Translated from VOGUE MAN Hong Kong, March 2022
Text: Cusson Cheng
Photographer: Alex Lau
A new generation of consumers is influencing traditional shopping environments to adopt new forms of retail experiences.
Established in 2020, BELOWGROUND, a multi-cultural retail concept spanning more than 6,000 square feet, has become a bridge between luxury retail and contemporary culture in the heart of a bustling city.
Federico ‘Fed’ Tan, the Co-Founder of cultural marketing agency, Advisory Council, speaks with Tom Andrews, GM of Hongkong Land and Founder of BELOWGROUND, on the vision and future plans of this unique space at LANDMARK.
Fed Tan: Since its inception, BELOWGROUND has held more than 40 projects in various categories. How did this all get started?
Tom Andrews: I had the thought of BELOWGROUND around six or seven years ago, but never found the suitable place to execute the idea. When I returned to Hong Kong three years ago, I saw LANDMARK as the ideal destination to bring the concept of BELOWGROUND to life. Ultimately, the goal is to attract younger customers, provide a platform for creative brand activations, and combine luxury with street culture.
Fed Tan: Tell us a bit about your upbringing. Did you grow up in Hong Kong?
Tom Andrews: I grew up in Thailand and Hong Kong, where I also worked for seven years after graduating from university. Then, I moved to Thailand and Singapore (for work) before returning to Hong Kong three years ago.
Fed Tan: How have these cultural experiences influence your perspective, especially with regard to new developments in retail?
Tom Andrews: In my youth, I was very much influenced by skate culture. I love visiting different local shops and restaurants in cities in Asia, Europe, and US. I take inspiration from the places I’ve been, and I try to absorb as much as I can. For instance, Thailand is great at marketing and creating new retail concepts. Ever since I returned to Hong Kong, I constantly think of ways to bring these unique experiences abroad back to the city.
Fed Tan: How did you bridge the luxury mindset of LANDMARK with the BELOWGROUND concept?
Tom Andrews: It is a lot easier than everyone thinks. For LANDMARK, the idea was straightforward. We noticed that luxury brands wanted a creative outlet outside of their flagships to tell a different story and expand their customer base. If you look at Dior and Louis Vuitton, they are devising new strategies to attract younger consumers. BELOWGROUND can achieve that for LANDMARK.
Fed Tan: I noticed that BELOWGROUND drives strong interest from both younger consumers and existing clientele of LANDMARK. It’s become a melting pot of admiration and curiosity.
Tom Andrews: Definitely. Building long lasting relationships is important to us at BELOWGROUND. The space is a new chapter in an evolving retail concept that will attract different backgrounds and consumers. The BESPOKE members of LANDMARK have been consistently supporting BELOWGROUND.
Fed Tan: There’s a diverse community supporting BELOWGROUND, including young streetwear enthusiasts, traditional shoppers, and even retail partners — this seems to bring a different type of energy to LANDMARK.
Tom Andrews: I wanted to create a brand that combined the elements of Ned Kelly’s at Tsim Sha Tsui, and the street markets of London, but co-exist and naturally blend into a ‘traditional’ luxury environment. We’ve successfully built a bridge between luxury, F&B, and fashion to create unique experiences for our customers.
Fed Tan: Can you tell us about some of the highlights of BELOWGROUND?
Tom Andrews: Firstly, BELOWGROUND was designed by Brinkworth London – the design studio behind Supreme and Palace retail stores. The audio equipment is produced by Devon Turnbull of OJAS, who completely opened my eyes to another world in terms of speakers and audio engineering. We also collaborate with different Michelin star chefs to host various charity events with proceeds going back to the community.
Fed Tan: Most people tend to think that BELOWGROUND is male-oriented retail space, but in fact, it caters to a broader creative community…
Tom Andrews: We actually did not anticipate art to be such an important talking point when we first started BELOWGROUND. We’re very grateful that BELOWGROUND has had the opportunity to collaborate with incredible talents in the industry. For example, JPS Gallery, creative studio AlIRightsReserved, and the collaboration between Perrotin and Takashi Murakami. We plan to launch an exciting project with an art gallery in the coming months, which will perfectly fuse art and retail.
Fed Tan: Besides BELOWGROUND, you also work with F&B partners and restaurants at LANDMARK.
Tom Andrews: Hong Kong is a competitive landscape for businesses, but it remains one of the most diverse food and beverage industries. Restaurant owners understand the importance of providing a great customer experience and provide a reason to stay at our luxury mall. LANDMARK has more than ten high-quality Michelin star restaurants, with more exciting additions in the pipeline.
Fed Tan: BELOWGROUND is also one of the few retail spaces with a professional recording studio. Can you share the importance of FM BELOWGROUND?
Tom Andrews: FM BELOWGROUND connects creative communities and continues to be a space for inspiration. Powered by music collective Yeti Out, the studio is equipped with recording facilities designed to highlight local artistry. From a diverse array of podcast series to resident DJ shows, we strive to reach not only a local audience but also, a global one.
Fed Tan: In my opinion, one of the achievements of BELOWGROUND is offering a new creative outlet of expression. Brands have welcomed your innovative ideas, and look forward to collaborating with BELOWGROUND. How has this helped to enhance the customer experience at LANDMARK?
Tom Andrews: As we all know, LANDMARK is the home of luxury, and BELOWGROUND has become a key platform for brands to test the market, while bringing a new meaning to luxury products. Whether it is Louis Vuitton, Dior, or Kenzo, different creative activities and happenings here attract young consumers, which are also a key demographic and supporters of these luxury brands. This is not to say that LANDMARK is changing its traditions, but on the contrary, it shows that we are adapting to current market trends and discovering new ways to attract both mature and young emerging consumers.