Hermes' 3rd floor goes bag-lady chic

Hermes' 3rd floor goes bag-lady chic

Step into the third floor of Hermes in Liat Towers and you'd be momentarily floored by what you see: the whole place has been converted into what looks like a huge plastic bag.

The walls and floors have been covered with the cheap woven plastic used to make hung bak lam doi - that ubiquitous "red white blue bag" often seen on the streets of Hong Kong. And there's even furniture covered in or made from the same material.

Considering how the hung bak lam doi conjures up images of poor fresh-off-the-boat immigrants, one wonders: what in the world was Hermes thinking? After all, one wouldn't be caught dead at the airport carrying one of these things.

Unsurprisingly, it's the cheek and audacity of an artist that has rendered the art space thus. The artist in question is multiple- award-winning Hong Kong creative Stanley Wong, who for more than a decade has been celebrating the humble hung bak lam doi and turning it into works of art.

His "redwhiteblue" series represented Hong Kong at the prestigious 51st Venice Biennale in 2005 and he was named Artist of the Year 2011 (Visual Arts) by Hong Kong Arts Development Awards. So who's laughing now?

Wong, 53, says the inspiration for the series began as early as 1998 when he was shopping in London: "I stepped into this chic London boutique and I found the hung bak lam doi being sold at a very, very expensive price. In Hong Kong, they would cost no more than a few dollars. But in London, it was sold as a luxury object."

That was a eureka moment for Wong, who started to see the durable plastic bag as a symbol of the Hong Kong people: earnest, hardy and resilient.

His earliest works involved posters made out of the tri-colour cloth, bearing Chinese characters that evoked the spirit of Hong Kong people and their lives. Gradually, he went on to design fashion accessories made out of the woven plastic, such as bags bearing slogans like "I can shoulder this" and "No matter how heavy" - all intended to be rallying cries for the people of Hong Kong.

At the Third Floor of Hermes Singapore, he's created a home for four people that's decorated using the plastic. He says: "In Hong Kong, property prices are sky-high and there is nothing more important than having a home."

There is also a segment of the installation where the red, white and blue of the plastic has been cut out and turned into various country flags in those colours, such as the American, Thai, French, Chinese and Singaporean flag - again, echoing the concept of home. The work is curated by Singapore Tyler Print Institute director Emi Eu.

And the title of the art installation? Showflat 04 - a fittingly cheeky title for a cheeky installation.

The exhibition is on till Nov 10 from 10.30am to 7.30pm daily at Third Floor - Hermes, 541 Orchard Road, Liat Towers

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