Four Hong Kong womenswear designers – Arto Wong, Carrie Kwok, Charlotte Ng and Shirley Wong – have jointly opened a new concept store in Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui. MERGE aims to celebrate local design and offer diverse aesthetics to encourage individuality and creativity.
Arto describes it as a great moment for Hong Kong designers to open a store in the city’s largest shopping centre. Here, she shares the concept behind the new store and their vision with FASHIONALLY.
A: Arto Wong
F: Why is the store called MERGE?
A: MERGE refers to the merging of four womenswear brands with very distinct styles, so customers can play around the different styles to mix and match and be inspired by the possibilities that this creates. They are not limited to one vision, but can find clothes suitable for different occasions, moods and times.
F: Fashion brands usually opt to expand their online business these days. Why did you four choose to create a bricks-and-mortar concept store instead?
A: Physical stores enable customers to get to know our brand directly. Even with Instagram, there is still a segment of customers that we can’t reach, yet a physical store can reach real consumers. Another consideration is the shopping experience that online shopping simply cannot provide. Here you can touch the clothes, which is the single most important aspect of a physical store these days.
At least one of the four designers will always be at the store to directly communicate with customers and share the stories behind the designs. You don’t get that with online shopping. This interaction is one of our biggest selling points, because you don’t even get that in other shops at Harbour City.
F: What “concepts” do you want to deliver via the new store?
A: The concepts are the idea of MERGE and the interaction as explained above. In addition, the visual display in our store is very flexible and we intend to change it often, so that we can constantly bring new ideas to customers.
F: What products can we find @ MERGE?
A: In addition to the clothing collections from the four designers, you’ll also find accessories designed by ourselves. We’re planning to launch our own line of lifestyle products, including scented candles, so customers can see that local designers can offer a comprehensive range of high quality products.
F: What unique experiences will the store offer for customers?
A: We will launch crossover activities. For example, we are planning to invite a professional colour analyst to the store to help customers find colours that suit them. They can use this as a reference for clothing, makeup, hair colour and so on to help them create their own individual style.
F: What were the challenges of opening the store?
A: None of us had any experience in operating a retail store, so we had to seek a lot of advice. From store design and negotiating with the mall to marketing and promotions, we had to start from zero.
F: What are your goals for the store?
A: The first goal is to raise the profile of our brands. You don’t usually see Hong Kong designer brands when you go to major malls, so this is a golden opportunity for us. Now customers can easily find us, we can start building relationships with them.