From Central, hop on the Tsuen Wan MTR line and ride it some 17km to the northwestern terminus that gives the line its name. There you’ll find the city’s past and future flowing into each other yet again, this time on the edge of the New Territories. What once was an industrial hinterland of sorts is now an increasingly vibrant area, with an influx of new businesses keen to be part of an exciting and rapidly changing neighbourhood.
Nowhere is this more evident than in The Mills, another impressive rethinking of a heritage building – the former Nan Fung factory which once produced 30 million pounds of yarn annually. In a remarkable transformation, this repurposed cotton mill will become a fashion and textile arts hub when it officially opens in December. Vanessa Cheung, the factory owner’s granddaughter and the driving force behind the project, says, “We want to revitalise this old business into something value-adding for the future, in a unique model that incorporates a business incubator, fund and co-working space.”
The Mills will also house The Mills Fabrica, a hub for technology-focused fashion brands, as well as the Centre for Heritage, Arts & Textile – scheduled to throw open its doors in the spring of 2019. Its in-house venture capital initiative, Fabrica Fund, will provide US$100,000 to US$2 million in funding to innovative fashion startups. It has already given financial support to several local ventures including Unspun, a denim company that uses 3D scanning machines to create customised jeans.
“We want to revitalise this old business into something value-adding for the future, in a unique model that incorporates a business incubator, fund and co-working space.”
“At The Mills, we are creating a movement from textile to techstyle,” Cheung explains. “Techstyle is more than just fashion tech – it’s a combination of technology and style that covers everything from wearables and fashion e-commerce platforms to logistics and supply chain.”
For now, The Mills is opening its doors to the public Wednesday through Sunday for exhibitions and interactive workshops. Its light-filled halls seamlessly meld old and new, with vestiges of the past noticeable throughout – original fire buckets mounted on salvaged wood; a large factory door adorned with golden cups and the Nan Fung logo; and old window frames upcycled into information posts. In the near future, screenings and events will be held on the rooftop, while some restaurants will use herbs, vegetables and more from on-site gardens.