K11 Musea is envisioned for the ‘modern conscious consumer’. A certified green building, the self-proclaimed ‘cultural-retail destination’ in Hong Kong boasts rich plant life, over 4,500 sq-m of living walls and an urban farm. But amid the greenery, one of the supermall’s occupants takes a more industrial approach to appeal to its creative and eco-aware clientele. The Fashion Door uses storytelling to hint at rising sea levels – and turns scraps into sculpture in the process.

Culture and commerce have long been linked. The most obvious example is a museum’s gift shop, which can reportedly contribute up to as much as a quarter of its associated institution’s revenue. Or think of the many art- and sculpture-rich retail spaces à la Dover Street Market. It’s surprising, then, to hear K11 Musea calling itself the ‘world’s first cultural-retail destination’. If not the first, K11 is still impressive. The brainchild of billionaire developer Adrian Cheng – who assembled 100 (yes, 100) creatives for the collaboration – the supermall is part of Hong Kong’s huge new art and design district, Victoria Dockside, on the Tsim Sha Tsui harbour.

Located within the certified green building is the first Hong Kong boutique for Guangzhou-based retailer The Fashion Door (TFD). For the interior, the team at branding design consultancy Leaping Creative fleshed out an idea they’d been toying with for a while, a concept that centres on one of southern China’s largest recycling facilities. ‘The resources the facility preserves have always interested us,’ says Leaping Creative’s founder and design director, Zen Zheng, ‘and we’d been thinking about doing something with them. Coincidentally, our client knew the facility as well, so after some initial concept brainstorming, one of our main options for the store was to bring in the recycled materials from the factory. The concept of recycling responds to the circle of fashion trends – of fashion being constantly inspired by elements from the past.’

Although much of its supply comes from Guangzhou, the factory collects materials from various industries in different cities. The salvaged assortment includes parts of old public buses and heavy trucks, as well as leftovers from certain manufacturing processes: injection-moulding cases, steel from pressure casting and so on. ‘Everything strongly refers to China’s tag as “the world’s factory”,’ says Zheng. ‘We found the old and new materials very fascinating, since each is a symbol of industrial civilization and tells the story of our modern lifestyle.’

With this in mind, the Leaping Creative team concocted a notional narrative, gazing a few hundred years ahead through a fictional crystal ball. When Zheng starts relating his story, though, it doesn’t feel altogether sci-fi. He talks of future humans discovering the site underwater and sifting through the debris to find a giant ‘creature’ at the core. This creature would ‘give archaeologists a glimpse of the excessive consumerism in 21st-century society’. For now, though, the sculpture he describes is the first thing visitors see when approaching the store: an otherworldly assembly of old escalators, boat and motorcycle parts and a truck’s engine.

Rising tide levels mean waterside locations like this one are resting on precarious ground. It’s an issue that will certainly affect the generation to which K11 Musea and TFD are aimed. ‘TFD is targeting trendy young people, so we wanted to be cool and attractive when conveying the idea of green and sustainable,’ says Zheng. He says the store is designed to tell this sustainability story through the installation, details and ambience, but is the method of communication obvious enough to be understood? If nothing else, the presence of an overbearing alienesque form should fulfil another of the store’s goals: to help initiate a conversation with its customers.

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding reuse and recycling. One circulating story is that recycling expends more energy than it saves. The likes of Brigham Young University Idado are hoping to debunk such myths, reporting that ‘manufacturing using 1 ton of recycled materials uses less than half of the energy to manufacture the same products using raw, virgin materials’. Reuse, though, is more transparent. And keeping the original objects intact – casting them in resin to create new forms, for example – brings the message out into the open.


This piece will be featured in our forthcoming Mar—Apr 2020 issue, Frame 133.