Made in Hong Kong: Adrienne Ma, luxury retail heiress

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Adrienne Ma is one of the most well-known and respected female entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. She has years of business success behind her, she’s pretty savvy when it comes to making the right move and she comes from a rich entrepreneurial heritage, being the daughter of retail guru Joyce Ma, the creator of Hong Kong’s uber-successful Joyce Boutiques. After taking the helm of her mother’s company and actually raising it to new heights, Ma left in 2007 to create her own legacy by establishing AMA Holdings, a company specialising in luxury retail, e-commerce and retail consulting. Since launching AMA, Ma has brought French luxury label Moncler to Hong Kong and also started online members-only e-tailer. Shouke.com, which has since been acquired by online retail titan Net-A-Porter. In short, Ma knows how to succeed in the luxury retail market.

Ma is always on the go, eager to bring something new to Hong Kong. And she’s just done that, again, by actually focusing on the past. She’s partnered up with Bernardini Luxury Vintage from Milan and opened up the brand’s first Hong Kong store. The shop specialises in selling restored luxury vintage pieces, like a limited edition Cartier watch worn by Coco Chanel, an LV trunk which has been customised to double up as a whiskey bar and humidor, and a Patek Philippe from the 40s with a Cartier logo on it – possibly the only one in existence. Hong Kong has never had a store like Bernardini’s before – and Ma wants to tell us why she’s brought vintage to our trend-driven city.

What made you bring Bernardini to Hong Kong?
Okay, let me explain a little background. Basically, Bernardini started with Max Bernardini’s father, and now Max, who is my partner, has taken over the business. The history is that they dealt in vintage watches and clocks. And then, since 2004, Max has been working on restoring and customising luxury vintage pieces. That means he buys beautiful trunks and cases, mostly branded, that he customises into, for example, a bar and a humidor, a vanity desk or even a music system. As far as I know, they’re the only ones who provide this restoration, customisation service and product in the world. I’ve seen Max develop and expand on his product range and I think it’s very interesting. I love the history and the stories behind every piece and I think Hong Kong can appreciate this – so I thought I’d give it a try!

What would you say the concept is behind Bernardini?
The whole concept, in essence, is basically rare elegance, re-imagined.

The Hong Kong fashion scene has often been critcised for appreciating only the new and trendy, and dismissing older, vintage items with any historical value. What do you think?
I love vintage watches. I have come to love them. I still like them kind of new-looking. If you look at all these watches that we’re presenting, basically they’re beautifully restored and updated. For example, with the 1950s Lacroix, we style up the piece with more contemporary straps, which is now quite a popular thing to do. This is the type of vintage watch, vintage clock and vintage piece that we’re bringing into the market. We’re not talking about the generally perceived vintage pieces where the condition is so-so, so you don’t know where to restore them and they don’t work. A lot of our pieces are in near-mint condition.

You’re bringing something very special and exclusive to Hong Kong, then…
Yes, and for these reasons: number one, all the pieces will be beautifully restored and they won’t look like dilapidated examples of vintage quality. They’re all collectors’ quality. Number two, they are rare pieces that are one-of-a-kind and have history behind them. Number three, we can customise the pieces to fit our lifestyles of today, so people can actually use them.

Did you specifically choose which pieces you wanted to bring here?
Yes. I chose all the stock you see in the shop.

Any personal favourites?
I have a few items that I absolutely love. The first is a 1920s Asprey sterling silver with gold lining champagne flute, where the stem is made with pierced vines. It was designed by Hector Miller for Asprey – and the beautiful thing is it’s still in its original box. It’s sitting in my office and it’s in almost mint condition. It’s absolutely stunning. My second favourite is a 1950s honey-coloured Hermes crocodile.

Have you always been a lover of vintage goods?
No, not really. I’m more a modern piece girl. But after I met Max and saw the watches, I got hooked.

Do you think about potentially opening another store somewhere in the Mainland?
I think most probably, eventually, I would – but I don’t think in the very near future. For something like this, since it’s so new and unique and so rarely available in the world, I think being in Hong Kong would give the Chinese customers a bit more confidence that they’re authentic pieces. The whole authenticity behind it is quite a big necessity for Mainland Chinese customers, but I’m sure Hong Kong has enough of them around, so I’ll be able to catch a few... Interview by Arthur Tam

Bernardini 3/F, VC House, 4-6 On Lan St, Central.

 


 

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