Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. Each week in 27 Questions, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims, aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same duration it takes to sit through a two-minute speed date.
These days, Elaine Chen Fernandez has a lot to celebrate. With the launch of her visionary cross-functional creative space, The Wild Lot, and recent engagement to equal rights activist Kayla Wong, this forward-thinking innovator has a lot going on in both her professional and personal life. Building merits of her own that far belie her background as the scion of another well-to-do property family (her grandfather, Thomas Chen Tseng-tao, is a co-founder of Hang Lung Group), Fernandez envisions a world that prioritises artistry over profit, and acceptance in lieu of barriers.
The Wild Lot exists as a culmination of her inspirations and desire to use her platform to do good. Described as ‘an extension of [her] living room’, Chen Fernandez claimed that she had ‘no business plan attached’ when deciding to launch it. This curious destination exists as a multipurpose event space / gallery / sustainable shop / clothing recycling centre and more. Everyone is free to pop in at any time — whether an event is being hosted or not.
Its versatility allows it to morph to fit the needs of its user, whilst still quirkily decorated with everything from bold murals to repurposed Kowloon Dairy milk bottles that add Fernandez’s vibrant character back into the place in a way that “doesn’t forget the traditional part of Hong Kong.”
Being part of one of the most prominent LGBTQ couples in Hong Kong, Fernandez understands the importance of inclusive visibility, and hence she has fashioned The Wild Lot as an experiential concept space that would allow artists or brands to openly express themselves without fears of heavy financial burdens or diluted messaging.
Fernandez sees the place as an ever-evolving collective — a local hub for everyone from inspiring artists to renowned brands to actualise their vision of the world. As the space grows and expands its purpose, Fernandez plans to use its ideal location tucked away on Shin Hing Street in Sheung Wan to host block parties with its surrounding local restaurants and shops, reviving the community neighbourhood spirit of days bygone.
To gain more insight into the creative fever that drives Fernandez’s incredible mind in its pursuit of entertainment that does good, here are 27 questions that give you a glimpse of the world as she sees it:
Name: Elaine Chen Fernandez
Neighbourhood: Happy Valley
Occupation: Founder of The Wild Lot
1. What is your life motto?
In the context of Hong Kong — chill out!
2. What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Hong Kong?
Anyone who can straightforwardly answer this is not from Hong Kong. It has to be narrowed down to cuisine or location! But for brunch, Baked. I like their concept, it’s quite different for Hong Kong… their vibe is also very chill; [all about] creating that [sense of] community.
3. Who is your role model?
Off the top of my head, I’d say Frida Kahlo. I love her strength; I admire her unapologetic nature. That’s one thing that has taken me quite a while to get to, that feeling [of being] confident enough in my independence to speak out and know that my principles are in line with how I want to live my life.
4. What was your first job?
My first job was photography. It wasn’t my major, but I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do after I graduated and I decided to just take a chance and apply. So actually, my first job was doing school portraits.
5. What is your drink of choice?
I’ve been on a lemonade kick lately. But, if I was going to go with liquor, whiskey is always my alcohol of choice. But since I met Kayla I haven’t actually been drinking that much because she doesn’t drink.
6. When was the last time you drove a car?
This morning — I drive every day.
7. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?
The dogs and people that fill it.
8. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I used to be strictly night owl, but I have been waking up a lot earlier lately, mostly because I like to hear the city before the construction starts.
9. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
10. What is your biggest regret in life?
I really do try to live my life without having regrets. Like you might have certain moments that you regret, but any kind of philosophy in life that’s led me to where I am makes me not regretful… because it taught me something, I still came out of it differently.
11. What is the top destination on your bucket list?
Croatia or Spain.
12. What is your greatest fear?
If I ever stop learning.
13. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
I want to be a good person and say carbs.
14. What is one movie everyone should see?
‘Onward.’ The message and the story is really interesting.
15. What is your typical Sunday like?
Recently, it’s been to be as lazy as possible because I have been so busy and also because it has been so hot. But now that it’s cooling down, I definitely want to do more little exploration walks on the Kowloon side.
16. Where do you go when you want to be alone?
Home. Alone, I think, is more of a mindset. It’s just where you kind of feel the most able to be yourself.
17. If you had to describe Hong Kong in one word, what would it be?
18. What is one thing you’ve never revealed to your parents?
It would have been my first tattoo, had they never found it.
19. Have you ever experienced love at first sight? Tell us about it.
Probably when I was younger. It probably would have been love at first banter, because I think that’s really what gets me more than anything.
20. Do you have any favourite tattoos or special birthmarks? What is it?
One of my favourite ones is this Bird of Paradise tattoo, that the same guy who did the mural outside on the wall [of The Wild Lot] did. Also, this one that Kayla drew. She drew one on me, and I drew one on her that our friend [tattooed on] for us.
21. Would you rather never be alone for a single moment, or be alone for the rest of your life? Why?
Never be physically, [emotionally] alone. You can be surrounded by people, and still feel alone.
22. When did you feel that you ‘made it’?
My answer for this is: I still haven’t.
23. What energises you about your work?
Seeing the response that people have to it, because it makes me feel like I am actually creating something that is beneficial to your inward kind of self.
24. Start your life again at age 15 with all the knowledge you have now, or fast forward 10 years?
I’d go backwards. My mom had Stage III cancer for 10 years, and I feel like a lot of my own coming into myself I put on hold, either out of protest, or not wanting to develop. Or at the end of the day, everything was always about my mom. I feel like I maybe missed out on the frivolity of my 20s, and trying out different jobs, and trying out different things. Why wouldn’t you equip yourself with that much knowledge at a younger age? Although that may also come with trouble if one knows too much.
25. When was the last time you felt starstruck?
When I was living in West Hollywood, there were always celebrities that live in the area, and my dog jumped up on Liv Tyler’s skirt.
26. What’s a relationship deal breaker for you?
A big one would be not wanting kids because I want kids, but initially I’ve never been turned on by someone who is super picky with food.
27. What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done, and why?
To open this space and to keep it afterwards. If I were to open up a space like this with the lofty concepts and ideals that I have for it, you really have to keep up the momentum — you really can’t just say I want to help people and do nothing. So, I think the ongoing scariness is the hope that I can do enough, or make enough of an impact with it.
The Wild Lot, G/F Shop B2, 6-10 Shin Hing Street, Central, Hong Kong
All images courtesy of The Wild Lot and Elaine Chen Fernandez