Standing inside Causeway Bay’s vibrant Fashion Walk space, the polished aesthetic of RIL CREED is catching the eyes of window shoppers passing through the neighboring Starbucks. Shoulder bags, handbags, totes, and clutches are elegantly displayed with recessed lighting fixated on crisp premium leathers and fine craftsmanship of each bag. The natural, earth toned peg walls and shelves against clean white walls invites a place of welcome and warmth amidst surrounding cutting-edge concept stores and brands shouting to be seen – RIL CREED stands poised and effortless, with a strong story of sustainability and empowerment to share. After years of pop-up shops all over the city, the Japanese handbag label has settled down in Hong Kong’s ultimate trendsetting neighborhood on Paterson Street.
Johanna Chan, the force behind the brand, strides into the new, brightly lit shop lithe and full of life. Growing up in the handbag manufacturing business, the Hong Kong local spent her childhood in their family factory observing the entire backend of the manufacturing process. “There was so much waste behind the scenes,” recalls Chan. “I’ve seen a lot of offcuts go straight to the landfill. They don’t have a lot of use once the season has passed- and this had always stayed in the back of my mind.” RIL CREED, originally from Tokyo, began in 2012 as a client of her family’s manufacturing business. Chic and classic with a focus on using only offcuts, end-of-roll fabrics or upcycled leather, the handbag line appealed to Chan, then an ambitious, young Babson College grad. She got to know the brand and the background. Upon returning to Hong Kong, Chan and her mother founded LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) Trading Development, acquired the company and began distributing the label in Hong Kong.
Starting in September 2014 at SOGO Causeway Bay during the Occupy Movement proved tumultuous for the company. “It hit us really hard, putting a new brand out into the market,” Chan thinks back. “Pushing sustainability was difficult because it takes a lot of education for people to understand what’s behind a brand.” Determined, the former retail consultant began filming factory tours to show the transparency of how and where her products were made. “After a few years, we saw a huge trend shifting toward brands with an ethos. We had customers that really wanted to know where things were coming from.” People buy products for more than just a beautiful product. As conscious consumers, they want to understand the underlying message the brand is communicating. Having learned most from customers themselves, RIL CREED began hosting pop-ups all over the city – Discovery Bay, Sai Kung, Harbour City, Times Square – to raise awareness and build a community of like-minded women who are conscious about what’s happening in our environment. “Our core customer group want to know what’s behind the brands they’re wearing, so that it really represents them as a person,” states the avid yogi. “They look for the personality in a brand.”
A play on the word real, RIL means promise. CREED invokes a vintage connotation, as the brand uses age old craftsmanship, referencing a promise of good quality. Indeed, each piece from the flagship store looks sophisticated and luxe. Handbags, backpacks, crossbodies, totes, clutches and small leather goods abound in various classic shades in beautiful offcut and upcycled materials. The shop features anywhere between 50 to 60 different styles of handbags that alternate each week in the showroom. Big on repairs and upkeep, each purchased products comes with a one-year warranty on their leather goods.
Helping out other women entrepreneurs, RIL CREED stocks a consignment of curated apparel and accessories from sister brands they love. We spot a rack of beautiful, white minimal shirts from independent label Unfold and a row of pressed floral phone cases, handmade by another local small business Miss Fleurs. Looking to integrate an experience from its physical store, the company will be hosting monthly in-store events to support worthy causes. Their first March event included a charity yoga session supporting local organization, Women Helping Women HK, to help raise awareness of violence against women. Their theme next month will be on sustainability, taking place on Earth Day, April 22nd. Very apropos for Chan, as her vision of what ethical style looks like comes to life.
1/F, Shop 7B, 24 – 47 Paterson Street, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay, +852 9739 3162; Open Monday – Thursday, Sunday and Public Holidays from 11:00AM – 10:00PM; Friday and Saturday from 11:00AM – 11:00PM.
Images courtesy of Green Queen and RIL CREED.