Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. In 27 Questions, we get up close and personal with notable local personalities, learning about their whims, aversions, pivotal life moments, hopes and dreams — all revealed in roughly the same amount of time it takes to sit through a round of speed dating. 

In this week’s edition of 27 Questions, we speak to Jeanine Hsu, the eco-conscious designer behind ethical jewellery brand niin. With sustainability at its core, niin pieces are lovingly handcrafted from natural materials such as stones, metal and wood for a unique and chic aesthetic well-suited to the sustainable-minded fashion pioneer of today’s age.

It’s no surprise then that niin has quickly skyrocketed into one of Hong Kong’s popular homegrown jewellery brands, with savvy sartorialists often seen rocking the delicate pieces, from dangling earrings to statement necklaces and even a range of elegant, mosaicked clutches made from iridescent materials such as mother of pearl and abalone shell. Hsu had a busy 2018, unveiling a new store on Hollywood Road, and launching the latest “Ha Tha” collection, which reflects the balancing act between masculine and feminine, light and dark. Read on below to find out this designer’s favourite Hong Kong haunts, her karaoke go-to and the top destination on her travel bucket list.

Name: Jeanine Hsu

Age: Under 40 ;)
Neighbourhood: Sheung Wan
Occupation: Designer and Founder of niin

1. What is your life motto?

Treat everyone and everything as you would wish to be treated.

2. What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Hong Kong?

I had an amazing lunch at La Petit Maison recently. I was really impressed by the quality of ingredients, and special touches such as tomatoes on the tables you can slice and enjoy. The decoration is cosy, yet chic too and the service was excellent.

3. Who is your role model? 

I don’t have one, I truly believe in being your authentic self as much as you can!

Niin’s brand ethos is all about self-discovery and staying true to your authentic self.
4. What was your first job? 

Having interned at the Vienna Workshop Costume Fundus, and looking after the costumes, some over 100 years old — I landed a paid job as a costume design assistant on a theatre production directed by Peter Zadek at the Vienna Burgtheater.

5. What is your drink of choice?

If we are talking alcohol, I’m a true Austrian. I love a cold fresh beer (Loewenbrau is my favorite) followed after by a crisp and dry (freezing cold) Sauvignon Blanc or an Austrian Riesling.

6. When was the last time you drove a car?

Yesterday. We just moved the niin shop from Hollywood Road to Gough Street, which has meant a lot of lugging bits around especially as it was 95% recycled furniture. The holiday season means more shows as well, so we have been setting up the new collection in our locations and moving my designs around Hong Kong a fair bit too!

Niin’s new brick-and-mortar store on Hollywood Road.
7. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?

The location. It’s just on the top of the escalator, so I can drop my son at school and walk to work all within 20 minutes. 

8. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Shifted from a night owl to morning person in the last few years since becoming a mum (involuntarily! ha). 

9. Which phone app could you not live without?

Whatsapp. I love a bit of emoji banter and photo sharing. I don’t know how you get anything done without it, most work is done using it, especially when it comes to production and more efficient communications.

10. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Really? Ouch. Toughest decision ever, but it would probably be ALL fresh fruits.

11. What is your biggest regret in life?

No regrets!

Jewellery pieces from niin are crafted with natural stones, crystals, woods and metals.
12. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?

The lack of space… and the greedy landlords!

13. What is the top destination on your bucket list?

Still South America. That was my gap year plan when I graduated from school and turned 18, however I decided to do an Art & Design Foundation Year instead before my BA in Fashion… so I’m still “saving up” in my head to go and finally take the trip! Not sure I’ll be back-packing anymore though :)

14. How often do you prepare your own meals?

1 or 2 times per week? I would like to change this as I do love cooking but juggling the business, kids and still seeing friends is not that simple! You have to choose what you do with your time, and I find there is never enough of it in each day.

15. What is your greatest fear?

Meeting a shark whist swimming in the plastic-filled ocean :(

16. When did you last ride the Star Ferry?

Two weeks ago, it’s one of my favourite things to do in Hong Kong. 

17. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Massage of any kind. If money were no object, I would opt for some sort of massage daily and surely find the time hehe!

18. What is one movie everyone should see?

The Shawshank Redemption.

19. What is your typical Sunday like?

Wake up early with my son, make pancakes together or eggs for a family brunch, jump back into bed for cuddles, a little TV/snooze, then do something outdoorsy like go to the beach/swimming or meet up with some friends where the kids can run around and play.

Weekends are all about family time, says Hsu.
20. Which moment in your life would you most like to relive?

My Burning Man trip in 2013. Mind you, maybe I will just go again!

21. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?  

LA? At least that’s what I thought the last time I went for The Further Future Festival… realistically though it would more likely be Vienna or somewhere in Europe.

22. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?

When you invite people to sit on your table that you have never met, and generally be open and friendly. When you can embrace change, think and act fast — in fact, I usually do things last minute!

23. If you could invite any five people in the world to your dream dinner party, who would they be? 

Mandela, Buddha, Tony Robbins, Sheryl Sandberg and Bob Marley. 

24. What is one song you know all the lyrics to?

Ha, so many… I’ll go with an easy “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd.  

25. If you could banish someone from Hong Kong forever, who would it be?

All the greedy landlords! That’s a bit mean though, but having a break on the rents here would make everyone’s life here SO much better, and small businesses wouldn’t have to close all the time…

26. Where do you go when you want to be alone?

I’ll go for a hike or foot massage. 

27. If you had to describe Hong Kong in one word, what would it be?

Two words: Full on!

Leslie Yeh
Editor in Chief
Having worked as a lifestyle editor for almost 10 years, Leslie is thrilled to be writing about the topic she loves most: wining and dining. When she's not out pounding the pavement for the latest new restaurant opening or tracking food trends, Leslie can be found at home whipping up a plate of rigatoni vodka and binge-watching Netflix with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand.