Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. In our weekly 27 Questions column, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims and aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same amount of time it takes to sit through a 2-minute speed date.
Words like progeny and scion get thrown around a lot in a city like Hong Kong, but one would be hard-pressed to find 18th generation stock like Hiro Yoshikawa. Raised within the lush purlieus of rural Shiga by Lake Biwa, Yoshikawa is the first of his sake family to leave the village and forge his own path. His candour is equally refreshing.
“I didn’t need to follow the family business of sake brewing. I am the second son, so I can do what I want,” he chuckles. “I wanted to pursue fashion after graduating from university. I travelled around the world and decided on Hong Kong finally in 1989. I have been here for 31 years.”
From window panes to the labels on his family’s sake bottles, Yoshikawa grew up surrounded by washi paper. This was the inspiration that drove him to create a sustainable denim material from the most unusual source.
“My passion is denim, but I always think back fondly on home. After many years in the denim industry, the year 2000 was when I decided to make jeans by incorporating Japanese paper [washi],” he explains. “It took me 20 years to perfect. I’ve patented the material WASHI No. 6 paper yarn. It belongs to me. It’s so difficult. Someone tried to copy it in Taiwan and it didn’t work. I don’t need to worry. It’s impossible to make.”
If grit had a name, it would be Hiro Yoshikawa. For many, especially young people, 20 years seems an unfathomably long time to cultivate a single goal. His denim studio, tucked neatly away in Mid-Levels West, is a tranquil, delightful reprieve from the hubbub of the outside world. Along with a range of jeans in his ready-to-wear collection, he also offers a made-to-order option — masterpieces that can take up to three months to complete.
“The whole process actually takes a year!” he reveals. “I’ve prepared most of the raw fabric already, which helps shorten the time. Everything is made in Japan, and then sent back. We don’t use chemicals in my jeans. Everything is organic and slow.”
Visits by appointment only.
G/F, Minerva House, 1B Babington Path, Mid-Levels West.
Name: Hiro Yoshikawa
Occupation: Founder and Master Jeans Wash Designer
1. What was your first job?
There is a photo of me that exists; it shows me as a 2-year-old, holding a sake bottle and removing the label for recycling.
2. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am a workaholic, so both. I wake up at 7:15am and sleep at 1am or 2am.
3. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
4. What is your biggest regret in life?
I am allergic to oysters but I ate some and was sick for a week.
5. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?
Chinese restaurants with karaoke screens.
6. What is the top destination on your bucket list?
7. What is one movie everyone should see?
I love Disney movies.
8. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
Back to Japan.
9. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?
Action! (Hong Kongers are fast and quick to action.)
10. If you could invite any five people in the world to your dream dinner party, who would they be?
Tadao Ando, an architect; Greg Lauren, a high-end fashion designer; Elon Musk (I think he’s a real alien, haha); Aiko Toyoda, CEO of Toyota motor corporation and finally, Guy Berryman from Coldplay. He loves classic and I’m making his clothes.
11. What is one song you know all the lyrics to?
The ‘Sakura’ song.
12. Where do you go when you want to be alone?
13. If you had to describe Hong Kong in one word, what would it be?
14. What’s your favourite childhood memory?
I was always running around the sake brewery. Always running.
15. What is your favourite scent in the whole world?
Hinoki, a Japanese hot spring wood.
16. Are you a good cook? What is your best dish?
Sake miso soup!
17. What is the best career advice you received?
“Once you decide something, just go for it.”
18. How many pairs of shoes do you currently own? which do you wear the most often?
Around 20 pairs. My Valentino sneakers.
19. How many countries have you been to?
A lot. I want to go to more.
20. What would you do if you won the lottery?
I’ll build a denim factory.
21. What was the best gift you ever received?
1,000 origami cranes.
22. When did you feel that you ‘made it’?
When I created WASHI No. 6 yarn.
23. What’s something special you’ve done recently?
I spent three days without sleep working on a denim art piece for my friend, Shun. He is opening a new restaurant and I wanted to make something meaningful tied to wabi-sabi.
24. If you could snap your fingers and fix one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would eliminate plastic.
25. What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?
I was kidnapped (they made a mistake, I wasn’t the person they wanted). Since then, my life changed.
26. A genie gives you three wishes — what are they?
For the world to be free of cancer, COVID and AIDS.
27. What is your life motto?
Continue to only do one thing.