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. This week, we speak to A Matter of Design founder Joanne Chow.
Joanne Chow may be best recognised for bringing Danish furniture brand BoConcept and British brand Tom Dixon to Hong Kong, but she’s been in the business of bringing brands to life ever since she relocated to Hong Kong close to ten years ago.
As a testament to her supreme multi-tasking and managerial prowess, she is currently at the helm of four distinct businesses — InDHouse, A Matter of Design, Des Voeux Partners and Azalvo — spanning lifestyle retail, asset management, textile manufacturing and idea incubation. Last year, she made the Forbes Asia Power Businesswomen list of 2019. As if that doesn’t already conjure a busy enough schedule in your mind, she’s also a mother of four.
The Hong Kong born-and-raised entrepreneur spent her formative years at HKIS, before completing her studies at Syracuse University with a degree in Public Relations and Policy Studies. After a stint in London working at a media agency, she returned to Hong Kong to join her family’s textile manufacturing business, Aussco, which was started by her grandfather in the 50s. It was here she struck out with her own textile R&D firm InDHouse in 2012, which has manufactured for upscale and high street brands including Adidas and Ted Baker.
In 2013, after being unable to find BoConcept anywhere in the city when she relocated from San Francisco, she discovered a gap in mid-end contemporary furniture, and ended up establishing A Matter of Design, where she brought BoConcept to Hong Kong as its sole distributor. The brand now has three showrooms: its Central flagship on Wyndham Street, Sha Tin’s Home Square, and Lee Gardens at Causeway Bay. Chow later also introduced British design brand Tom Dixon to Hong Kong, which enjoys a prominent flagship location at the foot of SoHo.
Within the past few years, Chow also co-founded Des Voeux Partners (DVP), an asset management and financial consulting firm, as well as most recently, Azalvo, a fashion and lifestyle incubation platform that aims to help brands innovate and maintain healthy beneficial relationships with their investors.
This month, Chow has been hard at work getting her businesses up to speed with the current challenges posed by CoViD-19 (BoConcept has newly launched a digitised shopping experience with virtual store visits for all three showrooms). Ever-fervent about great design, she’s also behind the wheel for the second edition of the BoConcept Home Design Awards.
Following a collective experience in social distancing that has no doubt left most of us wondering how we can improve the home environment, the brand has posed a challenge for established and amateur interior designers alike to utilise BoConcept products to style a typical two-bedroom, 650 sq.ft. apartment in Hong Kong, under the brief — a ‘Home Sanctuary’.
For this week’s edition of 27 Questions, we speak with Chow to get to know more about her life philosophies, how she stays productive and level-headed, and how she juggles her time between business and family.
Name: Joanne Chow
Neighbourhood: Pok Fu Lam
1. What is your life motto?
“Live Long and Prosper” — Spock
2. What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Hong Kong?
The rare occasion when my husband cooks.He’s quite skilled and has an instinct for how to cook things. His Alton Brown inspired Thanksgiving Turkey is to die for…
3. Who is your role model?
Far too many to list and everyday I am inspired by someone new – the range spans from Einstein to Marie Kondo. I am inspired by people that just do their own thing, regardless if it’s in vogue.
4. What is your drink of choice?
I am a lightweight when it comes to beverages of the alcoholic variety, but I do like a good Napa Valley Cabernet. I also love a good Hong Kong milk tea and Latte without sugar.
5. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?
It’s near to a great park, where I run every other day and my kids enjoy their biking fun.
6. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Neither. I need 10 hours of sleep (but alas, typically get 6 hours).
7. Which phone app do you think more people should know about?
Nike Run Club. It talks to you, and it links to a playlist. I also like Yummly a lot for all my grocery runs (it gives you recipe lists). When I am in Southeast Asia, I love Grab. The others delivering apps just don’t matchup, while Grab makes it safer for women travellers on work trips in the region, and takes me to yummy food anywhere I am.
8. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Spaghetti Bolognese — comfort food.
9. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?
The cost of living.
10. What is the top destination on your bucket list?
Peru, Machu Picchu. My best friend Emma’s been there twice and I am so envious!
11. What is your greatest fear?
Of losing love ones and not being present for them.
12. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
My nails. Setting time for regular pampering. It has to be in my calendar, or it will never happen.
13. What is one movie everyone should see?
‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ an American classic. Every Christmas no matter what, I must re-watch it and tear out every time.
14. What is your typical Sunday like?
Coffee, Church, espresso, Kid’s Sunday School, double espresso, fun activity with kids (for example the beach or bicycling) dinner with family, some bubbles, then movie night.
15. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
Whistler. My husband has family in Vancouver and a home in Whistler since the 80s when it was just a mountain. It’s a great retreat summer or winter. I treasure it every time we’re home.
16. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?
If they can appreciate a good char siu rice and pork chop rice!
17. What is one song you know all the lyrics to?
Happy Birthday in English and Chinese.
18. If you had to describe Hong Kong in one word, what would it be?
Grit. To survive here, you have to have grit.
19. What is your favourite scent in the whole world?
Tom Dixon London for candles and/or diffusers. Otherwise, it’s the freshness of newborn babies, when they give you that fuzzy feeling.
20. Are you a good cook? What is your best dish?
21. Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had, what is one important lesson that they taught you?
My great mentor, past Rotarian District Governor Alexander Mak. He has a heart of gold and lives to exemplify what it means to give back to the community, as well as to be a citizen. [He taught me] to have empathy to be in someone’s shoes.
22. Have you ever experienced love at first sight? Tell us about it.
When I met my newborn kids.
23. What is your unique party trick?
I use catering apps and I love my cake maker Fiona. She is on speed dial all the time as I have four kids and multiple birthdays annually. I also set the table days in advance and prep the menu a week ahead.
24. How many pairs of shoes do you currently own? Which do you wear the most often?
A dozen or so. I love my Common Project boots and shoes for visiting construction sites as well as for wearing all day long. In retail, we visit a lot of construction sites all year round.
25. Where do you go when you want to be alone?
My best friend parent’s house in Gold Coast. My refuge.
26. Would you rather never be alone for a single moment, or be alone for the rest of your life? Why?
Depends who I must be with. I will need some alone time for a while.
27. Which moment in your life would you most like to relive?
Summer in Beijing in my last year of college, it was such a great time.