teddyfish founder and designer huynh siu-hung reveals how function, simplicity, and companionship are the ingredients of each of his handcrafted bags.
on the white-washed upper floor of kapok’s new wan chai shop sits a lanky, soft-spoken man. dressed in a plain buttoned shirt, with a simple pair of black wizard glasses on his nose, huynh siu-hung carries nothing but an unadorned basil shoulder bag. it may seem far-fetched that this unassuming returnee from paris, sipping nothing but cold water from a porcelain white mug, founded the bag brand teddyfish – a brand that has, in less than a decade since its establishment in 2010, already expanded to 44 outlets across asia, europe, north america and australia, even though it has just seven designs.
the story behind teddyfish’s success starts in humble beginnings. originally from hong kong, huynh’s family moved to paris in the uncertain years after the tiananmen square massacre of 1989. they landed in the 13th arrondissement—home to the largest of paris’ several chinatowns—where his mother landed a job in a clothing workshop. huynh grew up watching his mother work on her sewing machine every day. that inspired him to eventually start stitching a few pieces of fabric together to make clothes and bags for himself and his friends. “although it’s now yellow and old, i still keep the very first pencil case i made,” says huynh.
what was originally an avocation paved the way for the young seamster’s future occupation in design. he enrolled in the école nationale supérieure de création industrielle in paris, which offered not vocational training but a more expansive education in design.
I was especially inspired by Enzo Mari, the Italian modernist artist and furniture designer, who published a book teaching people to rebuild their homes with simple tools and materials after World War II.