Douglas Young, founder, CEO and principal designer of Hong Kong lifestyle brand Goods of Desire shares his blueprint for success with Michele Koh Morollo.
Those familiar with Hong Kong design and lifestyle brand Goods of Desire know it by its acronym G.O.D. When said aloud, Gee. Ho. Di. means “to live better” in the local Cantonese language. Indeed, this is the vision that the brand’s founder Douglas Young had in mind in when he opened the first G.O.D. store in Ap Lei Chau in 1996.
Young, a Hong Kong born, London-trained architect, had felt that there was a gap in the market for Asian-themed lifestyle products.
“Back in 1994, I had thought to myself, so many things are made in Asia, so why are we paying such high prices to have them branded overseas and shipped back to Hong Kong? I also felt that Hong Kong needed a brand that would help foster its cultural identity. That was how the idea was born,” says Young.
Specialising in fashion and homeware inspired by Hong Kong’s unique heritage and street culture, G.O.D’s iconic designs include contemporary cheongsam dresses, double happiness photo frames, vintage coaster sets and mouse pads with images of Yau Ma Tei – a neighbourhood in Kowloon with a distinctly local character.
“Hong Kong is a city that changes more rapidly than most cities in the world, but this
means a lot of our history gets eroded with modernisation,” says Young whose goal was to find a way to incorporate Hong Kong traditions into contemporary design. “Like Hong Kong, G.O.D. is about contrast and contradiction, eclecticism, the new and old sitting side by side. There is tension in this dichotomy. The effect can be a little jarring and chaotic, but there is much charm in this chaos.”
Tapping into motifs that have become part of Hong Kong’s collective consciousness – junk boats, neon sideboards and mahjong tiles for instance, Young filled a void in the market and created a demand for stylish, Hong Kong-inspired fashion and lifestyle products that draw inspiration from the city’s heritage while keeping in step with international trends.
Over the last decade, G.O.D. met with great success, and Young now has five shops and a design space and gallery in Hong Kong, as well as a shop in Shenzhen. He admits that existing in a retail market dominated by European and American brands can be challenging, but is grateful that G.O.D. has a community of loyal fans who appreciates the brand’s cultural authenticity and local spirit.
It is Young’s hope to do his Hong Kong heritage proud by presenting it to the world. To him, true success is about working through challenging and being able to do what he enjoys and excels at it. “I believe that if everyone is allowed to do what they truly love, they will most likely get the opportunity to become better at it through practice,” says Young. “This maximising of each person’s talent within a society will enable the community to lead, and allow us all to live better lives.”
Michele Koh Morollo is a Singaporean freelance journalist living in Hong Kong. She has been writing about design, lifestyle and travel for 20 years. She enjoys reading and writing short stories, hill towns and cliffside destinations, staying in beautifully-furnished homestays, and eating well.