Marie France Van Damme is a Canadian-born fashion designer whose self-titled luxury swim, resort wear and accessories line is inspired by her thirty plus years in the fashion industry and her cosmopolitan lifestyle. She's been living in Hong Kong since the early 1980s.
Dear Hong Kong,
You are the perfect blend of East and West, of futuristic and colonial, of metropolitan city and beach paradise. Most importantly, you are the place I love calling home. You're the city that brought together a girl from Montreal and a boy from Belgium to settle down, create a family, and build a life.
I spent the early 1980's traveling back and forth from New York to Hong Kong when I started my manufacturing company specializing in women's wear. As a Montreal native living in New York City, I was convinced there was no city better than the Big Apple. As I kept making the trek across the world - more often than not - I found myself giddy with excitement to embark on the 14-hour flight that would bring me to you. I found myself looking forward to your smell, your welcoming people and your unusual lure. There must be something in your air.
Just as I began to get to know you, you gave me another unexpected reason to fall for you - one that changed me forever. While waiting for samples one day during a business trip, my assistant and I decided to take a dip at the pool at The Regent Hotel, now known as the InterContinental. As luck would have it, my future husband, whom was also visiting Hong Kong for business, had found his way to the pool. After a quick introduction, we were smitten. To this day, I always tell my single friends to go to the InterContinental if they are looking for love.
Of course as you know, falling in love is easy - that is why it is called falling. But determining where to start a life and what to do next can be hard. But you, Hong Kong, were the answer. We both loved you deeply and were happy to move into your welcoming arms.
The thing I love most about you, Hong Kong, is that you were always so warm and open. People ask me about culture shock, and about adapting to such a different way of life from my own. I never noticed a cultural difference, nor did I feel like a tourist. My three sons, born and raised in Hong Kong, never felt like outsiders in school. In fact, when they were little, they didn't even know that they weren't Chinese.
I love that amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, there is also serenity and beauty. Not only do you have some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, but you also have gorgeous greenery and deserted beaches that offer privacy and relaxation. My home, set on a beautiful bay, is as tranquil as some of the finest resorts in Thailand and yet, I can leave my house and be at my office in the center of the city within minutes.
You are everything I never expected you to be. You went from being a foreign city I'd visit for business, to the place I call home and inspires me every day. For that, I am forever grateful.
Marie France Van Damme