Discover CHAT’s First-ever Comprehensive Central Asian Textile Art Show during Hong Kong Arts Month
HONG KONG SAR – Media OutReach – 23 February 2023 – The Mills is a landmark revitalisation project that transformed the Nan Fung Group’s former textile mills into a creative and cultural destination for innovation, arts, culture, experiential learning, and retail. First announced in 2014 on the Group’s 60th Anniversary, the revitalisation project was completed in 2018 and opened in the same year, and has since presented a large variety of arts and community events to inspire visitors and promote cultural vitality in Hong Kong. These, together with its wide selection of retail and dining outlets and a pet-friendly approach, have helped The Mills reach its present position as one of Hong Kong’s most vibrant, leisure and creative hubs for local culture lovers, hoping to inspire visitors from all walks of life to keep pace with the times.
Exploring Central Asia Through Textiles and Handicrafts During Hong Kong Arts Month in March
As an arts centre with a unique textile heritage, CHAT encourages artists to explore contemporary art, design, and history through textiles, and unveil the captivating cultural stories behind the yarns. Central Asia is home to many culturally diverse and vibrant countries with fascinating socio-political histories. Traditional textile materials and techniques, such as ikat, felt, suzani, syrmak, together with their astonishing patterns, designs and matching ornaments all contribute to the uniquely distinctive textile culture of Central Asia. Age-old textile practices also permeate the many political economies and serve as mediums for social life within the region.
Co-curated by CHAT’s Wang Weiwei and other guest curators, the exhibition is divided into two main parts and features works by 26 art and cultural creators from Central Asia, presenting how artists and designers use textiles as a medium for cultural preservation, response, and cohesion.
The first part, “Clouds and Power”, co-curated by Slavs and Tatars and You Mi, uses traditional ikat, a woven textile characterised by its elaborate and ‘blurred’ patterns, as a metaphor to present the views and intricacies of the region’s political and social landscape.
The second part “Suture: Reimagining Ornaments” is curated by Alexandra Tsay and focuses on traditional Central Asian ornamentation, exploring it as a language that both reflects and shapes politics, society, and culture. Its attention to female artists also reveals important powers that have been concealed by mainstream narratives. At the exhibition, visitors can expect a diverse array of works, from a commissioned work in silk and felt adorned with traditional ornaments and motifs from Hong Kong and Kazakhstan, by Berlin-based Kazakh artist Gulnur Mukazhanova, to Medina Bazargali & Kokonja‘s experimental juxtaposition of nomadic themes and yurts with VJ culture in contemporary Almaty, and more.
To provide a more comprehensive understanding of Central Asian Culture, CHAT has also prepared some electrifying performances and special artist-led workshops and talks for visitors to experience and be inspired. CHAT will also run a booth at Art Basel Hong Kong (as one of its Cultural Partners) at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from 21 to 25 March, to engage with visitors through talks and creative activities.
The Mills as the Latest Cultural Landmark: Inheriting History and Developing Cultural Power
In the 1950s and 1960s, Nan Fung Textiles was not only one of the most prolific yarn manufacturers in Hong Kong, but also a major denim supplier in Southeast Asia, bearing witness to the heyday of Hong Kong’s textile industry. Following the revitalisation of the factories, The Mills has retained and upcycled some of the original architectural features and relics from the former textile mills, such as the factory’s signature red signage, the Golden Cup Gate at the entrance, and textile facilities of the past, to pay homage to the Group’s heritage over the last half-century. The revitalisation project merged the three old textile mills into an open interior, connected by glass bridges, enabling visitors to freely explore different spaces.
Apart from CHAT, The Mills is also composed of The Mills Fabrica and The Mills Shopfloor. The Mills Fabrica is an incubator for start-ups and entrepreneurs that promote sustainable innovation in techstyle (technology and lifestyle) and agrifood tech. Last year, it extended its vision by revamping Fabrica X into an innovative concept store, pioneering a new impact retail experience that combines retail, educational, and experiential elements to continue driving pursuits in sustainability. The Mills Shopfloor is a hub for hands-on, interactive learning and experiential shopping, offering a platform for brands to showcase their products, while allowing visitors to learn about their brand and product stories. CHAT is the first arts centre of its kind in Hong Kong, which organises a wide variety of textile-related arts and culture exhibitions and co-learning programmes to connect communities and inspire the exchange of thoughts and ideas.
In recent years, The Mills has been actively collaborating with international brands and renowned artists from various sectors to promote innovative arts, cultural experiences, and sustainability. During Halloween in 2021, for example, The Mills presented the “Immersive Journey of Junji Ito”, simulating scenes drawn from the creations of one of the world’s most famous horror mangakas, to immerse visitors in a world of imagination and horror aesthetics.
In 2022, The Mills teamed up with the famous British inflatable design group Designs in Air to transform the property into a magical marine wonderland, featuring spooky inflatable monsters and their terrifying tentacles, which astonished visitors while raising awareness towards historic conservation in Hong Kong.
Last Christmas, The Mills drew on its roots in textiles and fashion to collaborate with the international fashion brand agnès b. and jointly crafted “The Dancing Cloak”. Weaving together recycled clothes and fabrics in the artwork, the festive décor and exhibition were premised on sustainability, with hopes of sparking green inspirations, promoting environmental awareness, while also echoing the heritage of The Mills.
In addition to diverse happenings, exhibitions, and experiences, The Mills itself is a work of art with many photogenic spots worth exploring. Welcoming visitors at the Pak Tin Par Lane entrance is a monolithic portrait, Unsung Hero, created by Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto as a tribute to former textile factory workers; walk along Pak Tin Par Lane to find hand-painted murals, created by six Hong Kong artists who depicted their vivid imaginations of The Mills‘ past, present, and future in different styles. The Mills is also a site that evokes nostalgia—even the old staircase and the handcrafted, restored mosaic signage on the building’s exterior are picture-worthy. Get set for your visit to The Mills and enjoy immersive, diverse lifestyle and cultural experiences in the city’s go-to creative and cultural hub.
Interested visitors can also join a guided tour to discover how the former Nan Fung cotton-spinning factories were revitalised and reimagined into a creative cultural landmark that has transformed Tsuen Wan’s textile past into a Techstyle future. The guided tour also covers the historical attractions of The Mills and CHAT’s “Welcome to the Spinning Factory” exhibition. The tours are available every Saturday and Sunday, with multiple timeslots per day.
The Mills provides a shuttle bus service to and from Tsuen Wan MTR Station, and a free shuttle bus service from West Kowloon on designated days in late March. Further details will be announced soon.
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About Nan Fung Group
Nan Fung Group is one of the largest privately held conglomerates in Hong Kong with global interests in real estate development and investment. It holds a well-diversified and substantial financial investment portfolio. The Group was founded in 1954 and has a track record spanning over 50 years with over 165 projects including residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. The Group also strategically focuses on first-tier cities in mainland China and recognises attractive opportunities for development and investment overseas, including New York and London.
In recent years, the Group has expanded its investment focus to ICE (Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship), exemplified by its signature project, The Mills, a revitalisation of its legacy yarn factories into a hub promoting techstyle (the intersection of technology and style) and an integrated destination housing an experiential shopfloor, startup incubator and interactive gallery. The Group has also made significant progress in investments related to life sciences in the US via Pivotal; and in mainland China via an affiliate, New Frontier, which focuses on healthcare, elderly care, education, and new technology.
About The Mills
Opened in late 2018, The Mills is Nan Fung Group’s landmark revitalisation project which transformed its former textile factories into a new destination for heritage and innovation. A story of reinvention, The Mills is about preserving the best of Hong Kong’s past and combining it with the future to offer a new platform for inspiration and creativity. The Mills represents the movement ‘from textile to techstyle’, symbolising the transition from its heritage to innovation, from old to new.
The Mills is composed of three pillars:
Fabrica – A go-to solutions platform accelerating techstyle and agrifood tech innovations for sustainability
Shopfloor – A landmark for experiential retail, and an expression of Hong Kong’s evolving character
CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile) – A non-profit arts centre interweaving textile arts, history, and design
SEWIT, the Group’s sustainable framework established in 2021, pays homage to both the shared heritage and environment. Five Pillars of SEWIT – Social Cohesion, Environment, Wellness, Innovation and Technology, form a patchwork planet and seedling that embed our commitment to sustainable growth in people, communities, and the environment. The three pillars of The Mills – Fabrica, Shopfloor and Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile (CHAT), interweave different innovative cultural experiences by adding green, pet-friendly, and community mindfulness elements.
CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile) is a community museum located on the 2/F of The Mills, the former cotton-spinning mills of Nan Fung Textiles in Tsuen Wan. Through its multifaceted curated programmes, which include exhibitions and co-learning programmes, CHAT aims to be an art centre that weaves creative experiences for all, inviting visitors to experience the spirit of the innovative legacy of Hong Kong’s textile industry and engage in new dialogues and inspirational journeys that interweave contemporary art, design and heritage.