Trawling the streets of Hong Kong city, almost 25 years ago, and much to the demise of my partner, we entered another retail shop filled with women's handbags. It was probably the 32nd store I had tried - and failed- to find a handbag that I loved. I had a budget and I had reasonable expectations of quality and style. Yet, I could not find what I was looking for. It was the last store I dared to enter that day.
That evening, we were dined by a business associate in downtown Kowloon. Our associate, Linda (alias, Liling Xia), casually asked about our first day of shopping in Hong Kong and received a very... um, let's say, exasperating response from my partner: "Ohhh...how many shops do you have in this city that sell bags?" Before Linda could respond, he added: "...because after the millionth one today, I cannot look at another bag during this lifetime....!!"
As it turned out, lady luck was on my side as Linda sympathised more with me than my unnamed partner at the time. Linda's close friend had, in fact, a high-end handbag store on Hong Kong Island. She took me for a personal trip and I was very lucky to find exactly what I wanted. There it was, immediately striking my attention as I entered the shop. It was a classical black, genuine, quality leather bag with a gold plated buckle on the front and a matching gold rounded buckle on the sturdy shoulder strap. There were initials of CD on each of the buckles. Hmm, very stylish indeed! Actually, it was irresistibly gorgeous!
"I'll take this one!", I said, happily nodding to Linda. Yet, Linda's face dropped, as she kept darting glimpses from the bag to me, to her friend. I really had no idea what was going on at that moment.
Some secret Chinese whispers were exchanged between Linda and her friend as the bag was preciously handled and gift wrapped. Linda took a sigh of deep breath - relief perhaps - and handed me the gift. She said in Hong Kong, it is tradition for hosts to buy their guests a gift. The gorgeous bag was mine - a gift from Linda.
Little did I know that the CD on the buckles stood for a designer called 'Christian Dior' - and yes, the bag was actually genuine!
Whilst I have not been able to compare this with any other bag in my personal collection since (it is truly a classical gem!), my astute eye for style and relentless attention to quality and detail drive my passion for leather handbags today. Out of this passion I have built EMPIRIA.