From a small furniture shop to a well-known lifestyle brand bridging East and West, Douglas Young's Goods of Desire (GOD) captures the essence of Hong Kong and celebrates its creativity. Born in Hong Kong in the Sixties, Young moved to the UK aged 14 to attend boarding school and studied architecture at university before returning to his home city in 1991.
In 1996, he and his business partner Benjamin Lau originally sold furniture in Ap Lei Chau until they began focusing on homewares, clothing and souvenirs. Today, GOD, which has six stores and three shop-in-shops, is known for its quintessentially Hong Kong collectibles that reflect the city’s grassroots culture. Here, Young discusses his love of cars, the novel he is working on and why he’ll always be a proud Hongkonger.
You’ve spent your whole career trying to push the culture of Hong Kong forward. Why is this so important to you?
When I returned from university in the UK, I had been out of Hong Kong for 15 years. I suddenly rediscovered Hong Kong: what I thought was ordinary before became special. I also saw our unique culture being eroded by globalisation. Hong Kong was becoming more westernised at the expense of local culture, in terms of food, fashion, music and architecture. When I was young, things were more of a hybrid between East and West. I am determined to help preserve our culture for the next generation. All brands—whether Apple, Louis Vuitton, Ikea, Mercedes-Benz or Muji—are to a certain extent a reflection of their national identity. I believe that a Hong Kong-based brand needs to have Hong Kongness too.
What does your brand represent to Hong Kong?
We have made grassroots Hong Kong style a trend. From our naughty slogan T-shirts to our 2009 renovation of Starbucks’ Duddell Street branch using a very local bing sutt [traditional teahouse] aesthetic, we have defined contemporary Hong Kong style. We represent Hong Kong street style and celebrate irreverent Cantonese humour. Canto humour is very caustic and direct, and its swear words make their English equivalents sound polite by comparison.
How has the pandemic affected the business?
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