That desert island feeling.

DID caveman

I tend to think that in the common imagining, desert islands occupy two distinct spaces. There’s the glamorous one in which you imagine figures such as Richard Branson jetting off with a party of fifty on a yacht and then there’s Tom Hanks in Castaway, trying to survive with the ship’s remnants only to emerge four years later adept in spearfishing and loincloth wearing. Moving back to Hong Kong and starting work in a distinctly local environment, I cannot help but feel it to be similar the latter of the two desert island experiences though my comparison operates in the vaguer capacity of metaphor as opposed to the more direct simile. Because I’m somebody whose reason to get out of bed in the morning is the anticipation of the possible combinations of garb that I might be able to piece together on my body that day, my first contention cannot help but be a sartorial one. Having worked in a creative environment in London, home to NewGen, the LVMH prize, Fashion Month port of call #2 and home to a consortium of the coolest youth culture magazines to grace commercial and less commercial bookshelves, what I wore to work everyday relied simply on whatever whim or fancy happened to take me on any particular morning. One day I could turn up to work as a 50s French pupil a la Madeleine with short sleeved collared top and a ribbon round the neck paired with dark blue culottes and ankle strap round toed kitten heels. Or, if I felt particularly working woman builder-esque, I could show up in white dungarees ripped at the knees with a white silk pajama top and woven smoking slippers (I wore this combo to my internship at Tank and it was the first outfit in my life that received a compliment from THE Caroline Issa so it will go down in my books as the best outfit of all time). Denim was de rigeur and interesting footwear was encouraged. And then I flew home. To the 852. Where the MTR never gets delayed and air conditioned walkways that span districts and more. Men roam topless from the beach to the city but tabloids still ooh and ahh and exclaim over any female who dares to bare a shoulder in public. My new job has an awkward dress code. ‘Appropriate casual’ is probably the most accurate way to describe the uniform. But what is ‘appropriate’ is usually defined by local culture and tradition and variable taste. I have since come to find that if I were to draw a Venn diagram of what might be appropriately casual in my mind and what is appropriately casual in the minds of the local conservative Hong Kong public relations industry, the intersection is but a sliver. No denim or trainers – a decree that, when announced in front of me shattered half the stuff from which my dressing dreams are made. It was and remains difficult to fathom what I might do when barred from pairing my midi skirt with my gold egg costing Golden Goose. How do I manage without counterpointing my pleated shirt with my ripped denim? The slight cutout in the back of my tres Parisienne black t-shirt once elicited thumbs ups, now it’s frown-town. Instead, I am instructed to wear business black on formal occasions and humility and decency has to translate in the most literal of terms through dress. Whimsy is restricted, meekness is encouraged. Quirkiness, so celebrated in an industry I had become acquainted with, is now viewed as unprofessional and silly. Thus, gone also are my ideas of wearing full pant suits a la Caroline Issa to work. Now, perhaps worse than Tantalus, I reside in between the raft that is my Parisienne aspiring denim chic and the log that might be full tailored glory, I live on my island wondering every day how I might reconcile who I am and what I am supposed to look like. So now, I get up and try to find the bits and bobs that remind me most of who I’ve worked to become in the years away at uni and reconcile it with an item that might fit in the realm of business but more casual workwear in a more conservative Hong Kong work environment. Most days it turns out alright although I leave the house with the distinct feeling that what I wear ends up looking neither like me nor like them. And most of the time, I wish I could just throw on my pair of high tops or some ripped denim (or really, just any denim) but I’m hoping that with enough trial and error I can work my style into something that looks just as me in a way that can carry into this environment as well. So I guess this was just an 800+ word introduction to say that that’s kind of what I’m going to do here. Because I can’t really do it elsewhere. Shanks. 🙂

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