As our epic September issue hits newsstands with pages dedicated to luxury, lifestyle, beauty and fashion, we go behind the seams for a pow-wow with notable connoisseur of all the above, Arne Eggers, the senior vice-president at Karla Otto.
The trouble is, Arne Eggers is so well-known and so well-liked by oh-so-many in the city, many clutched-their-pearls when he shifted base to London after a decade (more in fact!) in Hong Kong – that too, on the eve of a global pandemic. If he had a vision of what life in the UK would be like and how much jet-setting he’d have to do with his base not far from Kensington Palace, well, fate intervened and had all-new plans on the agenda.
As we knew of him, he adapted, bounced right back and spoke to us at length about new designers to keep an eye on, how the Hong Kong market is seen from the perspective of design houses and why the clogged arteries of Central will always have a special place in his heart.
It’s so odd to chat online when we are so used to seeing you in person at Sevva, Zuma, MO Bar… but now you’re stuck in London. Why have you abandoned Hong Kong Mr Eggers?!
I relocated to London last December, after 12 glorious years in Hong Kong. Shortly after I arrived, we went into the big lockdown which meant I had plenty of time to settle into my new neighbourhood! I live in Notting Hill and am only a few minutes away from Kensington Gardens – where I could be found daily, as walking was pretty much the only thing left for us to do in lockdown. While work required my permanent base to be here now, I haven’t abandoned Hong Kong entirely as I will continue to spend much time in the city. Sadly, the travel restrictions haven’t made that part very easy, but I am hoping to be back towards the end of the year. I miss it!
What are the challenges in a post-pandemic, well… still pandemic world?
I am now based in Karla Otto’s headquarters in London and manage the UK market while continuing to oversee our offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul. As the pandemic is at different stages in every market, we are not facing the same issues everywhere. The most obvious challenge in most places has been a sensible return to in-person events. While everyone seems to be sick of purely digital content, it’s still hard to imagine that we will go back to huge fashion shows and packed after-parties any time soon. In China that isn’t a problem though – there we are mostly struggling to keep up with the high paced environment!
How is the industry changing – for the better? And what’s still as bad as it was?
One thing that has changed is that we realise that we all don’t have to constantly travel. I was on a plane pretty much every week before Covid, but much of it was probably unnecessary. Scaling it back permanently will not only benefit the environment but also our own well-being. Due to the pandemic, many brands have also simplified their set ups and reduced the number of collections that is being produced, focusing on the core instead. It was all a bit much before so I think that is a positive change – if it will last…
Tell us about new brands and designers that you are excited about working with and who you want to work with.
We recently started with London-based Albanian designer Nensi Dojaka, whose lingerie inspired designs have received a lot of attention (Dojaka was recently been announced as the winner of this year’s LVMH Prize for Young Designers, receiving a 300,000 euro grant as well as a year-long mentorship programme hosted by LVMH executives).
Another emerging talent in our portfolio is menswear designer Daniel Fletcher who runs his own label and designs for Italian label Fiorucci. And I love the luxe aesthetic of our client Khaite, the New York-based womenswear brand founded by designer Catherine Holstein.
Do you find this ‘revenge shopping’ track that fashion blogs have been brandishing to be true?
We definitely saw elements of that in China, but I don’t think it’s necessarily true for every market. Priorities have changed and many people are not going back to the ways they consumed in the past. Spending has mostly shifted towards beauty, wellbeing, health and homeware rather than fashion. Those sectors are now thriving.
in Asia, does Hong Kong still lead the way – or has Shanghai, or any of the other first tier cities in China, taken the number one spot?
I would say that Shanghai is now probably leading the way in the region. It’s a true metropolis with a buzzing fashion week, highly successful design and art fairs and a plethora of local creative talents. It has its own sub-cultures and now creates trends rather than just following them. Another hotspot is Seoul, which continues to inspire the region, especially in the worlds of beauty and entertainment. Hong Kong may no longer possess the influence it had in the past but that doesn’t mean it is standing still. The city has continued to reinvent itself and I have no doubt it will continue to evolve creatively in a really interesting way.
Hong Kong is an addiction you can’t break – when are you planning to pop back?
I may not be there right now, but I certainly haven’t left Hong Kong! I genuinely can’t wait to get back and hope to make that happen in autumn. Once travel will get a bit easier, I am planning to spend around 50% of my time in Asia and Hong Kong will continue to be my base for that.
This story first appeared on PrestigeOnline Hong Kong.