PMQ Corner #20

Confessions of a Sinophile

GLUE Associates & Nala Designs

Written by Kit Chan
Translated by v_p
Photos by Kit Chan

"If I really had a past life, I was probably a Chinese princess," joked Lisette, who's a brunette with a high-bridged, attractive nose.

While some Chinese are teased as being "white at heart" for admiring western culture, Lisette goes the other way round, interested in everything Chinese, which she saw as fate.

Lisette was born to a Dutch family. Her father a businessman who flew around all the time, and his family moved along with him. Born in Singapore, Lisette moved to Hong Kong when she was eight and lived here for three years before moving back to the Netherlands. A few years later, she left again for Malaysia and studied high school there. She later moved to Belgium, where she studied art.

While living in different places has enriched her life, it was the 1000 days or so she spent in Hong Kong that she treasured the most. "We lived in Stanley, and I enjoyed the local market there. I would ask my mother for a little bit of money, and I could spend half a day there. Stanley was a sunny village then, not the tourism spot it is now."

There is something about Eastern culture, especially Chinese culture, which Lisette finds more intriguing than her home country. Her interest in Hong Kong movies, blackwood furniture, stones and jade all came so naturally, as if they were inborn.

"Maybe it was because I was born in Asia. I am sensitive to color and patterns, and places with Chinese heritage always have richer aesthetics."

Although Lisette does not speak or read Chinese, she understands the beauty of Chinese language, which is amazingly deep in depth, "basically you'll never get bored."

Another reason is perhaps related to bloodline, as Lisette's great-grandmother was a Chinese Indonesian. Years ago, Lisette found a yellowish picture of her with a Chinese person. She looked young and had very Eastern features, which made Lisette even more fascinated: What kind of a life did she live?

Though Lisette wasn’t born Chinese in this life, she integrated her love for Eastern culture into her design, including totes, skirts, notebooks and greeting cards inspired by Chinese patterns and colors, as seen in old window frames, tiles, ceramic tableware. Chinese people would find her creations all so familiar, with lucky symbols of bats, chickens, and coins blended in so well.

Tropical and chic, Lisette redesigned and modernized some of these patterns, making her design cheerful to carry around or decorate your home with.

To her surprise, her design work eventually brought her back to Hong Kong, thanks to Erick, who owns a local design shop called GLUE Associates. Erick regards Lisette as friend and mentor, whom he met in the Netherlands a few years ago, when he was there to study design. His shop not only sells her homeware and stationery, they also worked on some tote designs together.

After a lifelong journey, in a way, Lisette finally came back to one of the cities she loved most, and continues to show her love through her creations.

She named her brand "Nala Designs," after her daughter Nala, again a gesture influenced by Eastern values. "While family and heritage may not be very important for Europeans, Asians hold dear to these beliefs and customs since long ago. They know how to care for their children, a love so powerful that it influenced the way I raised my own."

Nala Designs is Lisette's gift to her daughter, she hopes Nala would be willing to take over when she grows up, passing on this family business from generation to generation.

Lisette currently resides in Kuala Lumpur and owns a little shop, while Nala is enrolled in a Chinese school with Asian schoolmates, writing and speaking in fluent Chinese, her big eyes looking so gentle and shy, just like a little girl from the East.

Nala Designs

GLUE Associates

Adress:GLUE Associates, S402, 4/F, Staunton, PMQ

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