Pop-up shop at White Conduit Projects

chapel market  chapel market

chapel market

The vibrant Chapel market


Gentrification in many parts of London has turned the city a soulless place dominated by chains and corporate companies. When I was a student a long time ago, my cousin and I hired a stall selling vintage fashion at the Camden Stables market, and it had a very different vibe back then. Both Camden and Portobello markets used to sell an eclectic mix of genuine vintage and independent fashion, accessories and furniture. These days, the two markets have become tourist traps; and even food markets like Borough and Broadway have become victims of their own successes.

Luckily, there are still some traditional and authentic markets that cater to locals like Ridley Road (Dalston), Whitecross Street food market, Walthamstow Market, and Chapel Market.

One of the reasons we chose the pop-up shop location was due to the market. This is not a posh market, it is an unpretentious working class market selling food, plants and household products at very reasonable prices. Spending the four days working in the vibrant and friendly neighbourhood was wonderful, and we were spoilt for choice with the vast array of eateries around us.


Costumier and Furrier  Costumier and Furrier

Costumier and Furrier

Costumier and Furrier – Possibly the coolest vintage shop in London


Next to the White Conduit Projects is Costumier and Furrier, a fun vintage shop selling fashion, ceramics and knickknacks. Once inside, you feel like you are in Aladdin’s cave and you could hardly move around inside because it is so jam-packed. It is one of a kind, and a rare hidden gem in London.



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Our opening night party


On the opening day of our pop up shop, the temperature dropped dramatically and it even snowed a little around midday. Thankfully, our friends braved the cold in the early evening and came to support us nonetheless.

Over the four days, we had many passerby dropping in including locals and tourists. Sunday was the busiest day partly because of the farmers market, and partly due to shoppers buying Christmas trees at the stall opposite the gallery. Situated opposite the Christmas tree stall helped us immensely, as many tree shoppers spotted us while they were making their purchases.



pop up shop  pop up shop



baby girl  pop up shop


Overall, we did quite well with the sales and met many locals who were very supportive – including the little 10-month old baby girl who felt very at home at the gallery. Although we were exhausted by the event, the experience was a positive one and we probably will do it again in the future.


Hong Kong’s vintage toy & stationery museum – Silver stationery shop

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silver stationery shop  silver stationery shop

Top: The entrance of an industrial building in San Po Kong


Since I started this business, I was lucky to have met and made friends with many like-minded designers and entrepreneurs in Asia and London. After working with Hong Kong’s ten Design stationery for years, I became friends with their designer Paul Lam. Paul and I met up while I was in town, and he suggested a visit to Silver Stationery shop, a quirky vintage toy and stationery shop museum located inside an industrial building in San Po Kong. Paul is friends with the owner Joel and Ryan, a product designer who works there, so he was keen to show me this one-of-a-kind museum that is not featured in the standard guidebooks.

Paul made an appointment a few days before my departure back to London (all visitors have to make an appointment before visiting), unfortunately, Joel couldn’t be there and so I missed the opportunity meet him. However, I was given a tour by Ryan, a toy designer and founder of Makeitwork Studio who is one of the few designers working there.


silver stationery shop

silver stationery shop  silver stationery shop

silver stationery shop


Graphic designer and founder of this shop museum, Joel Chung has been preserving Hong Kong’s culture for the last decade or so. Aside from preserving the works of the King of Kowloon (Hong Kong’s famous calligraphic graffiti artist), he has also been preserving and collecting toys and stationery locally for the last 30 years. In 2015, he rented a studio space inside the industrial building and recreated a shop that mimics a vintage 1960s/70s toy and stationery shop that were ubiquitous in Hong Kong at the time. The decline of these local style stationery shops started the 1980s, and now they have become rare finds in the city. The aim of this shop museum is to preserve Hong Kong’s cultural heritage; most of the products featured were donated by local shop owners before the shops’ closures. The shop museum was recreated in a precise manner, every detail was considered to create an authentic shop ambience that would transport the visitors back in time. All the products at the shop museum are for display only and they are not available for sale.


silver stationery shop

silver stationery shop  silver stationery shop

silver stationery shop  silver stationery shop


As a stationery addict, I was immensely overwhelmed and joyous by what I saw. I picked up a pink pencil case (see above), and it reminded me of the ones I collected when I was a kid. It certainly brought back a lot of childhood memories.

Aside from the shop museum, the studio is also a collaborative space that features works by local designers, as well as selling an array of vintage stationery, toys and games. I was surprised to find that another brand that we work with, Open Quote, has moved from Soho to this new premise.

After Ryan’s interesting tour of the studio, the three of us spent some time chatting and comparing Hong Kong and London’s design industries, and the possibility of collaborating in the future.


silver stationery shop

silver stationery shop

silver stationery shop

silver stationery shop

silver stationery shop  silver stationery shop

ten design stationery

silver stationery shop  silver stationery shop


It is very encouraging to see that Joel‘s passion and efforts in the preservation and promotion of Hong Kong culture have paid off since the opening of the shop museum. Nowadays, he is frequently interviewed by magazines and newspapers, including foreign ones. The museum shop is also attracting visitors from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, so it may not be a hidden secret soon. If you love toys, stationery and Hong kong culture, then a visit to this shop museum is unmissable!


Silver Stationary Shop (銀の文房具)
Address: Room 1B, 1/F, BLK B, Wing Chai Ind Bldg, 27 Ng Fong St., San Po Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Tel: +852 6311 8789 (best to call and make an appointment first)


Shopping in Lisbon

lisbon shop

Window of a wine shop in Lisbon


Shopping in Lisbon is fun because there are many independent shops including vintage and traditional shops that are disappearing fast in London. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time to shop, but I did manage to visit a few ‘essential’ shopping destinations and stumbled across some intriguing shops during my short stay.


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Embaixada  (Praça do Príncipe Real, 26, Príncipe Real) One of the newest and most exciting shopping destinations in Lisbon is this design/lifestyle concept store that opened in 2013. Located in a 19th century Moorish palace, Palacete Ribeiro da Cunha, it is hard not to be awestruck as you enter into this stunning building. The building accommodates retail spaces for more than 15 Portuguese brands over two floors, offering fashion, design, crafts, as well as an indoor and outdoor restaurant, bar and art exhibition space.


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Top: Real slow retail concept store; Bottom: Lisbon lovers


On the same street further down the street, there is another smaller concept store Real slow retail concept store which also offers fashion and lifestyle products with a small cafe inside. Next to it is Lisbon Lovers, a shop that sells Lisbon-related souvenir that is more design-focused than the average tacky ones.
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Shops and barber in Alfama


Meanwhile, Lisbon’s most emblematic and historical quarter, Alfama also offers some interesting crafts, traditional and quirkier souvenir shops including A Arte da Terra (Rua Augusto Rosa, 40).


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2nd left: Luvaria Ulisse; the rest: CHIcoracao


A few shoos up the hill, there is a wonderful woollen shop CHIcoracao (Rua Augusto Rosa 22-24), which has restored looms from the 60’s and the 70’s to produce their own range of high quality woollen blankets and fashion lines. The prices here are reasonable, and if I had the room in my small case, I certainly would have purchased one of their soft and locally made blanket home!


In Chaido, Luvaria Ulisse (Rua do Carmo, 87A, Chaido) is a contestantfor the title of “world’s smallest shop”. This tiny (4 square metre to be exact) art deco glove shop was founded in 1925 and can fit only about two or three people at a time. The shop manufactures all the gloves they sell, and it is the only specialist glove shop in Portugal. If you want to invest in a pair of high quality and stylish gloves that will last, then this is the place to visit.


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Top: Bertrand Livraria; Bottom: Fabula Urbis


Wandering the streets of Lisbon, I came across many bookstores including specialists and vintage ones. This, I think says a lot about the culture of Lisbon and its people.

Interestingly, the oldest bookshop in the world is in fact in Lisbon, and it even has a Guinness World Records certificate on a wall at the entrance to prove it. Bertrand Livraria (Rua Garrett 73 -75, Chiado) was founded in 1732, but it was destroyed after the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and moved to its present-day premises on Rua Garrett in 1773. This original branch has beautiful wood-paneled walls and a wide assortment of all types of books, including some English-language books at the back, offering translated Portuguese literature from names like Nobel Prize author José Saramago or Fernando Pessoa.


Fabula Urbis (Rua de Augusto Rosa, 27) in Alfama is a small gem that sells books and CDs that revolves around Lisbon, past and present. The subjects offered cover poetry, novels, history, politics, art, photography, crafts, textiles, fashion, theatre, cinema, opera, music, astronomy, archaeology, gastronomy, and travel etc.

Situated above the bookshop is a room designed with a stage and piano. It is used for evening recitals and exhibitions of paintings or photography. It is certainly more than just an ordinary book shop.


Palavra de Viajante (Rua de São Bento, 30) is a bookstore that is dedicated to travel. Aside from guide books and travel-related books, they also sell maps, games and notebooks. There is also a pleasant cafe that serves coffee, cakes and simple lunches.


A Vida Portuguesa Lisbon artes & letras atelierartes & letras atelierartes & letras atelierartes & letras atelier artes & letras atelierartes & letras atelierartes & letras atelieracontorcionista manifesto acontorcionista manifestoIMG_3229-compressed IMG_3227-compressed

Top left: Notebooks at A Vida Portuguesa; Others: Artes e Letras Atelier and purchases from the shop


A Vida Portuguesa (Rua Anchieta 11, Chiado) is probably one of the most famous Portuguese shops thanks to its retro and quaint Portuguese packaging and products. The first Lisbon shop was launched in 2007, and since then it has even branched out to Porto (I love the interior and fittings of their Porto branch). The brand has established partnerships with many traditional Portuguese brands, and so all the products found here are quintessentially Portuguese. You will find bathroom essentials, homeware, food, toys and stationery including Viarcro pencils and Emílio Braga notebooks here.

I was on tram 28 passing through São Bento one day when I saw a shop that looks like a letterpress workshop. On the next day, I endeavoured to find the shop by following the tram route. I was quite thrilled when I eventually found it, and even more so when I stepped inside.


Artes e Letras Atelier (Rua dos Poiais de São Bento, 90) is indeed a letterpress workshop and shop that sells letterpress cards, prints and self-published art/ illustration books, with a small exhibition area at the back. I often feel extremely excited when I find gems like this in different cities, because usually they are not listed in guide books. Chatting to the owner, I found out that she is responsible for the designs of the cards and prints sold at the shop, and occasionally she will also print booklets and posters for other designers or small studios.

There are many quirky and unusual art and illustration books that are produced and published by local artists and designers. I felt almost like a kid in a candy store. With limited cash in my wallet (probably to my benefit that they don’t accept credit cards), I decided to purchase a letterpress postcard and an ‘erotic’ themed illustration book called “Acontorcionista manifesto” (see above). This shop is a must if you love letterpress and all printed matters!


Casa Pélys Casa Pélys Casa Pélys Casa Pélys Casa Pélys Casa Pélys

Casa Pélys


Like I mentioned earlier, there are many cool vintage shops in Lisbon and many of them are not listed in the guide books. One of them is Casa Pélys in Campo de Ourique. As soon as I walked into the shop, I felt like I was transported back in time… seeing the retro tiles on the floor, vintage children’s books, toys and homeware brought a smile to my face. The shop was once owned by a photographer Mr Pélys, hence you can still see the remnant of the signage Foto Pelys on the shop front. Now the new owner is a former bookseller who has turned the ground floor and basement into a mini flea market where one can rummage around for as long as one wishes.


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Vintage and antiques shops on Rua de São Bento


Rua de São Bento is home to many antiques and vintage shops, including The World of Vintage (Rua de São Bento 291) which specialises in 1950s – 1970s vintage furniture and objects.


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Top 2 rows: Conserveira de Lisboa; 3rd & 4th left: Loja das Conservas; 5th row: Parceria das Conservas at Mercado de Campo de Ourique


One of the most popular souvenir to bring home from Portugal is undoubtedly canned sardines! And there is an array of brands, flavours and packaging to choose from. But the top favourite shop and brand is Conserveira de Lisboa (Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, 34, Baixa), which is recommended in almost every guidebook. Opened in 1930, the interior of this 80-year old shop has hardly changed for decades. The main attraction is the original wooden counter, selves and an old cash register. The retro packaging is also loved by tourists and locals alike, thus making canned fish a popular souvenir to bring home.


If you want to find out more about canned fish and its history, then you must pay a visit to Loja das Conservas (Rua do Arsenal, 130)/ National Association of Manufacturers of Canned Fish. Here, you can find a wide range of well-known Portuguese canned fish brands and the history of these canning factories. And aside from the famous sardine, you can also find tuna, eel, Ray’s bream, mackerel and horse mackerel. If you are stuck on what to pick, you can always ask for recommendations (which I did) from the shop assistants. Don’t underestimate the allure of canned fish, and make sure you have enough baggage allowance because you may end up buying more than you intended after a visit to this shop!

Last but not least, don’t forget to bring back a bottle of Portuguese wine or port back home! Portuguese wine must be one of the most underrated in the world! Personally, I love Portuguese wine and I am surprised by the limited choices available in the UK. Wine is relatively cheap to buy and drink in Portugal, and one of the best places to taste and buy Portuguese wine is at Viniportugal at Terreiro do Paço. Visitors can purchase a rechargable Enocard for the price of € 2, which will give access to tasting 2 to 4 wines from a selection of 12 wines from different regions of the country. It is a good starting point if you want to learn more about Portuguese wine.


Vintage shopping at Old Spitalfields market

spitalfield market



Since it is the shopping season (whether you enjoy it or not), I shall write about shopping… not Christmas but vintage shopping. My shopaholic days were over years ago, now I seldom go shopping unless it is necessary. Yet a few weeks back, I found myself spending hours rummaging around Old Spitalfields antiques and vintage market on a Thursday afternoon and I enjoyed every minute of it!

Even though part of my work role is to look for new designs and understanding current or forth coming trends, I also have a passion for vintage goods and designs. When I was still a student, my cousin and I hired a stall for in Camden stables market selling our mothers’ vintage 60s/70s clothing. It was my first market stall experience (I never thought that I would be doing it again so many years later), and it was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons; hence our market vendor days were over in just 2 weeks!


spitalfield vintage market


These days, vintage and antiques shopping in London is less fun because prices are much higher and genuine/ rare/ high quality goods are harder to come by. I used to go to Portobello Road market all the time when I was a student, but now the market has lost its charm and has become too touristy and overpriced. Even the rather quaint Camden Passage in Islington has become more upmarket and commercial (not to mention the fact that the government ruled against the Islington council to get rid of the antiques arcade for a Jack Wills fashion store back in 2009)!


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Spending an afternoon at the Old Spitalfields market brought back memories of my student days when I used to rummage around London’s quirky and fun vintage/ antiques markets where bargains could be found quite easily. But the danger of visiting market like this is that you may end up buying a bag (or few bags) full of stuff that you don’t really need or have room for! I tried to restrain myself but I still managed to part with most of the cash I had in my wallet! However, I was very pleased with my purchases and they are as follows: ‘Japanese graphic art book’ (£2), an unused vintage Belgian notebook (£1), ‘The Observer’s book of Furniture’ from the 60s (£4), ‘Our British trees and how to know them’, a 1907 hardback (£10) and a Japanese themed tin (£6), an addition to my existing tin box and toy collection. I especially love the illustrations found in the two vintage books on trees and furniture. Surprisingly, these random object and books brought me more satisfaction than a pair of new shoes or clothing, I guess the idiom: “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” applies well in this case.


Japanese graphic art Japanese graphic artvintage oriental tinvintage books our british treesobserver's book of furnituresucces notebook succes notebook

 Vintage items bought from the market


Besides the Old Spitalfields market, I recently stumbled upon a shop called Radio Days (87 Lower Marsh) in Waterloo late one evening (after 10pm to be precise). At first, I was attracted by the retro and fun window display, but when I stepped in, I thought I was transported to a different era. I was surprised that the shop was still opened so late, so I had a chat with the friendly owner, and it was then that I found out the shop had been opened since 1993. With Serge Gainsbourg‘s “Elisa” being played in the background, I thought to myself that the owner definitely has great taste! The shop is like an Aladdin’s cave, there are vintage household goods, bric-a-brac, old magazines, jewellery, and a back room full of clothing and accessories for men and women from the 1920s -1960s. It is a wonderful and unique shop full of characters, I shall have to spend more time here the next time I am in the area.


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Radio days in Waterloo


One amazing thing about London is that no matter how long you have lived here, you will always discover something ‘new’ in different parts of the city. I was in Holloway recently and I walked past a shop called D. & A. Binder (101 Holloway Road). The shop provides bespoke traditional furniture and shopfitting services, and even though the shop is not a vintage shop as such, I love the ambience, display and the range of vintage furniture and objects here. If I have the space or spare cash, I will bring the Astro boy pachinko machine back home!


D & A Binder D & A BinderD & A BinderD & A BinderD & A BinderD & A BinderD & A Binder

D & A Binder on Holloway Road