‘We clicked over design theory and shopping': friends who formed a business together on their different skill sets that help them design everything from toilets to a mahjong set

Asia's Tech News Daily

design, sustainability, Green Common, heels, sneakers, Carlos Place

It was in London some 13 years ago that Editecture’s Genevieve Chew and Jacqueline Chak became fast friends. One a chartered accountant with stacks of Vogue hidden in her office desk, the other an architecture student with a penchant for experiential details, they bonded over shopping.

“We clicked over design, design theory – and shopping,” says Chak. “Although I don’t shop as much as she does, I like the experience of going to a store and seeing how people curate a brand, curate a space. A lot of different concept stores have different vibes, and I really like looking into the space, while Genevieve loves products, merchandise.”

“In terms of values and the way we see life in general, we just clicked, and became best friends from the get-go,” adds Chew. “We’d shop together, but separately. When we go into a store, Jacq would be looking at the details, looking at the counter, taking pictures of a random sculpture, whereas I would stick to the product.”

And so, just over a decade ago, Chew and Chak decided to launch a business together. What started as a succinct concept store that combined edgy fashion brands they loved with a street-level frozen-yogurt stand has grown into a multidisciplinary design agency encompassing fashion, product design, architecture, sustainability and even a children’s platform that champions creativity.

design, sustainability, Green Common, heels, sneakers, Carlos Place

Chak and Chew (right) at their studio in Hong Kong. “She dresses for function, and I for form,” says Chew. Photo: Luke Casey

Their projects are varied – recent ones range from the head-to-toe rebrand of Hong Kong vegan store and eatery Green Common this year, starting with branding identity and including restaurant and store design; to the revamp of 20 washrooms in high-end Hong Kong shopping centre Hysan Place in Causeway Bay; to the creation of the world’s first sustainable mahjong set incorporating upcycled fabric.

“While it may seem insignificant and unconventional to be proud of some toilets, for us the work we did for Hysan Place is core to the shopping centre experience, and we needed to accommodate users of all ages and genders – it is the heart of the space, and one which everyone needs to visit,” says Chak.

Out of 10 clients we take, nine of them become our really good friends. We design their stores, then we design their offices, and then finally we design their homes.

Genevieve Chew, Editecture

The separation of roles between the two has always been absolutely distinct, whether personally or professionally. In the workplace, Chak takes the reins when it comes to spatial design, while Chew leads product curation and money matters.

“I would never say I’m a good architect or interior designer – no way,” says Chew. “Even with my own home, I’d ask ‘Jacq, can you do it?’ And in the first year we knew each other, Jacq also said to me, ‘Can you take my credit card and go shopping for me?’”

It’s an arrangement that continues to this day, dictated by their strengths. Since Chak’s shopping trips tend to revolve around homeware and lifestyle products – and her involvement in projects keeps her on the road and often on design sites for long hours – Chew is happy to take the reins in buying for the both of them.

design, sustainability, Green Common, heels, sneakers, Carlos Place

The Matches Fashion pop-up space in the Landmark’s Belowground designed by Editecture is inspired by the brand’s retail home in London and its signature marble boxes.

“We are both pretty minimal in our styles, but how I would dress is slightly more feminine,” says Chew. “We actually own a lot of the same things, but I would wear them quite differently – for example, for a similar pair of jeans I’d pair it with heels while Jacq would pair it with sneakers.

“She dresses for function, and I for form – she’s very hands-on and has meetings with contractors on a daily basis, on top of meetings with clients, but she loves colours and expresses herself instead through accessories like colourful socks and bags.

“Because I’m a mother of two, I only join some meetings and on those days I like to dress up, because in my time off work with the kids, I’m usually in sweats or jeans. I love fashion, so even on days I’m just going to the office, I take joy in dressing up.”

design, sustainability, Green Common, heels, sneakers, Carlos Place

Editecture has splashed the familiar Matches Fashion print all over the walls of the pop-up.

The duo’s collaboration with luxury online retailer Matches Fashion this month, designing the brand’s gifting pop-up space in the Landmark mall’s Belowground in Central, Hong Kong is an exception, with Chew taking the lead. As an avid shopper who proudly professes that Matches Fashion is on the first page of her phone screen, Chew was elated to be approached to work on the project.

“Initially, I was trying to keep my cool, pretending, ‘Yeah, it’s all good.’ Inside I was like a kid in a confectionery shop,” she says. And so, while clients normally deal with Chew only during the initial consultation, she has been hands-on on a daily basis, working closely with Chak to create a customer experience that marries their respective areas of expertise – space and product – seamlessly.

The space is inspired by the retail home of Matches Fashion in London, Carlos Place, and the brand’s signature marble boxes. Editecture has splashed the familiar print all over the walls to evoke the feeling of walking into a gift box, with a residential and homey feel. While Chak led the interior design, Chew contributed to the curation of products – both ended up doing quite a bit of shopping, in the name of research …

design, sustainability, Green Common, heels, sneakers, Carlos Place

Items from the Matches Fashion pop-up store.

design, sustainability, Green Common, heels, sneakers, Carlos Place

Items from the Matches Fashion pop-up store.

“I think a lot of people like the story of us being super best friends,” says Chew. “People feel we are personable, and not so corporate, even though we’ve done a lot of large commercial projects [ranging from a showroom and headquarters for Mercedes-Benz to an interior and exterior building redesign at Kimberly Plaza in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong].

“Knowing we are friends, they think, ‘These girls must have heart.’ And then they see the detail we bring to a project. I’d say that out of 10 clients we take, nine of them become our really good friends.

“We design their stores, then we design their offices, and then finally we design their homes. When they trust us to design their personal space, that’s really quite special.”

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