High Contrast

Parents Parents x HKwalls (Sham Shui Po 2016) (33 of 34)

When you arrive at Sham Shui Po at 9pm, you catch a neighborhood in transition. The rattle of the night market clinks at the close of tarped storefronts. Overtime workers inhale kitchen steam and BBQ pork in corner dumpling houses. Engines run cold until sunrise.

On Ki Lung St., a lone urban runner takes advantage of unobstructed roadway. He may have settled on his evening pace, but it slows to a half-jog, eyes craning to a closed shopping kiosk washed in white light. At either side of this immaculately green box, a young man and woman hiss an outline of a graffiti piece that would be complete in three hours.

For as long as the owner of this kiosk is satisfied with the artwork, Amson and Ysoo of local collective Parents Parents have added another exhibition to Hong Kong’s expanding street art gallery.

As for the jogger, or passing driver, or other curious local stopping by: what do they think?

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“There’s always someone who asks us what we’re doing,” recalls Amson.  “In such a public space as this, some people will come down the stairs and say ‘I don’t like this art, why do you destroy the walls?”

For Amson and Ysoo, nights like this, spaces like this, and moments like these aren’t confrontations, but opportunities to give locals an understanding that street art isn’t destruction, but expression. Tonight is a preview for Parents Parents’ offerings at this year’s installment of HKwalls, a weeklong urban campaign to spread the local art scene one district at a time.

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Chris Tuazon: What do you prefer: illegal work, or commissioned pieces like this?

Amson: Although this isn’t really like the original graffiti style — bombing and letters — I enjoy these projects.  We’re allowed a safe pace, so we have the time for preparation, sketching, and coloring. That way, we can make it correctly.

 

CT: How did you get into street art?

A: When I was in grade school, I was really into this band called LMF. I really liked the style of their album cover, and I figured I could try to create something like it. LMF was the first hip-hop band in Hong Kong, and it introduced me to hip-hop culture, and at that moment I chose that graffiti would be a part of . . . I don’t know whether to call it a career or hobby.

 

CT: What is Parent’s Parents’ particular style?

A: Since there’s four of us in this group, we work together using the best of our different styles.  For example, I like to draw my cartoon characters.  Ysoo likes more realistic drawings, and freehand writing. So we combine these together to make something interesting.

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CT: In this piece, “Time to Wake,” what are you trying to convey?

A: Since graffiti has a language, those who don’t know it can have trouble understanding and accepting what they see.  So in this piece, the ticking clock, the morning apple, the strong contrast, and the title is all about what everyone’s typical day is like here.

 

CT: If someone saw you doing this and said “Hey, how can I do this?”  What would you do?

A: I would let him know what the real culture is, and if he really wants to try it, I’d let him grab a can and go for it.

 

CT: So in other words, support the art.

A: HKwalls is really supportive of our local artists, and will bring guys from Europe to share their style and communicate with us.  We’ve met crews from Germany, and we’ve learned from them, and not just their art.

These guys are street artists full-time.  People in HK, like my family will say “If you do street art, you can’t get money.  You can’t get a house.  You can’t get anywhere.”  But these guys prove if you really want to do what you want, one day you can succeed, and show your passion worldwide.  For me, now I think about not just doing art within the HK scene, but out there.

 

CT: In the meantime, it seems that you feel pretty optimistic about the scene here.

A: It’s going up, because in the global culture more people are focused on the street art scene.  Galleries out in LA and New York showcase it more than ever before.  Maybe that will make the HK people welcome us and give the public more opportunity to really see the scene for what it is.  Maybe there’s kids here who only illustrate on paper, and don’t realize what they’re doing.  But at that moment they’re making street art.  They’re creating real art.

Parents Parents x HKwalls (Sham Shui Po 2016) (34 of 34)

“Time to Wake” can be found completed here.  This year, HKwalls has chose Sham Shui Po as the local area to bring street art from HK-based and international artists, who will use new & old spaces as public canvas.  Parents Parents are one of many to showcase their talents this March-April 2016.  Follow HKwalls for more information.

Clockenflap: A Hong Kong Home

Every year, thousands of Hong Kong residents, young and young at heart, take to the West Kowloon Cultural District for another glorious Clockenflap Festival.  The warm November air and bright city skyline stew together a weekend of celebrating music, art, and people.  The best of Hong Kong shines for seventy-two hours of light and sound, and I wonder: what now?

It took me three years, but last winter came to an understanding: for all the gargantuan acts that attract the masses to this part of the city, something else entirely keeps us there: community.  Now, as a visitor – frequent that may be – I’m curious to see what Clockenflap actually does for the city of Hong Kong.  Does the magic of the Harbour Flap Stage flicker out with the Sunday headliner, or does it linger just long enough to inspire real action?

Golden Rules

Golden Rules

English producer Paul White stood behind a table of controls and a bass, laying beats and crooning hooks. Not to be outdone, American MC Eric Biddines lay the flow on R&B and funk tones. Together, the duo known as Golden Rules shined for the Saturday afternoon crowd.
Low Bros

Low Bros

"These guys are really design-based graffiti work. We try to have balance, and we figured it's a good time to have theme here this weekend. After they're done, the public will understand what they've done."
HKwalls

HKwalls

"It's nothing too abstract, nothing too letter-based. Regular people can appreciate their design in an event like this; we just want people to understand, whether you're old or young, male or female, this art can appeal to everyone."
Pete Moser

Pete Moser

Clockenflap goes out of its way to make the kids feel welcome, from interactive art to a stage tailored just for them. Tykes have a habit of moving around, which one-man band Pete Moser welcomes with a foot race with his audience, accordion gasping for air with each stride.
Jing Wong

Jing Wong

"My way is to write Chinese songs now. My previous albums were in English, so this is my very first Chinese attempt. The music style; at least the first one, called 'Tango,' that one is totally unlike any Cantopop that’s like in the scene. I thought, 'Alright, I’ll write a Chinese song, but I won’t give people what they normally listen to.' So I hope I could somehow instill some kind of alternative energy into the scene."
Mantung

Mantung

One gets accustomed to Hong Kong's rapid-fire street crossings and platform queues. On the other hand, groups of Clockenflappers made deliberate their snail's pace to set meditation with every barefoot step through the floor path.
Campfire Kit

Campfire Kit

"This atmosphere is so electric, supportive, creative, inspiring; why not dress up like something or someone - some element - to get people excited about visual representation? Everyone here is excited about music, but I want people to tap into the visual aspect of it. Is that too deep? I love disposable art. HK is small; I like creating costumes, but I don't have the space in my apartment to keep them. I want to create something beautiful and magical that can be worn for a weekend, and not feel bad about throwing away recycled cardboard papier mache."
The Fire Nation

The Fire Nation

"We've got about 20 people dressed up as different interpretations of fire. And I'm the campfire. Come by and sing 'Kumbayah' with me!"
Titeretú

Titeretú

Among the interactive art works, kids naturally set base camp at Spanish artists Itinerania's metal marionettes, whose interactively moving parts challenges its young puppeteer to manipulate carefully.
Finbarr Bermingham

Finbarr Bermingham

"A lot of people - even me before I moved here - have preconceptions and misconceptions of Hong Kong, so this has been a good opportunity for me. I didn't really understand the protests at first. This is a pretty affluent place, and I thought the protests wouldn't last. I think in order for a protest to succeed, you almost need to have people struggling. But [the Occupy Central movement] really made me change my tune on that note. I first couldn't understand why these young, rich Hong Kongers were so angry, but researching and speaking to the people involved, it's so straight-forward: democracy. I admire them greatly, since they're willing to put their own future on the line in order for Hong Kong to have one."
Shugo Tokumaru

Shugo Tokumaru

With suitcases' worth of playtime musical instruments, Shugo whipped the crowd into the cutest pop frenzy. If this thirty-minute set proved anything, it's that a child-like approach to any activity is often the most worthwhile.
BOOMSHACK

BOOMSHACK

"Boomshack was founded on American food truck culture, but it's illegal to have a food truck in Hong Kong. So we decided to take that culture and distribute it to the world. There's a law proposed this year to allow food trucks, but it seems it will be heavily regulated. There would be so many rules that it wouldn't actually be a food truck, but rather a pop-up store. But as soon as it's legal, we are there!
Silent Disco with Dad

Silent Disco with Dad

An annual mainstay of the festival, The Silent Disco is always a spectator sport for passers-by. Which makes it a perfect opportunity for parents to embarrass their own.
Mystery Parade

Mystery Parade

As the Harbor sky grew pink with the setting sun, a commotion followed as a neo-tribal band of color guards marched a slithering path of gold flag into the festival crowd. I was never able to determine the purpose of this display, but to echo Campfire Kit's sentiments, it was a memorable use of visual representation.
King Ly Chee

King Ly Chee

"In Hong Kong, the problem is while that while we have Clockenflap, it's a wonderful event that goes on once a year. Sixty thousand people don't show up anytime else. What about all the other shows? There's so many here, and people need to come, not only to this one."
King Ly Chee

King Ly Chee

"In Asia in general, Indonesia is the biggest market for hardcore music, but no one will know because it's all local. We're the guest band, and five to six hundred kids, twelve to thirteen, are losing their minds. All those shows are huge, because the local kids came together and made something great."
Cliff

Cliff

"Some people think that Clockenflap is some sort of 鬼佬 gweilo (foreigner) event, you know. But how do you really define Hong Kong? It’s this. This belongs to us. It’s our music, our people, and I’m really proud of it."
Cosmic Caravan

Cosmic Caravan

Summoning the curious to sit on the evening knoll, these cosmic consultants use a charming approach and spinning disc to induce mystic visions and spread the festival's spirit of love.
Potato Sack Race

Potato Sack Race

Now, what's a festival without your classic potato sack race?
Saul Williams

Saul Williams

"I don't think about my presence with the audience. I’m aware of it, but I relate it to my theatre, and I’m working with that openly. It’s a workshop. I’m workshopping an idea, and I’m ritualizing with music, with interpretation. And so I’m aware of my presence, which I see as an acting thing."
Broods

Broods

NZ siblings Broods took the Atum Stage by storm with synth grooves and relaxed dance moves.
A Weekend for Friends

A Weekend for Friends

The reason I've made it four years in a row.
The Family that Skas together

The Family that Skas together

"This is our fourth time here, and being able to bring the family is our favorite part. We can come together, and it's a great opportunity to teach the boys about music. I wanted to make sure we got to see the Skatalites because I grew up listening to them. I even used to be in a ska band in one point in my life!"
The Family that Skas together

The Family that Skas together

"I think Clockenflap is a big community. I've lived here for 11 years, and I think HK can be flaky and pretend in a lot of ways, but this is an event where everyone actually comes together and no one's too worried about anything except for the lines in the porta-Johns. And I love that it's the weekend of Thanksgiving."

HKwalls: Laying a Foundation

In between the main stage and the rest of the festival grounds, Clockenflappers must cross a grated steel footbridge. Back turned to the Central skyline, as you descend the end of the bridge four shipping containers are stacked two by two ahead. Upon this makeshift canvas lay the outlines of a large mural, currently indeterminable. Aerosol cans hiss and spurt morse code against a rumbling loudspeaker.  Colors and lines take shape.

In a black and white letterman jacket, Stan Wu, co-founder of HKwalls, watches on, snapping pictures and explaining the work in progress to passers by.

HKwalls (4 of 9)

Christopher Tuazon: What is HKwalls?

Stan Wu: HKwalls is an annual event in which we choose a district in Hong Kong, and we ask local and foreign artists to paint over public spaces within a weekend or two. In between that main event, we do smaller ones like this.  These guys, Low Bros, came from Germany, and we flew them here this weekend to share some fresh ideas with the audience.

We want to bring more art that we love — street art, graffiti, exterior, urban, whatever you want to call it — to Hong Kong, because it’s dead right now.

KING LY CHEE 荔枝王: Common Language

King Ly Chee (11 of 20)

Adolescence in California lends a steady diet of local music to ignite a fire inside the youth. From the first NOFX Oy! Oy! to last TERROR two-step, punk and hardcore music armed kids like me with something to make us feel alive. For many of us in the West Coast, this music is at the very least is the soundtrack to our angst, and at-times the crucible that forged an identity.

To watch a punk rock scene, then, is to take an honest look at what the local kids are fighting for and against, and what language it speaks.

So what’s the Hong Kong flavor of this genre? If you’re going to ask anyone here, it’s King Ly Chee, a band who, sixteen years strong, has undoubtedly formed what anyone could recognize as the HK hardcore scene.

Jing Wong: Tangled Up, Tango On

With his new ep, 生活的小偷, singer-songwriter Jing Wong offers a take on classic Cantopop, imbued with his jazz and Britpop upbringing.  These parts create a whole message for his Hong Kong.  On a surprisingly warm November noon behind the Clockenflap main stage, Jing lays out inspirations from and aspirations for a city he doesn’t wish to see leave so soon.

Jing Wong (2 of 4)

Christopher Tuazon: On any given Jing Wong tune, you play around with different genres.  What’s your musical foundation?

Jing Wong: When I went to university in London, my friends and I would mostly play a lot of Beatles covers. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to go to there. I love Britpop.  Radiohead, Blur, Suede. Plus, when you’re in art school, you get to listen to a lot of weird shit, like Sun Ra.

CT: Pop and jazz definitely come through in your music.

JW: On my own, I’m more of a folk player.  But I love laying jazz riffs with the guys on saxophone and harmonica.  The connection is irreplaceable. Without words, we know where we’re going, and we go there together. It’s amazing. That’s what’s beautiful about Clockenflap, too.

Fifteen Years of Take5

IMG_3158Last Saturday marked the fifteenth anniversary of Hong Kong’s premier denim outfitter, Take5.  In between diminishing rations at the open bar, I wasn’t able to capture much.  Nevertheless, the evening did teach me Benny Seki’s impact on the Asian denim scene.

Where Uniqlo undershirts and high-twists are a godsend for my suiting options, I’ve yet to crack the code on surviving May-September in jeans.  But this is a denim party, dammit!

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Under the Brim

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Rubin at home in his workspace at Nick Fouquet.

“When I was a kid, there’d be my dad’s and my grandpa’s sombreros everywhere, and I didn’t really understand what was going on, or pay much attention to it.”

Watching Rubin cut and pull a square of pristine felt into an elegantly battered hat, it seems he’s come a long way from that confused kid in his father’s workspace.

Alberto Hernandez, as Rubin is formally known, takes a quick break from endless orders at Nick Fouquet Hat Maker.  He greets us with a mood befitting the Venice home, where the kitchen sits adjacent to the showroom.

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Rubin, in his handmade apron of repurposed denim and Hawaiian shirt, leads me to the backroom.   Dirt, sawdust, and steam hang in the afternoon air.  He’s in the middle of a multitask.

Kelvin’s Colors

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Getting in deep with an idea as subjective as menswear proves more harm than good sometimes. I ask questions. I get answers. I only have more questions. And down the rabbit hole we go.

Am I best suited with the English or Italian cut?

How many pairs of brown leather shoes is necessary?

What is the value of doing something by hand?

The last question came back around one afternoon in Pacific Place, exhibiting an annual collection of art hosted by the local French cultural bureau. This year’s focus, the French tradition of shoemaking, displayed the country’s fine history of crafted soles in and outside of the Parisian epicenter. One Saturday afternoon hosted Hong Kong colorist Kelvin, who demonstrated Maison Corthay’s unmistakable patina, all done with focused brushstroke.

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Kelvin laid out his fine and fraying brushes, bottles of dyes, and blank canvasses of calfskin, tied his apron, and began a layer, accompanied by curious onlookers and those like myself unloading with English and Cantonese questions.

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With My Own Two Hands

At my age, the days of youthful independence are waning; new mothers and fathers among my friends wax endlessly about parenthood and the gifts it brings. Fatherhood has yet to call me to service, but I wait eagerly for it. And just as much, I worry if my children will ever listen to me. For as much as I love my own dad, I follow his advice as much as you’d trust your dog to file your taxes.

I met one exceptional example of successful fatherhood. Park Jungyul worked from the bottom of Korean tailoring to build Seoul’s leading tailoring house from the ground-up. Among its foundations are his two sons, Changwoo and Chanjin, who followed their father’s footsteps, while carvings sartorial paths of their own. The result is timeless and bold suits of flawless quality.

The Parks caught the attention of one Joe Ha, owner and proprietor of The Finery Company, a Sydney-based menswear collective showcasing suiting and accessory brands up to par with Joe’s own impeccable taste.

With an afternoon between generously timed trunkshow appointments in Hong Kong, Mr. Park, Chanjin, and Joe shared the importance of time, a commitment to God-given talents, and the secrets of a good family project.

This is B&Tailor.

Joe, Senior, Junior Park
From right to left: Joe Ha, Park Jungyul, Park Chongjin

Chris Tuazon: I’ve done a lot of homework before our conversation, just as I expect my students to. One of your sons shared that you deliberately put Korean rooking atop your building to signify this is first and foremost a Korean tailoring house. You are the first Korean tailors I have met, so what would you say is the Korean approach to suiting?

Park Jungyul: I would say . . . as much handiwork as possible. We like to create a silhouette that’s more volumetric than flat, and this gives the suit life. Although no two physiques are same, there are points where we can balance things out for every individual—strike a harmony—and achieve a beautiful balance.

沈阳制造 | Made in Shenyang

Of the different brands and companies I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, Red Cloud struck a chord for my wife Laura.  This clothing company wasn’t just another top-dollar item for her husband to blush and blog over.  Red Cloud was home.

Like we all do, Laura’s blood runs deep into her hometown, all the way to her dying day.  Her sanguine tracks point Shenyang,  a northeastern city covered in cracking dust and biting snow .  Growing up here requires a tough exterior, mincing few words with resolute action.

Raymon makes jeans that are Shenyang tough.  In his flagship store he met Laura and me with a faded-to-sky, beat-to-hell pair of his own denim hanging at his waist.  And just like your typical Shenyang man, he speaks with a gentleness and humor belying the hard shell.

With a history studying oil painting, apprenticeship in Japan’s Fullcount Denim, and a self-taught approach founded in his own line, Raymon and his homegrown company are enjoying deserved praise for their creations.  

Laura and I were honored to share this brand and this story with us.  Please meet Raymon of Red Cloud and Company.

Raymon

Chris Tuazon: Denim, just like any other artisanal creation, is full of terminologies and peculiarities. To someone who has totally no idea, what’s a good place to start with thinking of a great pair of jeans?

Raymon: It’s a hard question, but it really comes down to what kind of person you are, what kind of job you have, why you’re wearing it. My customers are not going to pay too much attention to style: too skinny, too loose, etc. They look at the details: the fabric, the metals, the stitching.