Q&A with Klondike Founder Dorothy Tang

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By Lau  /  March 4, 2016

Anyone who’s visited Sheung Wan’s Klondike store will already know why it has such a loyal fanbase. The hip homewares store specialises in Japanese-influenced vintage and antique decor (think J-pop meets Dover Street Market), as well as accessories and skincare. Of course, behind every hip label is an equally hip founder, and Dorothy Tang is that and more.  

We sit down to chat with Tang about the store, her influencers and her favourite spots to chill out in Hong Kong.

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Can you give us a little introduction about yourself?
Our family moved from Hong Kong to Canada during the immigration boom in the early ’90s. I grew up in Vancouver, and later moved to London to study Womenswear Design at Central Saint-Martins, London. During my course and after graduation, I interned abroad in some very diverse cities like Tokyo, Amsterdam and New York, which allowed me to gain insight into different cultures. After, I followed a family decision to move back to Hong Kong where I worked on my own fashion brand and family projects before switching over to retail business.

How did Klondike come about? 
I’ve always had a fascination for history, culture, and antiques. We lived in several old houses in Vancouver with most of their original fittings and sometimes more – we found a carriage whip in one! When we moved back to Hong Kong, I saw the city was missing something more organic and exciting in offerings.

Who are your ‘typical’ shoppers?
Often, people buy things without considering what exactly they are paying for. Our ‘typical’ shoppers are those who are willing to learn about and appreciate craftsmanship without only looking for the brand.

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How has Klondike evolved since its early days?
Klondike started in December 2014 as an online vintage store and now has expanded into a retail store with a combination of antiques and artisanal high-quality goods. We figured that customers needed a place to discover new brands and products. Also, we try to support small-batch makers who are artists and have vision beyond the commercial.

Are there any criteria you look for when selecting items for your store?
There’s a big variety of products in the store like books, food, home decor and beauty products as we aim to cover a complete lifestyle. We choose to work with brands that we think are sincere and passionate about their business, because this shows in the final product. In terms of individual items, we look for good quality and aesthetics, special craftsmanship and stories that add authentic value to our customer’s life. I often test products before I make a final decision.

What is a typical working day like for you?
The official work day starts at noon when the shop opens until 7pm, I handle sales as well any aspects of the business that I can from the store, which includes emails, social media, research, visual merchandising, buying, etcetera. The workday never really ends and usually bleeds into my mornings, evenings, commutes and leisure hours.

I’m lucky that some areas of my hobbies and business overlaps because I can be out somewhere or travelling abroad and still work from that location.

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Pros and cons of having a lifestyle store in Hong Kong?
The great thing is that people are very appreciative when they find something they love, or couldn’t find elsewhere. It’s rewarding to be able to provide that sense of elation. The bad aspects are the rent and highly competitive retail market in Hong Kong.

And any favourite lunch spots in Sheung Wan?
On a work day I cheat and head to SoHo. Fresca for healthy salads and baked goods at a great price; Pololi to satisfy that raw tuna craving hit or needing some protein; and Kau Kee Restaurant – they serve legendary beef brisket noodles and there’s always a long line-up out front.

On my day off, I head to Café Deadend for good coffee to wash down that food, and Trattoria Doppio Zero for days when I don’t mind a splurge and need some pasta.

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Any tips on cool unknown furniture stores that is within IKEA and GOD prices?
This is a hard question. It really depends on how much use the piece will get and how long it need it to last. I find that in Hong Kong, you pay for what you get and that’s if you’re lucky. Most of my furniture wasn’t bought locally, but I’ve heard that BoConcept and Francfranc are good for that price range. The best place to shop for furniture is probably Horizon Plaza in Ap Lei Chau, although I also have no problems buying second hand items off Craigslist.

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