Home economics might not be Hong Kong’s most popular subject, but it has helped five girls from Shau Kei Wan East Government Secondary School learn the skills needed to win The Mills Summer Programme grand prize.
The Mills, formerly known as Nan Fung Textiles, gave a budget of HK$1,000 to teams from six schools for the contest. Each team was given a month to design their own product. They had to choose their own fabric and present a prototype.
The winning design was the MPB 5.0, a multi-purpose bag designed to be used by the whole family. This versatile design contains both a bag for dads and a bag for mums, and can be taken apart and separated into a camera bag, tote bag, baby bag, and even a picnic mat, thanks to a variety of colourful zips, buttons and Velcro.
To make the baby bag a little more fun for children, it has a tail that resembles a dinosaur’s. And, for added convenience, the picnic mat is attached to pockets, which can be used to hold silverware and other useful picnic products.
“We live in a fast-paced city with great scenery and a lot of [country parks]. Why can’t we spend more time [outside] with our families?” asks winning team member and Form Six student Inez Tang Cheuk-yiu. “We want to inspire people to spend more days outdoors, instead of always hitting the malls.”
The girls are all home economics students, and were very excited to see their design ideas become a reality.
“We’ve tried making products for competitions before – mostly for theatre stages or fashion shows – but we’ve never had the chance to make something that could be of daily use,” Inez says.
Before coming up with the MPB 5.0 design, the girls attended workshops organised by The Mills, where professional designers shared their experiences and offered valuable advice to the students.
“We learned [from the workshops] the importance of understanding the needs of the marketplace, as well as considering the target audience of our project. It definitely made our goals a lot clearer,” adds Fong Sze-man, another team member.
Overall, the MPB 5.0 cost around HK$1,000 to make, and weighs two kilograms.
“The ability to make something is a life skill,” said Cherry Chan, former PIC (person-in-charge) of The Mills, adding that cultivating that skill was one of the main reasons the company started the programme.
“Young people like pretty things, and [a lot of the time] they get into fashion for that exact reason,” says Chan. “My worry is that they might romanticise the job and think it’s all about designing pretty things, without realising the difficulties – some of which might even make you cry.
We wanted to give these students a real taste [of the design industry]”.
Chan was happy to see all the excellent products the students created, including one by the Society of Boys’ Centre Hui Chung Sing Memorial School.
The three-man team designed an innovative raincoat/backpack hybrid. The raincoat is equipped with reflective stripes that make it easier to be seen at night.
“Our product is made out of PVC because it breathes easier than other fabrics, and keeps you warmer in the rain,” says Form Six student Wai Chun-chung, the group’s presenter. He adds that the backpack, which can be transformed into a duffel bag or tote bag, is made out of a special type of paper.
“We discovered a form of recycled paper at a book fair that is durable, flame-resistant, made of rock, and waterproof,” he explains.
The boys bought several notepads from the fair and tore them apart to make the special rock paper.
“You can even write notes on the bag,” Form Three student Ben Lau Wai-hoi says, but adds that putting the bag together was no easy task. “Every line had to be sewn perfectly.”
Chun-chung adds that the bag even comes with UV lamps, which can be used to sterilise dirty clothes inside the bag. The total cost of making the raincoat/backpack hybrid was less than HK$200.
The Mills has helped the winning Shau Kei Wan team improve their design to make it lighter and more practical to carry around.
The MPB 5.0 will be officially launched as a crowdfunding project early next year.
You can try the product first-hand before it hits the market this weekend at The Mills Holiday Shopfloor – Gift and Workshop Market in Central.