Bo Derek once made an intelligent remark– “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to shop.” This is so true!
Today I am going to tell you a story about my global shopping experiences. 😀
“Hieno” means “Pretty” in Finnish. “The Hieno Shops” means “The Pretty Shops”, or “The Pretty, Shops”. I started this section on The Hieno because I love shopping, and I love documenting pretty things.
I am a mobile Singaporean. Singapore is a modern, sunny and pretty country you guys should visit some day! Shopping’s great, most middle-class Singaporeans are shopoholics who indulge in regular shopping sprees, and then there are the richer crowds who go for the luxury goods too. Tons of high-end shops in Singapore.
I’d always been an avid traveller. I lived in Tokyo for a year when I was 21, and was mesmerized by Tokyo’s material culture. Be it colours, design, manner, sophistication–the loud contradiction of the modern and traditional truly captivated me.
I loved walking down the roads of Harajuku >> Shibuya >> Omotesando >> Ginza; the experience of window shopping in Tokyo is akin to seeing how these streets specifically target men and women of different age groups, in a systematic and continuous manner. Yes, and right down to even architecture. You can find the most sophisicated architecture in Omotesando, for instance–think about the Prada House at Minami-Aoyama Minato-ku!
I also used to work in a nightclub-bar at Roppongi– it used to be called 911-Black then, and it’s “Black Horse” now. I love the Roppongi night scene–it’s located right next to Roppongi Hills and really close to the Aoyama-district, which has the most expensive houses in the entire world. Roppongi represents to me the cross between that of vulgar (think: paid sex) and sophisication, of smartly designed buildings and “okay” compromises. And if you ever do visit Black Horse, be sure to visit Supajirou too–it’s this awesome ramen house on the same street of Black Horse! Indeed, to date, I’d been to Japan for a grand total of 7 times, and Japan amazes me every single time. It has such a special place in my heart. I’m incredibly blessed to be able to read, speak and write Japanese. Japan is a shopping haven, whoever you are, regardless of your budget.
In 2013, I also went on a sponsored trip to Korea with my good friend Fiona, made possible by the Korean Tourism Board, and that marked my 4th trip there. I loved every moment– but different from Japan, Korea is a juxtaposition of modern and traditional, instead of a contradiction. Think about it. 😉 Korea is great for shopping as a student! Check out Ewha and Hong Dae shopping areas.
I just have an issue with Finland though–I agree with Business Insider that the country has a humility problem. They have great designs, smart logic, incredible architecture and beautiful nature. But they don’t broadcast it to the whole world, and a lot of substance stays within Finland, to the extent of being understated and unknown. This has consequences of course, it meant that creative businesses go out of business because customers can’t shop at shops they don’t know about. A pity, I must say.
When I first stepped foot into Finland, Finland’s shopping scene basically meant H&M to me, which isn’t even Finnish. I really didn’t know anything else! Online tourist guides seem too out of reach and foreign, and word-of-mouth reviews are mostly in Finnish, which I didn’t bother to use google translate because of my short-attention span. I only found out more about–for example– the fashion scene in Finland after months of staying here, and most often, the best finds are discovered via native Finnish friends.
I also used to think that Finnish shop owners don’t give a damn about appealing to cosmopolitan travellers like myself, because they don’t have to. But after talking to some really kind and warm-hearted Finnish shop owners, I have started to see that it is really tough managing your own brand and business in Helsinki, when rent is sky high. It is heart-wrenching to speak to shop owners whose companies have gone bankrupt (because they don’t have enough money), or on the verge of going bust, but are still bravely hanging on. Even when small shop owners want a good Public Relations compay, they may not have the time, energy or capital to manage it. Current Finnish Public Relations firms service the bigger clients who is rolling in Euros, which is of course perfectly justifiable in the business sense.
And this is why The Hieno Shops is born.
I want to feature and review interesting shops in Finland, to enhance your shopping experience. Perhaps, the most understated shops have the best atmosphere and service. And I wish to document all these pretty shops on The Hieno Shops too.
In addition, I wish to also introduce a bit of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Singaporean culture to Finland via this digital space. Because after visiting the Natsumatsuri in May 2014, I realised that East-Asian culture sort of appeals to Finns too! And because of my Singaporean background, perhaps too, I can introduce also a little of the diverse and rich South-East Asian culture.
I was told by the Tourism Board in Finland three years ago that Finland doesn’t do much tourism marketing in Singapore, because Singapore is too small. Which makes 100% economic sense. But whatever PR the tourism board decides not to do, The Hieno Shops would contribute in whatever ways it can. I just hope that this documentation and the various features would mean something to you, no matter how small. The Hieno Shops is also designed and coded by yours truly, modified on a SoRa template, with advice from my Aalto University schoolmates. It is also clean and simple, because the intention is to give limelight to beautiful cultures and shops.
And this is my journey in life thus far. It is always such a pleasure to walk around a cosmopolitan city, documenting pretty things and shops. I hope you enjoy reading this section as much as I enjoy writing it! Living abroad has blessed me with so many amazing things and people. I thank God for me being alive, and for you.
Presenting…The Hieno Shops: Helsinki’s Gateway to Great Shopping.
The page and category edicated to all cosmopolitan travelers united by a love for shopping and pretty things.
Stay Happy! ~Wan Wei.