When a young team meets the local established brand
It is interesting to note the different perception among different age group of these names: Red A Plastic water bucket, Lee Kung Man Golden Deer singlet, and Leung So Kee umbrella. Those in their 60s and 70s would probably flash back to the good old days, while those in their 40s and 50s may have heard of some of the brands but know little about them. Those in their 20s and 30s would probably think of them as relics. Yet, there is a team of young designers trying hard to recraft these products in the hope of capturing a glimpse of the glorious past of Hong Kong.
Westley and his team completed a few rebranding projects with local brands in Hong Kong since 2019. In November 2021, the team brought to us the Bruce Lee Club x Lee Kung Man crossover project. The product gracefully incorporated Bruce Lee’s “Be formless, Be water” philosophy towards Kungfu, in the hope of arousing Hong kongers’ passion for the brand with this delicate product. It is clear that the mastermind behind this project was deeply inspired by Bruce Lee’s philosophical wisdom.
Another breakthrough project, &Parasol handmade umbrella, gave the steel-frame umbrella not only a new color but also a GPS tracking feature to mitigate loss. Afterall, Leung So Kee umbrella was one of the few household items that could be pawned for cash in the 60s and 70s in Hong Kong, that it has long been considered valuable.
Backflow from the UK, Hong Kong Spirit
Westley co-founded Wholly Wholly in 2017 in the UK after completing his master studies. The team returned to Hong Kong and expanded its service offerings to product design. The team won the 2021 Smart Design Awards Gold Prize with their recraft Number 2 project featuring the Red A lamp shade, which was widely used in Hong Kong in the 60s and 70s. Putting the iconic lampshade together with a smart lightbulb, came the repurposed “Hong Kong lampshade”, which pays homage to the cultural identity of Hong Kong.
What drove Westley back to his birthplace after finishing his studies and founding Wholly Wholly in the UK? The team gladly completed a rebranding project for an established eyewear brand in the UK and wondered if they could apply the newly acquired knowledge and experience to the many established brands in Hong Kong. Brands, established brands in particular, would do their best to maintain the brand names. It is therefore not difficult to imagine how big the challenge was when Wholly Wholly started with no local credential to showcase their capabilities and to build trust with those brands. Westley considered Hong Kong’s history a competitive edge. Since it couldn’t be easily copied, it made Hong Kong unique. Hong Kong design could differentiate itself from others if this uniqueness could be utilized and reflected in its design.
What did these reputable brands see in Wholly Wholly that inducing them to cooperate with this relatively young team? ‘Our members are rather conservative who respect traditional values that may have made it easier for us to connect with the seniors. We have been approaching these brands with an attitude of humility and never assumed a condescending stance to “bring the brands back to life”’. This may not sound demanding that any designers who sincerely want to pitch in would succeed. At the end of the day if such a model of cooperation does not arise, it may be that building sincere friendship in the modern world is a kind of art.
Great design lives in the details
Westley’s list of best design is rather unusual. He was astonished by the story of Kikkoman soy sauce dispenser bottle. Before the invention of the new tabletop bottle, Japanese households would fill small and teapot like soy sauce dispensers from heavy 1.8L glass bottles. The redesign bottle was easily refillable and effortless to lift and use, came with a new upward spout solving the dripping problem.
The second item in Westley’s list was the Apple Magic Mouse. Its battery cartridge allows users to place battery regardless of the positive and negative poles. This was made possible by making a slight change of the circuit design which did not come about until Apple decided to go the extra mile.
Westley was impressed by these two designs as they go well with his philosophy that a good designer comes up with well-received designs, but being a good person is the prerequisite for becoming a good designer, who is able to contemplate life to create meaningful and valuable designs
. Westley deeply admired the Japanese industrial designer Sori Yanagi, a consummate modernist with a deep reverence for tradition. Westley approved of his philosophy and has been working hard towards it by bringing about good designs to make the world a better place.
Westley found tremendous satisfaction from the process of converting an idea into reality, so he would like to stay at this platform to bring about good designs. On the other hand, he beseeches the public to understand in 5-10 years’ time that the profession of Commercial Design / Branding is neither advertising nor logo design, but a process of giving meaning to a brand through design, it involves the feeling about a brand that is a rather elusive concept.
Harmony in diversity
Hong Kongers are known to be quick learners and highly flexible, that they could grapse the essence of branding after seeing one after another brands being magnificently revamped. Wholly Wholly is named “圓融” in Chinese, showing a Buddhist ideology of “harmony in diversity”. It is believed that different values and materials complement each other in our world. Westley holds a similar idea, striving to break the frame in design creations.
Mr. Westley Wong
Creative Director, Wholly Wholly Ltd
Westley has been an active participant in the local creative industry and design education. Being awarded for the DFA Hong Kong Young Designer Award by the Hong Kong Design Centre, Westley expanded his business into sensorial design and exhibition curation as he has been passionate about sharing his vision on branding.
Westley used to be lecturing at institutes, including Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Design, Hong Kong Design Institute and The Hong Kong Science Park. He is also a columnist of MP Weekly's INNER section.