Charity Closet with Alan Lo
Alan Lo is the co-founder and executive director of the Classified Group (Classified, and The Pawn) and co-founder of Michelin starred restaurant Duddell’s, which has recently expanded with its first international outpost in London. Alan is passionate about promoting art, design, and creativity in Hong Kong, serving on a number of boards and committees locally and internationally, including Design Trust, Para Site, the Harbourfront Commission and Art Basel’s Global Patrons Council to name a few.
One half of a powerhouse restaurateur couple, Alan lives in Hong Kong with his wife Yenn and their two boys, Gregory and Gabriel.
What are your favourite things to do together as a family?
We love to travel. We just came back from Puglia, on the southern tip of Italy. We stayed at a local farmhouse from the 1700s, and rented a car to get around in. The house had beautiful grounds so the kids could run and swim, plus the 200 lemon trees were definitely a highlight – perfect for hide and seek! It was great for the kids to see a bit of that country life, with bugs, bees and creepy crawlies that city living often precludes. We try and do that at least once a year, a wonderful opportunity to grow and learn for us adults too.
Sustainability for Hong Kong is a common thread in your restaurants and projects. Is sustainability personally important to you and your family?
Sustainability is super important. It’s a little more tricky and challenging to practice in Hong Kong. I think the system is not as mature as, for example European counterparts like Italy or Switzerland, where recycling and reuse is part of everyday living, and engrained in kids from a young age. That said, we’ve noticed increasing attention to the issue in Hong Kong, we are starting to take action.
In school, for example, Gregory is learning to be conscious about switching off lights and electricity and saving water. I’m seeing a movement happening but at the moment there’s still large strides to take.
Art is a big passion of yours. How do you expose your children to art in Hong Kong?
I bring them to galleries from time to time. We sign them up to art classes. It’s about exposure. When you travel, you also see more, and get different perspectives. It’s too early to say what their passions are, but at this age it’s about exposing them to a variety of things.
Design and craftsmanship are an important part of your work and life in Hong Kong. How does this translate when dressing your children?
In the world of mass production it is always nice to find smaller, boutique producers who make limited or smaller runs. It’s about appreciating the artisan and the craftsmanship that goes into each product. It doesn’t just apply to kidswear, it applies to all parts of life whether it is a piece of furniture or curtains or anything. As we look for things, we look for what draws a connection between us and the objects.
Do you feel Gregory and Gabriel will take to Retykling as a new way of recycling their outgrown clothing?
Totally! It’s such a great platform. When you think about it, buying clothes that naturally wear themselves out in 6-12 months is very very wasteful. It’s almost ridiculous. Especially when we live in a city where it’s always about what’s new, it’s nice to be able to cultivate the idea of preloved children’s clothing. It really is a great idea.
You have chosen to donate the sales from your charity closet to Design Trust. Can you tell us about this non-profit institution and why it is important to you?
Design Trust is a grant making platform. Individuals and organisations can apply for funding from Design Trust for any design and creative projects centred on Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region. I feel strongly that Hong Kong is already widening its position on a global scale, no longer just a financial hub, but a major city on the world cultural map. Design Trust has supported many meaningful projects such as an exhibition and research project by the Victoria & Albert Museum; preserving heritage and minority craft skills by Fabrick Lab, as well as notable collaborations with major international institutions: the M+ / Design Trust Research Fellowship Grant, as well as a new Design Trust / Royal College of Art Fellowship in Design Curation. Design impacts each and every one of us in ways that we may or may not be aware, and the organisation is committed to building a design community to do more together in the region.
What have been your favorite destinations to travel with your tykes and why?
Los Angeles! We spent Christmas in LA this past year. It has amazing weather and a little bit of everything including the beach. It’s a city but suburbia as well. And the food scene there is very interesting, they have great organic food, fresh produce and lots of space for children to run around.
I love the idea of a whole new eco-system where preloved children’s clothing can be put to better use rather than sitting in your closet. It’s remarkable how finally the economy is catching on to this particular segment. It’s great!