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August 08, 2011 | By

Coffee and clothes in one place at Forest Bird in Hong Kong

Perched on Staunton Street, in the heart of Hong Kong's Soho district, is Ulrike Pohl's art-driven multi-level boutique, Forest Bird. Striking artwork hangs on the walls, garments from independent fashion labels hang from the racks and in the cafe, people simply hang out. In a city brimming with boutiques, it's hard to believe that one can stand out amongst the rest, but that is exactly what Forest Bird has done since opening its doors less than 2 years ago.

Ulrike, a German-born Hong Kong expat, says that the concept behind the boutique is simple. "I gathered things I personally like and thought would go well together." She's "a huge sucker for good coffee," a collector of urban art and opts for clothes that she "will never get tired of." While the effect is eclectic, it's also streamlined because Ulrike is a woman of impeccable taste. She's well-spoken, well-dressed and well-traveled. On a hot, busy day in Hong Kong, she walks into Forest Bird impossibly put together and speaks passionately about fashion.

"I'm obsessed with quality," she explained. "I don't know if that's my German background but workmanship and materials and fabric, I'm obsessed with. If I buy an expensive designer dress and before I've even worn it there's a button falling off, it pisses me off. It makes me upset because what am I asking for? I'm asking for a good design but can I not ask for a button to be sewed on properly? These are things I try to avoid when shopping. I'm very after quality."

Some of the top quality brands Ulrike has curated include Perret Schaad, Ruby Smallbone, Lou de Beauregard, Gat Rimon and mongrels in common. "I like dresses or pieces that transform from day into night. I like pieces that are safe pieces. You don't know what to wear, you pick this one and you will always be fine. It will kind of be an emergency dress."

In addition to clothes, Forest Bird sells jewellery, perfume, cosmetics and homeware. Items like the "Gangstaz Paradise" handgun-shaped soap from the German design label, Donkey Products, give the boutique a cheeky air. Likewise, a canvas of chopped off winged feet by Berlin street artist, Nomad, is an impressive focal point for Forest Bird's cafe on the main level. Ulrike may be serious about art, but she doesn't take art too seriously.

The attention to Forest Bird's interior structure and design are also a product of Ulrike's "gathered things." The cobwebbed wooden planks that climb up the ceilings change the shape of each room in an interesting way. She's also made use of Forest Bird's alleyway spaces by turning them into lounge areas. Before opening the boutique, Ulrike worked as an architect and interior designer, the latter being a field she'd still like to pursue as a home consultant.

"When someone comes in once," Ulrike says, "they always come back."

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