A decade in the making, Soho House Hong Kong is finally getting ready to open its doors this September. Memorably featured in a 2003 episode of Sex and the City and now something of a cultural phenomenon in its own right, the private members’ club was established in 1995 and has gone from one location in London to 24 clubs spanning the UK, North America, Europe and Asia. (When it opens this fall, Soho House Hong Kong will be the 25th.) In case you’re not familiar, the ethos of Soho House is simple: “to create a comfortable home from home for a community of like-minded people, wherever they are.”
Though one former proposed location was Tai Kwun, Soho House isn’t located in Hong Kong’s Soho neighbourhood but rather in Sheung Wan, on an unglamorous stretch of Des Voeux Road West. However, there are perks to this location: Occupying a 28-storey tower, Soho House features views over Hong Kong Island, Victoria Harbour and Victoria Peak. The interiors are being overseen by Soho House Design, an in-house team, with inspiration taken from the city itself, including colour palettes and references from Hong Kong films and the work of directors such as Wong Kar-wai. Patterns and fabrics that feel uniquely Hong Kong will feature prominently, while blending with the international design found throughout Soho Houses around the world.
Art features prominently throughout the property, with a permanent collection entirely focused on artists born or based in Hong Kong. Featuring over 100 works of art from established names such as Lee Kit and Tsang Kin Wah, emerging artists such as Firenze Lai and historic material from the likes of Ho Fan, Yau Leung, Wong Wo Bik and Choi Yan Chi, the collection has been curated by Kate Bryan, Head of Collections for Soho House.
What else is inside? Quite a lot, considering this is the biggest Soho House yet, spanning some 120,000 square feet. The gym, dubbed Soho Active, will span three floors linked by an internal staircase; reception and changing areas including sauna and steam rooms will be located on a separate floor. Elsewhere, a co-working space known as Soho Works will occupy nine floors of the building: Floors 17–23 will hold office space for Works members, while floors 2 and 3 will have a lounge and meeting spaces, where Works events will also be held.
On the first floor, a white-box space called the House Studio will host exhibitions, shows and other events. On the ground floor, club reception will sit alongside a new concept called The Store, where members will be able to shop for products from Soho Home and Cowshed as well as items created by fellow members.
Most notable are the club floors, occupying floors 25–30. Up top is the 1970s-inspired Pool Room, designed as a solarium with plants, rattan furniture and daybeds, not to mention a swim-up bar. One floor below is the main bar and club space, with lounge-style furniture, a dark colour palette and a stage that will be used for karaoke nights. The House Brasserie is found on the 28th floor, where a menu of Soho House classics (brick chicken, the Dirty Burger) will be served alongside locally inspired seafood dishes, siu mei, dim sum and Peking duck.
On the 27th floor, the Drawing Room is a light, bright space with contemporary design: think cork ceiling, jade greens and burnt orange. The menu includes a daily afternoon tea set, and there are two private dining areas, which can be fully closed off for events. Two events spaces — a private dining room and a function room — occupy the 26th floor, both equipped with marble-top bars; there’s also a stage which will be used for members’ events. Last but not least, the 25th floor houses a pre-events bar, a screening room and a large function space. Different floors will open in phases, with the club floors expected to be finished by mid-September, while other sections of the building will open in winter and spring.
If you want to become a member, you can start the process here, but note that demand is high and membership is limited to those in the creative industries. There are, however, benefits to joining sooner than later: Existing Cities Without Houses members and founder members will have free access to Soho Works and Soho Active for a year, while those who join after September will have to pay additional fees for usage of those amenities.
To find out more about this highly anticipated new opening, we sat down with Nick Jones, Founder and CEO of Soho House, to chat about Hong Kong’s creative scene, where he plans to open clubs next and more.
Soho House is famous for having a rule against suits and ties, and not really welcoming finance types. Is that still true to this day? Has it changed over time?
Loads of bankers going out for a big knees up on a Thursday night is not something we want to become because it’s not very nice [to be around]. But, individually, we have nothing against anyone. We don’t want Soho House to be a place full of corporate entertaining; we want Soho House to be full of like-minded evenings and fun moments. I think people in finance have changed, so we’re not saying no to finance — the no suit and tie was just one way of [expressing our point of view]. And of course, there are plenty of people with great suits and ties who have nothing to do with finance.
There were reports that Soho House Hong Kong would open in March or earlier. What caused the delays?
We never announced exactly when we were opening. We were hoping to open before the summer, and if we really pushed it, we probably could’ve opened by the end of June. But what we decided to do is hold off and do it properly in September. So the answer is yes, it has been a slight delay but no worse than what we usually have. To achieve a 30-storey tower block and club within just over two years is a pretty good achievement.
When do you plan to welcome members to Soho House Hong Kong?
Certainly all the club floors will be finished by the end of September, but the four main club floors will be open the week commencing September 8th for an open house. To have one big party is, you know, you have to move all the furniture out, and what we want to do is show the house off in its glory. So we’ll just invite our founder membership over a period of four nights. We don’t want them all to come up the same night because it needs to be controlled. They’ll come in to experience the club, eat in the club, drink in the club, look at the entertainment.
The three floors of Soho Active will be ready from September the 8th. Soho Works will come online in January and the completion of the ground floor store will be in January or February. So by spring next year everything will be really up and running.
For someone who’s never heard of heard of Soho House, why should they want to be a member?
Just because the club originated from Britain, it doesn’t mean we’re an expat club. We are a club for Hong Kong Chinese and we very much want them to feel that we’re offering everything that they need. Hong Kong is a fantastic city with many incredible places to go. What we want at Soho House Hong Kong is just to add something additional to the city. I think what’s different is that we are under one roof, we’re in a great location, and we’ve got plenty of space. We’re not going to be here now and gone in three years’ time. We have a very substantial lease through our partners, Nan Fung. We are investing a lot of money to make sure that the members, every single member, is taken care of. I hope that the people of Hong Kong will find that very appealing.
As you know, Hong Kong already has many private members’ clubs. How is Soho House different?
Hong Kong has had lots of members’ clubs, a bit like the way that Britain has had lots of members’ clubs. I think what’s different about us is that we’re inclusive, not exclusive. We are aiming at a younger, more creative demographic — and the fact that we’re not about money.
I only want a membership to Soho House to improve someone’s life. It’s not just physical space I’m talking about, it’s not just a nice place to hang out and drink and meet and whatever. We care deeply about making sure that people in our community meet other people in our community who might be able to help them. I think with members’ events and everything we’re doing, all we’re trying to do is make our members’ lives better.
How will Soho House Hong Kong be different from the other 24 clubs?
Well, this is the biggest House, and it’s the first one where we’ve properly integrated the work space, the gym space and the House space into one building. We feel it’s a fabulous location. And of course, it’s our first entry into the Far East. That makes me nervous but at the same time it makes me incredibly excited.
Why should that make you nervous?
Because if you’re not nervous, you’re complacent. And I don’t think that’s a good thing.
Why open in Hong Kong before Beijing or Tokyo?
Beijing and Shanghai and Tokyo and Bangkok are very much on our list. It just so happened that we felt Hong Kong was going to be the first one to get into. And if Hong Kong works, we will be having a very, very proactive expansion around the Far East.
Why is now the right time for Soho House to open in Hong Kong?
The timing is more accidental than deliberate. We have been looking for a Soho House in Hong Kong for nearly a decade now. As you know it’s really difficult to find good properties with a decent lease in good areas in Hong Kong, so it’s taken us a long time to find it. But saying that, I think Hong Kong has changed and the creative industries are certainly popping up much more visibly than they were. Fashion music, art — these are very big parts of everyday life here.
Hong Kong has changed and will continue to change, and having something like Soho House here will also help it change. There’s also an incredibly interesting community of people who are in those businesses who would love a place where they could gather under one roof and feel that they are part of the same community. The people I’ve met in Hong Kong, they will be brilliant additions to our global community.
Unlike other clubs, this Soho House has no hotel accommodations. Was that a deliberate decision?
Well, it was not a deliberate decision because we initially put in an application for 60 bedrooms. Through some technical issues with the size of a building, at this stage it was not possible. Now, we could have reapplied and probably got them, but we sort of felt that actually, even though bedrooms are a nice amenity, it’s not an amenity that local Hong Kong people necessarily want, because they live in Hong Kong. We felt like giving more work space, more club space and more fitness space was better, so that’s why we dropped the idea.
How has Soho House changed since its founding?
When we started nearly 25 years ago, what we created there was a home from home for people who were prominently in the creative industries, but had a like-mindedness about them where they could meet, connect, work, watch movies, go to members’ events. I suppose in a way, the principle of that is exactly the same now. Soho House for 25 years has created a community for its membership, created content for its membership, and created connectability within its membership. As the years have progressed, we’ve really just added to what we had at the beginning, albeit in a more global, diverse, interesting way.
After you open a new club, how do you judge its success?
Our success is judged purely on member reaction. It’s not done on figures or P&L sheets. It’s purely done on reaction, how often our members are using us and the feedback we get.
What other Soho House locations are in the works?
We’ve got Rome opening next year, and Milan currently under construction. We’ve got Lisbon just about to go under construction, and Paris opening next year. We’ve got Nashville opening, Austin opening, and we’re doing one in Philadelphia. There’s many more houses to come. Our members love more houses: It makes our community of members more interesting because you go into each city and get the cream of that city and they join the global gang.
Will any parts of Soho House Hong Kong be open to the public?
Sure, we’ll have exhibitions which will be open to the public, and times when The Store is open to the public downstairs. But [generally], you have to have a membership to be able to come in here.