Livia Arena believes in the beauty of slowing down.
The Melbourne-based womenswear designer – who four years ago opened her retail space with a factory out back – will soon transition into non-seasonal fashion with a focus on intimates. Arena says the decision comes from a desire to “slow down the fashion cycle further, even though we’re already a very slow fashion brand because we make everything in-house.” The goal is to “produce a line of ethically made, luxury, versatile garments that are price accessible” and thus never go on sale, upending the usual expectations of retail.
When she’s not altering spaces and sensibilities, Arena makes the time to get back to Hong Kong, where she lived from the age of eight to 18 before returning to Australia for uni. Her father still lives there, and she visits a few times each year. Maybe all that back-and-forth explains why transportation shapes her best-loved aesthetic experiences in and around the city.
“Transport is probably my favourite thing about Hong Kong,” she says. “I find it so efficient. I like getting around and covering a lot of ground when I’m there.” But of course, transport for Arena isn’t just about going from one place to another. It’s about absorbing the life and surrounds in every direction, whether from the vantage point of a time-worn ferry or a cloud-capped hotel bar.
Dragon’s Back Trail
Hong Kong has a wealth of picturesque hiking options. Dragon’s Back Trail, the southernmost leg of the Hong Kong Trail, is quite close to the city. The viewing platform atop Shek O Peak is ideal for soaking in the breadth and variety of the surrounding landscape. Less touristy than popular hiking destination The Peak, Dragon’s Back is used more by locals, and it provides a perfect excuse to sample Shek O’s excellent seafood restaurants. “Once you go over the mountain,” Arena says, “you get a beautiful view of Shek O and the beaches and bay. It really doesn’t feel like Hong Kong.”
Near the Tei Wan stop on Shek O Road
Though not exactly a secret, Victoria Harbour’s much-loved Star Ferry remains a firm favourite of Arena’s. Running between piers in Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai, the ferry is a lasting emblem of Hong Kong’s old-world past. “There’s something so reliable and beautiful about it,” says Arena. “They’re really old boats, and the whole thing is like a work of art, [including] the guys at the pier throwing the ropes. It’s like Hong Kong’s metronome.” She makes a point of taking at least one ferry trip every time she’s there. “I’m obsessed,” she says, laughing.
Central Star Ferry Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier, Wan Chai Star Ferry Pier
Double Decker Trams
Melbourne has its trams, and London its double decker buses, but Hong Kong has double decker trams. Grabbing a seat on the top deck gives you an elevated view of the stunning architecture and thrumming street life – especially on the route running from Sheung Wan to Causeway Bay. “You can be a total observer,” says Arena. To that end, she likes to hop off at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai and settle in at Pawn, a former pawn shop that’s been converted into a bar and cafe. “I sit out on the balcony and just watch Hong Kong life go by,” she says. “That’s one of my favourite local things to do.”
HK Tramways; Pawn, 62 Johnston Road, Wan Chai
Another converted treasure, PMQ was first a school providing Western-style education and then Hollywood Road’s designated quarters for married police officers. (Thus the acronym.) Today it’s a forward-thinking design centre that spans artist studios, shopping and dining culture in what Arena calls “a really interesting, up-and-coming area”. As modern as PMQ may be – it hosts pop-ups and small, independent designers – the historic building is close to the old antiques district of Hollywood Road, where legacy businesses still sell head-turning artefacts such as ornate Chinese coffins. Arena describes them as “huge wooden caskets shaped like flowers … but they look really futuristic”.
35 Aberdeen Street, Central
Many cities lay claim to posh bars in the upper reaches of skyscrapers that provide magnificent views, but Ozone literally takes it to the next level. Located on the top floor – level 118 – of The International Commerce Centre, which just happens to be the tallest building in Hong Kong, this high-end Ritz Carlton watering hole is all too aptly named. “The bar has an open deck area where you’re literally in the clouds,” says Arena. “It’s on the waterfront, and you see an entire view of Hong Kong. It’s really spectacular.” The cocktails have names such as HK Skyline and Don’t Look Down, so this is one you won’t forget.
Level 118, ICC building, 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui
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