Photo Essay: Forgotten Corners

ACROSS the streets of Kowloon City, an old urban district, are hidden gems that once shone.

"The whole street was filled with tailors back in the 1990s. Now, there's only me," said a tailor in his eighties who didn't want to be identified.

He has never thought about closing the store despite the meagre sums he earns. When custom tailoring was at its peak, he had clients almost every day. Now, he deems it lucky if he receives more than five clients a month.

Decades ago, men who desired a suit and women a dress would go to a talior to have it made to fit their bodies. Today, ready-to-wear garments of all kinds and sizes are available from clothing chains and boutiques. The demand for tailor-made outfits has shrunk significantly. People would rather purchase new clothes than spending money to repair a worn out pair of trousers or jacket.

He insists on running the business despite his sons' opposition. "I'm afraid that I would be the last one to do this and no one will pick up my needle."

Just a few blocks away, the Lee Tai Pawnshop has managed to survive by transforming the way it conducts its business. Behind an iron grill that typically separates the customers from the storekeeper, a computerised system for recording trading records and surveillance cameras have been installed.

Mr Hui, who declined to give his full name and has been working at the pawnshop for over 30 years, said that as people's lifestyle change, it now welcomes digital gadgets including cameras and smartphones as collaterals, in addition to traditional items such as gold bars and jewellery.

"Not everyone has an apartment to mortgage," he added. The shop's clients nowadays are not the poor, but anyone who needs cash right away.

Mr Hui is confident that the pawnshop will stand despite the passage of time. "We will be here for at least five more decades. Pawnshops are just mini-banks and people still need us," he said.

 

By Amie Cheng

Edited by Alpha Ch

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