Why a young Parisian designer finds Hong Kong exhilarating

September 26, 2015 08:05
Ophelia Jacarini says she finds Hong Kong fascinating in many respects. Photo: HKEJ

Ophelia Jacarini, a 23-year-old Parisian designer, has been on an expedition to Asia, aiming to explore unfamiliar places and imbibe new experiences.

Hong Kong has been the very first stop of her journey that began in 2014. 

Now, having stayed less than a year in the city, Jacarini remains curious about everything around her.

Among other things, she considers the lanterns used during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival as unique artworks.

"I have seen big red paper lanterns during the Chinese New Year in Paris. But I have never heard of the legends of the Mid-Autumn Festival. This is my first," she says.

She also says that she found that there is much more beyond what is stated in travel books, especially when it comes to matters of etiquette.

Since her early childhood, Jacarini loved expressing herself through drawing and sketching. Her elder brother spotted her potential and encouraged her to pursue a career in art and design.

Majoring in fashion and apparel design at the Atelier Chardon Savard fashion school in Paris, Jacarini was not short of job opportunities after graduation.

She learnt a lot from the masters while working for fashion giants such as Princesse Tam Tam and John Galliano.

The fashion world is highly stressful, but it is also extremely rewarding.

To prepare well for a Fashion Week, Jacarini would consume at least 10 cups of coffee each day so that she could stay alert and work day and night.

"I was so devoted that I forgot to eat or sleep. I could relieve the pressures only when the show ended, often by crying with teammates," she recalls.

Despite the stress, she treasures all those valuable experiences. After all, it is not often you can work with the best and the most creative fashion gurus in the world.

As a young and talented soul, it doesn't take much for Jacarini to decide periodically to set off for exotic locales in Asia in search of excitement or inspiration.

She says she was hugely captivated by indigenous clothes and local histories of Singapore, India, Thailand and Vietnam.

But it is Hong Kong where she would like to spend more time. The reason: It is a beautiful, international city with ample opportunities, the designer says.

According to Jacarini, Hongkongers are very friendly and always wear a smile on their face, in contrast to Paris people who are rather cool or indifferent.

She says she is thankful to the locals who always lend her a helping hand when she has to pick up gigantic pieces of luggage at the airport. Also, whenever she gets lost in the streets, there are passers-by who approach her and offer her assistance even without her asking.

Wet markets are some of her favorite places in Hong Kong as there is always something new to discover. She says she is also fascinated with the street stalls selling vegetables and fruit, noting that she has never seen items like dragon fruit and okra in Paris.

Learning Cantonese is a must if you want to embrace the local culture, she says.

Before coming to Hong Kong, Jacarini thought Hong Kong would be a boring place with only high-rise buildings. Now, she says the city never ceases to amaze her in terms of architecture and natural landscapes.

"I enjoy doing sketching in Tai O and Repulse Bay. Meanwhile, I also love shopping at the street market at Apliu Street, Sham Shui Po. It is so easy to find handbags, jewelry and beads for designs."

The only disappointment is the insufficient culture of art, she says, pointing out that Paris has a lot to offer in this respect as it has several arts museums and street artists.

Parisian designs focus heavily on style, sophistication and creativity, she says, adding that the French don't mind waiting a long time to achieve perfection.

"It can take up to one year to work on one artwork. But in Hong Kong, all you have is a month, at most,” the young designer says.

This poses some challenges for her, as the Chinese and Hongkongers often want things done as soon as possible.

"But that's exactly why Hong Kong is a vibrant city," Jacarini says. "No matter how hectic it is, I will keep my word and deliver my designs as promised." 

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 25.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version中文版]

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Jacarini's sketch work on Repulse Bay. Photo: HKEJ
Jacarini's designs included bow ties, scarfs and other items on display. Photo: HKEJ
Jacarini has designed a new handbag featuring horses and watch mechanics. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong Economic Journal writer