By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

It’s been a while since I’ve ventured down the Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong. Put it down to the ghosts of future passed when my then partner, someone with that gypsy in her soul, forced me to leave the five-star comforts of Convention Plaza, and discover the soul of this city in a great big old apartment she found for us on High Street.

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Sheung Wan, a hop, skip and a jump away, was still very much undiscovered, but she always knew that this unspoiled area of Hong Kong was going to be far more than it was. In hindsight, she was very right and it was an investment in property that I should have made. But, some things are not meant to be. So, visiting Sheung Wan after a few years was a combination of interest, and memories tinged with a certain sense of nostalgia.

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Sheung Wan today is not what it was around six years ago. But there’s still a soul to it. The area’s local roots are trying to find a way to live in harmony with the new neighbours who have moved here as rents in areas like Wyndham Street spiralled out of control and many clubs and eateries were forced to close down. The good thing is that the new neighbours- the area has attracted a relatively large French community- wish to add to the area rather than steamroll all over it, and take away the local charm of Sheung Wan.

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Yes, there are new bars, restaurants and shops, but, somehow, they blend in with the old without taking centre stage. Down Wa Lane- 4 Wa Lane to be exact is Mahka, and described by its founder Maguelene Calmels as a “fashion gallery.”

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This it is pour certainment. But with Red Bull-sponsored music nights with guest DJs where what’s played can be heard through Hong Kong Community Radio, this “fashion gallery”, opened last December, is only just finding its feet and where it wants to go.

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It’s a more hip, funky, urban chic with attitude, and a Francophile-led option to G.O.D- Goods Of Desire- with a smaller price tag and an outlet for creativity that would not be out of place when the old Central Police Station in Old Bailey Street opens as a new tourist attraction comprising everything that Lan Kwai Fong, SoHo and Wyndham Street- mostly restaurants and clubs of sameness- isn’t. By the way, one look at the design of the box they came in, and I just had to own the colognes below. Cigarette? Why not?

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On the Friday afternoon we were there, Maguelene Calmel, who went to school here at French International School explained how many of the tops, and dresses under the creative theme and umbrella of We Don’t Feed The Pigeons features the work of some well-known street artists.

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Everything around the shop is a magnet for creativity, and a brilliant meeting place for Hong Kong’s creative community. Being a meeting place is one thing, but the Mahka brand and its marketing shows all the signs of being the catalyst for igniting that creative spark that has been missing in Hong Kong for too long.

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As mentioned, it’s still early days, but with promotions featuring the creative work of tattooists, a Pop Up presence in the nearby restaurant La Cantoche, and the work of more and more street artists from around the world being brought into the mix and with their work inspiring fashion largely for females, the creative seed has been sown. Asking how much Mahka can grow is like asking how long is a piece of string.

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Already, one would not be surprised to see Mahka expand its own line of merchandising, perhaps with La Cantoche, launch a new takeaway service, launch its own range of French boutique wines, and, most definitely, a presence at Happy Valley Racecourse when the HKJC’s Happy Wednesday brand holds its next France In May promotion.

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