Recycled Bicycle Wheels
Secret Garden Wall Mural
The Concrete Jungle
Entrance to the Antique Store and Guest Room
The Leather Factory before renovations
The Leather Factory
Plastic figurines inside the 100 Years Cafe
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It is easy to imagine that the secluded community of Peng Chau, with its population of approximately 6,500, has always been as serene as a post card. But only sixty years ago, the island was a hub of industrial activity and working-class economic prosperity.

The limekiln industry was a steady business that existed in Peng Chau as early as the seventh to tenth century. It developed building materials and eventually, quicklime, a key ingredient in cement. In the 1930s, leather, lime, and matchsticks were Peng Chau’s major export industries. The island’s first leather factory, named the Fook Yuen Leather Factory, was established at approximately 1936.

By the 1960s, the golden era of Peng Chau’s industrial period, the island housed a hundred active factories of varying sizes. Even with island residents fully employed by local businesses, labour demand was so high that residents of other islands, including Hong Kong island, commuted to Peng Chau for work.

100 Years Cafe
Part of Dawnxisoul 393 by the Lams
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This economic prosperity did not last for the Fook Yuen Leather Factory. The introduction of faux leather footwear heavily cut the demand for the genuine article. Rising labour costs and rent prices also contributed to Fook Yuen’s shut down in 1975. As more factories were set up in mainland China and Hong Kong Island became more structurally developed, Peng Chau’s age of industry ended.

Growing up in Peng Chau, Sherry Lau was a witness to the disappearance of the Fook Yuen Leather Factory. Wanting to protect the original leather factory from demolishment, in 2012, she began the labour-intensive process of repairing and conserving the dilapidated space.

Lau has charged the Leather Factory with a vibrant spirit that has reignited public interest in the small island. Changing the open displays every month, visitors can see the Leather Factory time and again and never have the same visual experience. Perfect for people of all ages, the Leather Factory demonstrates how the past can be revitalized for a modern audience. 

Text & Photos Victoria Mae Martyn