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Inspiring Kids with a Playful Love of Design: OR Journal

Parties & PlayPost Category - Parties & PlayParties & Play

OR Journal is a brand new website launched by Hong Konger (and native Canadian) Nadine Ouellet and Maxime Rheault. We talk to Nadine about how she was inspired to start OR, and pick her brain on instilling a love of design in our little ones…

How did the idea of OR come about?

One day, I became a mom, Aiden’s mom. As someone who always been involved in design and education (I did a MFA in Graphic Design at Yale University), I realized there were real needs in design for children. Each time I went back to Quebec to escape Hong Kong’s summer, I discussed ideas with my friend Maxime, another designer. We always wanted to work together on a project. And one day, Maxime became a dad! Antoine’s dad. He realized the same things I did: a real need for original, functional and beautiful kid’s design. We decided to start OR.

OR brings our experience in design, education and parenting to seeking out ideas (OR Journal) and designing objects (OR Play). OR journal is a website introducing our discoveries in design, art, education, play and everyday life. This website is born out of the process of conceptualizing our new children’s brand OR Play. It is a thinking tool for us, and we thought that it could be worthwhile to share it with others!

What is OR Play?
OR Play is an up-and-coming children’s brand. Each of our collections will be a limited edition of objects, prints and clothes. Inspired by tradition and history, the brand aims to encourage imaginative play and an active lifestyle through original design.

What do you love most about Hong Kong?

The fact that it is a very condensed city, allowing me to walk everywhere. Since we had Aiden, I almost never used a stroller. I have always carried him everywhere, and now he is walking with me. I also love the warm weather and the idea of almost being able to live outside.

The Chinese culture fascinates me, in terms of health, raising children, what colours and numbers mean, etc. For example, we had a Chinese nurse for a month after Aiden was born who prepared the soups and special drinks for me. I rarely knew what I was consuming exactly, but I probably had all the strange dried food you can find in the Chinese pharmacies! It was amazing, I gained my shape back so quickly, and had so much energy. There’s a lot to learn from this ancient culture!

Do you have any tips or secrets when it comes to cool design for kids in Hong Kong?
In my son’s bedroom you’ll find an eclectic mix of objects, many of them found while traveling around, like a beautiful Japanese mobile and a collection of Vietnamese dolls. Plus, some great finds on the internet, like a Donna Wilson blanket. All of it mixed with his own little artworks and some IKEA items, like an alphabet poster. I get most of his clothes at H&M, MUJI or Stanley market. I don’t see any point in buying expensive clothes when they are being worn only a few months! For toys, I believe less is better. We keep it minimal and I choose carefully. Art Land in Wanchai for Art supplies, Bumps to Babe for bigger toys, all the rest I find on the internet like the Wood Shape Maker by Miller Goodman (now in Hong Kong at Petit Bazaar). In everyday life, the best designs are ones that are fun for children and helpful for parents – like the car-cart and the mini-cart at Three Sixty, restaurants with highchairs and playrooms, and bookshops with a reading corner for children!

Could you describe a day in your life?
Never the same! Sometimes I work from home to be around Aiden. I take breaks and we go for a walk in the botanical garden or go do grocery shopping which he loves since he is the big shot pushing the cart and putting the things in it. I do some reading and research while he is napping. I end the day with a nice cocktail or dinner out with friends. Another day, I work in my studio in Sheung Wang, fit in a Pilates session at lunch time and come back home to prepare dinner for my two men!

What are your go-to shopping spots in Hong Kong?
I love to look at the shoe selection at Lane Crawford (when I was a child it was colourful candies, now it’s shoes!), Chloe and Celine clothes, the books at Lok Man Rare Books on Chancery Lane, the eclectic mix of objects at Kapok on St Francis street in Wanchai. But, I mostly look, it makes me happy enough. What I love to buy are the flowers at the market in Sheung Wan, Monsieur Chatté cheeses, baguettes from Robuchon, Candice Luk vintage inspired jewellery, Chanel cosmetics, and envelopes and papers in all different colours from local stationery shops.

Where do you recommend for vintage finds in Hong Kong/Asia?
I like Select-18 in Sheung Wan here. There are some great vintage shops in Ximending neighborhood in Taipei and in Naka-Meguro in Tokyo. But, vintage hunting is much more interesting to do in America and Europe, there is a real culture for it, and in my aunt’s wardrobe, my favourite place, she kept everything and had the most amazing handbags from the 60’s!

How do you think we can teach our children to appreciate good design?

Exposure at home, by the objects we choose, and exposure outside the home, by bringing our children with us to cultural events, museums and on travels to other cities and countries. Discussion also. By discussing with children the reasons why an object is great, useful, functional, interesting in form, beautiful. It is all about education. If we want to appreciate good food, we need to be exposed to different flavours and combinations. We also need to discuss it in order to better understand what our senses are trying to tell us.

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