolate mousse Melanie cake. The shape and face are 100% on point. You must be wondering, how did it taste?
See for yourself, in the funny video above. Things got pretty crazy when we cut the cake… “Miffehhhh!”
PS: Someone asked which camera I use for photography. From mid-2014 onward, images are taken with the Sony A7, a mirrorless DSLR camera. My travel videos are mostly filmed on a Canon 5D Mark II, which is what many fashion bloggers use to shoot outfit photos. Underwater footage is from a GoPro camera.
PPS: Speaking of cats, Basil Farrow has sniffed out a favorite new book: The Art of Gothic, by Natasha Scharf! This full-color tome covers the many manifestations of Goth, from death rock to cyber to Lolita. My friends SiSen and Gothique Prince Ken (GPK) are featured…
… and I’m interviewed in the Japanese Goth section, along with a full-page photo. (Makeup by Jennifer Little of A Little Artistry, hair by Isolde Semple, styling/assisting by Tracy Cake). For a gorgeous, comprehensive and intelligent overview of Goth subculture, check out Natasha Scarf’s The Art of Gothic (available here).
Coming up: I’ll announce my next two destinations, and unveil a new design! I hope the video made you smile. Would you want a Miffy cake for your next birthday?
While in Taipei, I stayed at Le Meridien — a hotel that could easily be mistaken for a modern art museum. The focus is on Asian art with a sense of humor. Walking around, I encountered apologetic cavemen statues and grumpy fish.
Speaking of fun art… If you want a custom portrait of your pet (like the one of Basil Farrow above) then make sure you read to the end of this post. Lots of cute cat photos await you!
Let’s start with a tour of Le Meridien. When you step into the lobby, you’ll see an immense statue of a giraffe with his head bowed. Made from stainless steel by Chinese artist Li Hui, the animal represents the hotel’s dedication to guests.
Le Meridien belongs to the Starwood group, and opened not long ago (November 2010). Despite being an international name, the hotel has a boutique feel.
The large suites are popular for special occasions, especially New Year’s Eve. Can’t beat this window view of Taipei 101.
The building is located in Taiwan’s downtown business district, Xinyi. The proximity makes it ideal for both work and play (since the best bars are also located here).
At Le Meridien Taipei, art an essential part of the guest experience. The 160 rooms contain different works, putting art within reach of every traveler. This living room had X-ray photo of luggage above the sofa, by Nick Veassey.
I was charmed by these seemingly child-like drawings by Ye Yongqing. Primitive, simple, yet profound.
Anyone can come into the property and stroll through the public spaces. Contemporary art is everywhere, and you can take photos of (or with) it.
I got into a fight with this caveman, who tried to apologize.. but I wasn’t having any of it! (It’s by Cao Hui, one of my favorite Chinese contemporary artists. His remarkable works mix humor and morbidness.)
Another favorite: these “The Little Prince” quotes by the elevators. The twisted wire is abstract, but it creates shadows that form words from the famous novel. (The hotel features international artists too; this is by Fred Eerdekens of Belgium.)
My blue hair matches the hue of Taipei 101, which used to be the tallest structure in the world. I’m wearing a white sheer caftan by Show Me Your Mumu, and a rainbow tie-dye top with a Gothic harness collar, by Gladnews Japan.
Le Meridien Taipei is not just about design — it’s also a 5 star stay. Wouldn’t you like to soak in this freestanding bathtub?
Or in the swimming pool? I was tempted to jump in, outfit and all.
I can’t help but smile when I see “Dream Fish” by Hiroshi Ohashi, a Japanese Buddhist carver inspired by fairy tales. Look close: those are dolls riding on his scales!
Le Meridien’s luxurious seafood buffet is one of the most popular in Taipei, with a current waiting list of three months! The price for a buffet meal is about $30 US, but that includes sushi and eclairs.
The PR team treated my photographers and me to lunch at My Humble House, the Cantonese restaurant found in the hotel.
They’re known as one of the best dim sum spots in the city. I could have eaten these truffle-and-veggie steamed dumplings all day.
The dishes are hearty favorites — spicy tofu, barbequed duck — with an upscale twist, like these flecks of gold.
We also ate at Quube, a chic restaurant with tasty cocktails. The food ranges from Asian specials, like chicken fried rice…
… to Italian pasta with lobster, and tomato and bocconcini salad.
Quube’s dishes are perfect for sharing: there’s something for everyone. Images taken by Ken Yuen and noircorner.
I leave you with these Meng Jin paintings. They reflect on how everything changes while you’re travelling, but the sky is the same — no matter where you are. Thank you to Le Meridien Taipei for this inspiring experience.
Speaking of animal art… a huge package from artist Bitsy Knox arrived for us. Basil Farrow couldn’t wait to look inside.
So he used his big, plush feet to try to open up the cardboard! He was right — the present was for him.
We uncovered… a custom painting of my Scottish Fold cat! Basil gives it a sideways-paw of approval.
Isn’t the resemblance uncanny? Basil’s round face, plush fur and short tail are perfectly rendered. Huge thanks to Bitsy Knox, a Canadian artist living and working in Berlin, for this adorable painting.
Would you like a custom painting of your cat or dog? Just contact Bitsy Knox through her website, and send her a few photos. She’ll create a custom work that perfectly captures your pet’s look and personality. It would be the perfect Christmas gift, especially for animal lovers.
Do you buy your pets presents? Did you enjoy the cheeky works of art in this post?
Hong Kong is quickly taking over Japan as the “land of the cute.” On a recent trip, I encountered 1600 panda bears, Pirate Miffy toys, and googly-eyed shoes.
Enjoy this kawaii tour of Hong Kong!
Yukiro, John and I went to the 1600 Panda Bears exhibition at the art center, PMQ. Yes, you’re looking at over a thousand paper-mache bears!
French artist Paulo Grangeon made these pandas, each with a different pose and expression. Some are babies, some are adults.
Every evening, when the doors close, the staff collects the bears and locks them up. The next day, they put them all back in place.
There are only an estimated 1,600 pandas left, hence the number. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) commissioned this creative project, which uses eco-friendly materials and cuteness to share the message of wildlife conservation.
The panda-monium (ha ha) took place at PMQ (元創方). Formerly a Police Married Quarters, this 19th century building is now an art space. It’s home to innovative restaurants and design boutiques, ranging from metalwork galleries to abstract knitwear. For this special event, a few of the cafes offered panda-themed food.
The 1600 Pandas tour has moved on to other countries, but you can always see public art at PMQ Hong Kong. Check their website for free upcoming “happenings,” like drawing workshops. I’ll also take you inside the artist studios, in an upcoming article.
Every major Hong Kong neighborhood has a kawaii attraction or two… or ten. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been visiting Wonderland in Hung Hom.
Rilakkuma, Domo, Hello Kitty, Totoro… this gift store has it all, in the form of stuffed toys, figurines, stationery, and other collectibles. Wonderland is a wonderful spot for children: girls love to try on Sailor Moon backpacks, while boys enjoy the robots, anime and action figures.
You’ll find glass cases stuffed with plush toys, including obscure variations like a Pirate Miffy. (As you know, she’s my favorite mascot. There’s something about that minimal design and inscrutable X-mouth that reels me in.)
Prices are excellent — I got a “Henry Cat and Friends” Scottish Fold notebook for about $5 US, and you can’t find this brand anywhere (not even in Japan). Come to Wonderland to pick up souvenirs, and all your friends will thank you.
Since I’ve been to Hong Kong dozens of times, I never go to tourist attractions like Temple Street or the Flower Market. Instead, I head straight to Izzue to shop til I drop.
This big-eyed kawaii brand is Hyoma. Funny enough, you can’t find it in Japan. I’ve only seen it carried in the larger Izzue branches, such as the one in Mongkok.
Izzue and I.T are known for graphic print streetwear with a cute twist, like these cat-faced shirts.
Bright poppy colors and kawaii faces are Hyoma’s signature.
Some of the items are too over-the-top for me, but I love seeing them on the shelves. I’m not sure who would rock these French fry sneakers.
Is “Musium” an unfortunate typo? Or is this an edgy label? In Hong Kong, you never know.
I love shopping in Hong Kong because the prices are low (considering the great quality), and there is no tax. These galaxy-print platform shoes with eyes are only $72 US! I’d expect them to be listed for well over $100 elsewhere.
To reduce the price even more, visit an I.T Izzue outlet. I’m standing in front of the one in Citygate Outlet Mall, Tung Chung.
Inside, I found cute clothes from past seasons for more than 50% off. These included Ghostbusters collaboration shirts from Chocoolate! (And no, that’s not a typo).
I was there to visit the Hong Kong Express Airways team (I write for each issue of their magazine). It so happens that I’m wearing a Hyoma outfit, from the latest collection. The top says “Cream Skull” and the pink dress has crosses all over it.
Where else can you find kawaii makeup and gifts? Causeway Bay, the district known for its Japanese department stores and youth hangouts.
I’m a big fan of the cosmetics chain store, SaSa. You can see the pink sign above, and all over HK.
Sasa carries “only in Asia” makeup, like Hello Kitty Graffiti palettes.
Japanese brands are better-priced in Hong Kong than in Tokyo, so stock up on eyeliner pens and other necessities.
You can always find “Heroine Make” princess makeup, gyaru false eyelashes, color contacts, and more.
How adorable are these bunny-shaped lipsticks? I think the yellow one is making an angry face because he has no color.
Hello Kitty is perhaps more visible here than in Japan. She and Dear Daniel star in the Giordano “Play 4 Keeps” World Cup soccer collaboration.
Korea’s Line Friends are also growing in popularity. These figures are sold in 7-Eleven. Out of the Line characters, Brown is my favorite. Expressionless animals for the win.
On the spooky-cute side, Spider remains my favorite Hong Kong Gothic & Lolita shop.
Spider’s designs are always evolving. This time, I saw corset laced designs with a carnival feel. Everything is extremely well priced considering the high quality — the lace accessories are only a few dollars each.
Always a pleasure to see designer Natalie. If you’re looking for Hong Kong Goth clubs, parties, events and stores, check out the HK Gothic Society Facebook page.
Yukiro enjoyed browsing the stalls of Women Street, which sell fans, cheongsams, iPhone cases and other souvenirs. The vendors treated him like a rock star, and insisted on taking his photo!
We saw backpacks shaped like owls, and others studded with spikes.
Hong Kong’s MTR (metro) system is efficient, which makes it easy to visit the main districts. Spend a day shopping in Causeway Bay, Central and Mongkok, and you can’t go wrong. Just look out for these two trouble-makers!
Check out more of my Hong Kong shopping articles, for additional store recommendations. Who is your favorite kawaii mascot? I’m rooting for Miffy all the way.
I heart Seoul! I dressed up like a rainbow bird, and flew through two of the artsiest districts: Itaewon and Dongdaemun.
Let’s go inside a spaceship-like design plaza, Lotte fashion mall, Samsung’s new Korean art museum…
… and I’ll show you my “outfit of the day” along the way. I’ve truly been embracing colors lately. Show Me Your MuMu sent me this fabulous Hope Sunset top, with flowing sleeves. They make a pretty white ruffle top too.
But first, a quick announcement: X Japan are playing in NYC on October 11! This is the Jrock band’s first appearance in NY since 2010, and trust me, you don’t want to miss out. X Japan will be playing both new songs and hits from the past decades, like “Endless Rain.”
Tell all your friends, and pick up concert tickets here (Sat Oct 11, 8pm at Madison Square Garden in New York City). For a hint of the experience, check out my review of X Japan’s 2010 show in Vancouver.
Back to Seoul, Korea. I loved walking around the Itaewon district of Yongsan-gu. It’s filled with modern architecture and public art, like this Blue Square in front of the movie theater.
My look fit right in with Illopetals’ bold character design.
The bunny and girl are depicted in a cute style, yet it’s distinct from Japanese “kawaii” aesthetics. There’s more of a street attitude in these works.
To get around, I rode the Seoul Metropolitan Subway. There’s a huge number of stations, forming a snake-like system. I found the metro rather slow, and the stops were not conveniently-placed… I often had to change trains several times, even to go between main areas like Hongdae and Itaewon. Be sure to allow a lot of travel time when you’re in Seoul.
On the positive side, the subway cars are clean and high-tech. Near the tracks, I noticed cabinets filled with gas masks and oxygen tanks, in case of terrorist attacks!
All the passengers were polite and engrossed with their smartphones. I wonder what these Korean schoolboys were looking at.
Itaewon Station is a stop on the brown-beige Line 6. When I stepped out, I knew I was in a hip area: I spotted modern cafes, giant bird and bear sculptures, and murals like this one.
Although we didn’t visit it, there’s a part of Itaewon known as “Hooker Hill.” This area also has an underground gay nightlife, since LGBT culture still tends to be hush-hush in Korea.
I got in touch with DJ Plastic Kid, and he recommended some of his favorite hangouts in Itaewon. My friends and I walked a short distance, and arrived at…
… the LEEUM, or Samsung Museum of Art. (Address: 747-18 Hannam 2-dong.) This modern building is dedicated to Korean art, past and present — and believe me, it’s a must see.
The Leeum’s courtyard has large-scale installations; it used to hold the Maman giant spider sculpture, and now has a tower of stainless steel bubbles.
Seoul loves futuristic design, and the museum interior reminded me of a space pod. There’s a cafe in the lobby (they serve a mean mocha and earl grey cake), and a Takashi Murakami sculpture of a girl, boy and puppy.
The first section houses traditional Korean art, from the Joseon and Goryeo dynasties. The museum design blew me away: the ceramics sit in stark boxes, and are illuminated to cast shadows that bring out their forms. Words can’t describe the powerful effect: these 13th century celadons looked like abstract grey-green pods from the future.
Through these displays, the Leeum made me think of ancient artifacts in a whole new way. They felt just as modern as the high-tech pieces in the second section, which showcases contemporary Korean artists.
My mint and violet shorts, with frayed ends, are from Hyoma Izzue in Hong Kong. The blue-green hair color is by Stephanie Hoy at Avantgarde Hair, Vancouver.
After, we walked around Itaewon and glanced inside the cute cafes. This one features a boy and his bunny. We stopped for a drink at Glamorous Penguin Cafe, which has penguin decor and statues inside.
Warning: drinks and baked goods are extremely sweet in Seoul. Ask for your smoothie or mocha to be made with less sweetener, or you’ll end up with a major sugar high.
DJ Plastic Kid also recommended Post Poetics, an art and photography bookstore. There were images of Patti Smith at the Chelsea Hotel, moving optical art, South African township portraits… I could have browsed here all day. Looks like I’m smiling at a book about film director Wes Anderson!
Time for dinner at Parc, a modern meets homestyle Korean restaurant that he also suggested. This type of interior decor is Itaewon to the max. (Address: 서울 용산구 한남동 743-1, Yongsangu, Hannamdong)
Like with traditional Korean meals, the courses began with small plates of kimchi (fermented cabbage), pickled vegetables, and soup. We ordered jellyfish in cold wasabi sauce and it was pleasing to both the eyes and tongue.
Parc makes a creative version of Bibimbap (the signature Korean mixed rice dish): spicy Denjang style, with river snails. I washed it down with Hallasan soju (clear white rice wine).
Time to visit another space-disco district: Dongdaemun. The famous DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza), designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, glows like a spaceship.
Standing in front of the curving metal pod, I thought, this is Neo-Seoul. This is why everyone is talking about Korea as the world’s most exciting high-tech destination.
Beam yourself in, and you’ll find yourself in the Design Lab, a collective of art and interior design shops. We also spotted a playroom full of colorful balls, but it was locked so I couldn’t take pictures…
The Design Plaza also has seminar rooms and lecture halls. Visitors are encouraged to tinker on this decorated piano. (I actually can play, and sight-read some Korean songs.)
Not sure what this giant ball is for, but I did my best to find out.
Across the street is Lotte Fitin Fashion Mall, a shopping complex for the trendiest Korean clothing. The top floor holds Klive, where you can watch K-pop stars performing as holograms!
Of course, I sat on the Devil throne outside Lotte Mall. Photography by Ken Yuen and Jacqueline Kwok of noircorner, who is sitting in the Angel chair.
One more stop: the Dongdaemun Night Market. The stalls that sell hanbok (Korean traditional robes) and silks were closed. But the street food stalls were just opening up.
So many characters here, preparing and eating food! This woman was remarkably nonplussed about taking photos. Ken and Jacky sat down for Korean pancake, and a set of sashimi.
Time to take the subway home. This man from Korea’s past needed a light, so I obliged. (This is an optical illusion image that people can pose with. Remember when I went to the Tokyo Trick Museum?)
What an inspiring day! If you have limited time in Seoul, I recommend spending a day discovering these two design districts, as they are not far from each other.
Seoul has become one of my favorite cities. Next, I’ll give you a tour of Hongdae and Myeongdong.
Did you know Korea was so future-pop and colorful? PS: if you’re in NYC, don’t forget to check out X Japan’s concert on Oct 11.