For more than two decades, Denielle Wolfe has been at the forefront of design and product development for brands like Kate Spade, Coach, and most recently Tumi, where she led the design department. Last month, along with her co-founders, Wolfe launched Arlo Skye, a travel company for the design obsessed. Her first product, a lightweight carry-on that we can't wait to get our hands on, is currently available for pre-order. She shares her top spots for shopping in Hong Kong.
HONG KONG – For more than twenty years now — before the Internet and cell phones were a part of everyday life — I have been traveling to Asia for work. To a foreigner traveling in the region at least twice per year, the changes always seemed quicker and grander than anywhere else in the world. I still visit Hong Kong every six months, and with each return visit comes changes: old businesses go, new businesses come, construction alters the landscape, Britain's 100-year lease expires.
I learned Hong Kong on my own by taking my hotel's card and walking for hours. I knew that if I got lost I could jump in a cab and get back okay — it felt like an automatic reset button. Now I have many friends living in the city who introduce me to new places.
I am a wanderer. I love to take in the contradictions of a city, old and new, ignored and deteriorating, hip and happening juxtaposed with the traditional. It's what makes wandering inspiring, being there and seeing a place transform, integrate, and change. By the end of any visit, I am usually exhausted and exhilarated and have gathered a few treasures to consume during the remainder of my work in Asia. And, of course, a few more to bring home.
These are the places — both old and new — that I like to visit when I'm in Hong Kong.
No. 35 Aberdeen St., Central; +852-2870-2335
The renovated building that once was a school is now full of indie pop-up shops. You can often see artists making pieces or samples in their shops. There are design offices and eateries, cooking classes and artist studios, and a regular schedule of visitor activities.
Between Shing Wong St. and Aberdeen St.
Hong Kong has a few famous historical streets like this one. These small streets get redeveloped to draw in new hip shops and shoppers. There are two famous noodle shops, one with tomato-based broth and one with beef-based broth. They're on opposite sides of the street and people line up starting at 11:30 a.m. — even in humid hot weather — to sit outside and eat a bowl of the city's famous fare. Usually it's too hot for me, so I pass the folks lined up and head to stores like Woaw and Homeless instead.
Tai Ping Shan Street
Between Upper Station St. and Kui In Fong St.
You will find interesting shops and places to eat, but my favorite thing about this street is the wall art. To get there, you have to walk up Ladder Street, one of the many stair-cased streets in Hong Kong. Your nose will be filled with incense burning from the Man Mo Temple. Once you arrive at Tai Ping Shan you quickly realize it's all about the street and the surrounding area.
108 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan; +852-2873-3353
A nice spot for lunch when walking from Gough Street to Tai Ping Shan Street. I usually go when I'm missing home and want to satisfy the craving for a cold, hearty salad.
Parallel to Queens Rd. E., Wan Chai
Star Street and nearby Moon and Sun Streets are on my list of must-walk areas. Monocle, a curated men's Club Monaco, Henry Cuir, and 45R are all there, but I go for my Kapok fix. I have a healthy addiction to the design store. I still recall the day when I first discovered it and struck up a conversation with the owner. I loved the music that was playing, so he introduced me to Sound Cloud and a few of his favorite songs to listen to. I always go back.
Tsim Sha Tsui
Everyone goes to Harbour City to shop. The lines outside the luxury stores often start forming early in the day, so it can get unbelievably crowded. Every large brand is represented in the endless rain-and-heat-free shopping halls. It's what many come to Hong Kong for, but I usually glance through the store windows on my way to a favorite recharge spot like Nha Trang. The flavors are fresh and complex. I always show up early and really hungry. I'm a big fan of the rice paper salad rolls, but my favorite is the cu lot chien cuon, which has soft shell crab in it. I also love when food is cooked in pandan leaves, so I get the la dua bo nuong — grilled beef wrapped in pandan leaves. It is so moist and rich in flavor.
Fresh vegetables at Tong Chong Street Market.
Gateway Arcade Level 3, Shop 3001, Harbour City, Canton Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui; +852-2375-8222
I know what you are thinking...it's a grocery store. But it's a great place to pick up snacks and reading material for the road.
Sweet House Cha Cha
City Super, 3/F, Harbour City, 17 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852-2375-8222
Amazing Japanese sweets made using Japanese ingredients. The soft ice creams and uji matcha smoothies are made with Hokkaido 3.6 milk, a smooth and yummy milk that is slightly fattier than full cream or whole milk varieties.
Tong Chong Street Market
Taikoo Place, 979 King's Rd., Quarry's Bay
The small farmers market is only open on Sundays, which should be a lazy, slow-paced day no matter which country you're in. This is a nice spot to explore and enjoy good food under a tent. I was mesmerized by all the artisanal eats and tasting samples that were on display, but Levain Bakery's croissant meets brioche "tree trunk" was my weakness. If the outdoor market doesn't tempt your appetite, you can always try Mr. & Mrs. Fox, whose menu is a melting pot of different food styles with Thai, Korean, Greek, Italian, Indian and Lebanese influences. They also have a raw bar and serve traditional American steaks. It's a big comfortable place to go and hang out with a group of friends. My favorite pick is the whole snapper with Balinese spices.