As shopping mall after shopping mall in Hong Kong fell into the grips of the luxury market, Red Banner Sister knew she had to take action to liberate the city from Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Bvlgari, Armani, Rolex and Dior. Her strategy was to launch an outrageous new fashion trend. A trend that fused the anti-fashion of Seattle Grunge with the no-nonsense style of Hong Kong’s older workers and retirees. And so she created “Grunge阿叔风格” or “Grunge Uncle Style.”
To launch the trend, Red Banner Sister furtively changed the multi-page fashion spread in one weekend’s South China Morning Post’s Post Magazine. Instead of including the latest expensive designer collections, it featured “Grunge阿叔风格.”
Security cameras located in Causeway Bay have verified that once Red Banner Sister completed her late-night changes at the Post‘s offices, she repelled from the third floor of 1 Leighton Road and jumped onto the back of a passing double-decker tram. Dressed all in black and gripping the window frame, a succession of cameras show her grinning widely as the tram wound through Hong Kong’s dark streets.
Within one week, Hong Kong shoppers stopped patronizing sterile malls filled with shiny luxury good stores. When, two weeks later, the People’s Daily republished the “Grunge阿叔风格” story, Mainland Chinese citizens also embraced the trend.
It was a coup de grace with multiple consequences:
Intended positive outcome: Luxury retailers left Hong Kong. Grocery stores, sporting goods stores, drug stores and reasonably priced clothing and accessory stores, moved in to fill their places.
First unintended positive consequence: Hip Hongkongers started buying the shirts off of the backs of the retired and working poor, providing a valuable new source of income to Hong Kong’s many low-income elderly. They paid premium prices.
Second unintended positive consequence: Mainland Chinese realized that they could buy the same fashions directly from the working class in their own towns. Nouveau riche Chinese cut sharply back on shopping visits to Hong Kong. The Mainland Chinese tourists who did continue to visit were interested in Hong Kong’s scenery, historic sites, culture and uncensored internet usage. They were all really cool.
Unintended negative consequence: Entrepreneurial Mainland Chinese started carrying into Hong Kong huge bundles of brightly colored, used plastic bathroom sandals to re-sell. “Grunge阿叔风格” had created a boom market. Trains going in and out of Hong Kong from China remained as crowded as ever.
Job done, Red Banner Sister disappeared back into the crowd:
A few notes:
To learn more about Red Banner Sister’s historic exploits see:
Learn from Lei Feng: Expat Lingo becomes “Red Banner Sister”
Exclusive Interview: Red Banner Sister
Guangbiao Chen is no Red Banner Sister: Business Cards for the Fantastical
The two photos used for the mock fashion magazine spread were taken by my talented mother, Linda A. Brown aka elbeimagery. The photo of Red Banner Sister in Tai Wai was also taken by Brown.