A growing number of creative entrepreneurs are setting up in across the South Island Cultural District, attracted to a buzzing vibe of diverse creative energy. Here, we talk to the founders of Independent Labela and Casa Capriz
For Ellis Lee, the co-founder of Independent Label, the impending completion of the MTR’s South Island Line and area’s growing number of shopping and design hotspots — such as Horizon Plaza for one-off home products — made choosing the southern tip of Ap Lei Chau as his base a simple choice.
Having previously considered Chai Wan and Kwun Tong, Lee now has a showroom/office with unrivalled sea views, where he stocks vintage furniture which have undergone an imaginative list of dazzlingly colourful reinventions which he devised himself.
Lee shares “a unique complex” for vintage furniture like Herman Miller classics with his fashion-designer wife Henny Tjoa. Together with her Indonesian-Chinese background and fashion design training, the idea for Independent label, originally focused on fashion, germinated by chance during a trip to Australia. Now, they specialise in revamped designer chairs which tell all sorts of stories and engage in numerous cross-overs — these are seats which not only look good, but you can sit comfortably in them and they are, above all, “a canvas upon which ideas can be freely lavished”.
Under their inspired care, vintage classics are re-upholstered by hand, using upcyled leftovers, washed denim, batik silk and digital print fabrics. Topics that Lee works into the chairs range from adorable pets to fun ideas of muscles and ladies’ stockings, even spatial justice — perhaps juxtaposing a photograph such as Symphony of Lights against images of street-sweepers.
“While being a creative director in advertising allows you to freely add your input in executing a brief, in the end you are just responsible for ‘putting make-up on products’ and it’s not about you,” says Lee, recalling his experiences as a TV commercial director. “It is a more fulfilling experience to finally find ourselves through our chair designs.”
This is a preview of the “A patchwork that works" article from the October 2014 issue of Perspective magazine.