Brian and Vincent Wu know a lot about shopping overseas. Since they founded much loved Australian boutique retailer Incu in 2002, the brothers have criss-crossed the globe on buying trips, visiting showrooms and attending fashion weeks.
“We travel five or six times a year, [mostly to] Paris, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong,” says Vincent. When the brothers are in New York they rarely have time to shop – “most of the time we’re stuck in meetings,” says Vincent – but they always try to make time to check out “inspiring retailer” Opening Ceremony, as well as the city’s iconic department stores like Barneys and Bloomingdales.
Their most frequent destination, for shopping or otherwise, is Hong Kong. “We usually stop over there on the way to Paris,” says Vincent. “It has all the brands and lots of different types of stores. It’s also where our parents live.”
Vincent has two pieces of advice for overseas shoppers: research before you go and be realistic about your purchases. “It’s important to make sure whatever you buy overseas you’re actually going to wear when you get home,” he says. “Brian and I have both done this many times – you start buying all this stuff and you realise, ‘hang on, I won’t even find an occasion to wear any of it.’”
We asked Vincent for his top-five picks and finds when shopping abroad.
“One store we always check out in Hong Kong is Delstore,” says Vincent. “It was opened by a guy called Derrick, who we know quite well because he was the menswear buyer at Lane Crawford, a big department store in Hong Kong.”
Hidden down a lane in Wan Chai, it’s a small, highly curated, “destinational” store says Vincent: “If you don’t know it there’s no way you would find it.” Owner Derrick Leung is often on hand to issue style advice and entertain customers with tales of his travels. “He’s the type of guy who would look all around Japan and find the most unique, hard-to-find brands,” says Vincent. “Then he finds the best pieces from those brands. He does all the work for you.”
Those brands include Art and Science, Engineered Garments and Blue Blue Japan. On a recent trip to Delstore Vincent bought a handmade heavy-knitted cardigan-slash-jacket by Kapital. “Derrick told me it took three or four days to indigo-dye it,” he says. “With indigo, because it’s a natural dye, it will slowly change colour and wear out. It’s a very unique piece.”
Another favourite Hong Kong store is Shine, a small chain of boutiques owned by Gary Wong. “We’ve known him since we first started Incu,” says Vincent. “We usually bump into him in Paris. He’s known to roam around every showroom and find the most crazy, unique, hard-to-get stuff, or brands that are up and coming.”
Wong has great style and his stores cater to a specific customer: “Hong Kong celebrities and people who love unique pieces,” says Vincent. “It’s very eye-opening.
His favourite purchase from Shine is a pair of Comoli wide-legged judo-style pants made from over-dyed black fabric. “After a few washes, the colour will come out a bit,” he says, “especially around the seams, to give it that worn look.”
In January Vincent bought a wallet from luxury brand Goyard’s Rue Saint Honoré store in Paris. “It’s my favourite piece right now,” he says. Not as well known as other luxury fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Gucci, Goyard is a heritage brand that still owns its own factories. “I love Goyard because they seem to have a different strategy to grow in the luxury market,” says Vincent. “They’re very slow in growing. Around the world they only have a handful of stores.”
North Face Purple Label
The Wus love shopping in Tokyo. “It’s is the only place in the world where menswear outnumbers womenswear in many stores,” says Vincent. “For inspiration and [to keep up with] what’s happening in the market, Tokyo is the best place for menswear.”
Japanese brands fill the best menswear boutiques around the world, but one collection only available in Japan is North Face Purple Label. “It’s always one of the first brands we go to,” says Vincent. “It’s functional, technical apparel with a fashion spin on it. Very wearable and looks cool with everything. It doesn’t feel like just an outdoor collection.”
One of Vincent’s favourite online options is Coverchord, a Tokyo retailer that stocks top Japanese brands including N. Hoolywood, Nonnative, and Unused. He says its offering is unique and not what you find in large online stores.
“Online stores these days seem to stock so many brands that it’s not that well curated. I don’t feel they represent my style that much.” Smaller stores like Coverchord, he says, “can really fine tune exactly what they’re all about. I would gladly wear most of the stuff on that website.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with NAB’s Platinum Visa Debit card, which offers no foreign currency fees on international purchases both online or when travelling overseas, as well as seven complimentary insurances including purchase protection insurance.*
*A qualifying purchase is required to get the benefits of the complimentary insurance. See terms, conditions and exclusions of the complimentary insurances specified in the NAB Card Insurance Policy Information booklet and in the NAB Purchase Protection Insurance Policy Information Booklet. The complimentary insurances are issued by QBE Insurance (Australia) Limited ABN 78 003 191 035 to NAB. Access to the benefit of cover under the NAB card insurances is provided to eligible NAB cardholders by operation of s48 of the Insurance Contracts Act 1984 (Cth).