From our Point of View series.
Wilson Li is the founder of fashion brand Wilson PK and charity Tree of Life, an initiative that strives to heal broken souls and rebuild one’s dignity by providing comfortable accommodations, creative engagements and a community center. Born and bred in Hong Kong and having spent 14 years in the UK, the Central Saint Martin’s graduate has worked in several fashion powerhouses, including Alexander Wang. Wilson recently moved back to the SAR, and has taken his brand in a new direction and to help those who are in need through his five-floor community center. This is life in Hong Kong, from Wilson’s point of view.
It was a bit of an accident, I started off coming to Hong Kong supposedly for a two-month business trip for my brand, and then I ended up meeting up a lot of people here, including the homeless and the drug addicts on the streets. And the next thing I knew, a family friend had a five-floor building in Sai Ying Pun – and back then I didn’t even know where it was! I jumped at that opportunity and Tree of Life (TOL) was born.
I think ultimately that no matter what we do at TOL — whether it functions as a soup kitchen, open studio, or art and music therapy center — these events are a door for the underprivileged, to let them experience true love. The bottom line is we can never fix the people and problems completely, but what we can do is to open a door for them to experience true love, hope and faith. And those are the most important and powerful things in life.
I used to come back here during the holidays and I all I did was drink and party. But this time when I came back, I started looking at every detail and I appreciate the heritage of the city, the beauty in the chaos, I appreciate the people more.
Despite all the divergence and destruction in this city, I believe that deep down, Hong Kong people’s hearts are united. While Hongkongers are often perceived as selfish and cold-hearted, I truly believe that deep down, there’s a sense of togetherness among them.
I’ve met a family of six that lives in a cubical flat, and they’re the happiest family I’ve ever met in my life. I also know people who are very rich but who are never satisfied with their lives. At the end of the day, it’s not about where you live or what you’ve got, but it’s about who you perceive yourself to be and that’s what makes you content in life. I don’t think Hong Kong itself can make or break a person. But it’s who you are and who you want to be.
A lot of brands started working with the deprived as a campaign or gimmick. But when I started TOL, I realized that disadvantaged people are very vulnerable, and we can’t heal them simply by giving them a job with a minimum wage. So instead, we built a community and gave them essential skills training, followed by stable jobs. And that’s how you start an ethical brand from the bottom – by building on the unity of love, and appreciating your workers and the products they produce.