Victoria is a Hong Kong skateboarding brand “made for skaters by the skaters,” as crew member Chris Bradley puts it. Aside from producing clothing and boards, Victoria represents a collective of multicultural riders from a wide scope of Asian countries including Japan, Thailand, Korea, and of course, Hong Kong.
The crew is pushing street skateboarding in Asia as they venture abroad to different cities in search of new spots to skate. In 2019, they met up for a 10-day skate trip in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. The city itself gives off an East Coast vibe with a wacky Asian twist — a mixture of smooth roads, crusty plazas, and the unusual but perfect concrete swell.
To bring the local and international scenes together, Victoria organized “BULLY,” a group exhibition that showcased a range of artworks and musical performances. Watch the video to get a taste of what it’s like to cruise the streets of Taipei with a heavy crew, followed by an interview with Victoria co-founder, Art Leung.
Where are you from? And when did you first come to Hong Kong?
I was born in Hong Kong. I moved away when I was quite young, to San Jose, California and then moved around SF and LA. First came back to HK when I was 19, 20. I was working at DLX at the time and thought it would be a good opportunity to come to Hong Kong, explore the scene and discover my roots as an adult. I kind of fell in love with it.
What were you doing at DLX?
Oh I just moved to the city and needed a job so I worked at the warehouse. When I was in the process of moving back to HK I talked to my boss and Jim Thiebaud about it and they were super supportive. They sent me boards for the shops and stuff. It was cool, they linked me to HKIT shop and Brian from 8five2.
What did you think of the skate scene when you first moved back? Did you feel like it was lacking anything?
I thought it was really cool when I first got there just cause it was fresh and new. And the longer I stayed I noticed how small the clique is and how everyone knows each other. It’s quite welcoming, it’s cool and beautiful in a way. But at the same time, it’s quite behind compared to San Francisco and the States in general.
“It’s just a mix of everything, kind of like how Hong Kong is. It’s a melting pot of a lot of things.”
So how did the Victoria brand come about?
The whole brand started when I met [Victoria co-founder] Alfie at an art show and we just started talking about ideas and talking about HK as a whole. We just kind of clicked. First we wanted to do a zine that features a lot of local Cantonese artists and just make something about the city, you know? Like aside from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan… there’s so much more to Hong Kong.
So we wanted to showcase more, but at the same time after gathering photos and laying things out, neither of us can f*cking write. So a zine was out the door. Then it kind of just snowballed into this skate-based brand because then we can do zines and do interviews and do whatever the f*ck you want. You can throw parties, you can tap into all these different subcultures and mash them together, instead of just focusing on the writing when… we can’t write.
Tell me about the themes in the design of Victoria’s boards and clothes.
We are very influenced by the HK colonial times, like the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, the music, the parties, the designs. The idea was to bring in a lot of the Hong Kong stuff we like, such as the history, the artists, the psychedelic disco music in the ‘70s and ‘80s that nobody knew about. Alfie and I grew up in the West, so we just kinda mashed these things together. The earlier graphics are based off of imagery from old Cantonese magazines, to early Tom Waits sketches, cause we like and listen to him. It’s just a mix of everything, kind of like how Hong Kong is. It’s a melting pot of a lot of things.
The Victoria crew originates from all over Asia, not just HK. How did you form such a diverse collective of riders?
Well it’s all people that come through Hong Kong or are visiting. Like I said, the scene is so small, so anyone that comes through and wants to hangout and go street skating; they will hit us up and we’ll meet and connect. Like the Japanese guys, the Bangkok guys, the Korean guys, we just met through traveling.
The collective stems from linking, talking about ideas and seeing the same vision. And everyone involved is kinda like, yeah Asia should have its own scene. Why is Japan the only place in Asia that has its own magazines and little network? Why don’t we just combine everyone and make it Asia united? Super cheesy, but it worked out.
We don’t have an “official team.” I can’t really pinpoint what we are, like are we a core board brand? A clothing brand? We don’t have a website with professional skater profiles, it’s more just friends and family.
How did the OG Japanese riders like Nao and Lui Araki get involved with Victoria?
It’s just me hustling them (laughs). We been friends for a long time and they’ve been very supportive, you know how the Japanese are. They’re very loyal if they like what you do. So just over time, going to Tokyo, doing events there, featuring Japanese artists like Lui and skating with Nao. Yeah it’s just over time, getting closer and closer so why the fuck not work together. There’s a lot more future projects to come from everyone in Asia, it’ll be interesting.
“We don’t have a website with professional skater profiles, it’s more just friends and family.”
Three years ago the last Victoria trip was to Macau right? What made you pick Taipei as the location for this year’s trip?
Number one, it’s affordable and number two, we’ve always liked Taiwan in general. I feel like it was quite untapped when we had the idea but now a lot of people are starting to go cause it’s such a great place, the vibe is good, the food is good, the people are kind. And also it works out perfectly because, well, I don’t wanna get too political but the situation with Hong Kong and Taiwan. They’re just so united and supportive of each other, that it makes total sense at this time, to do something there. Especially bringing a Hong Kong based brand there to Taiwan, it’s just kind of a unity type of thing.
I mean it has to do with the name and everything (“BULLY”), if you get it, you get it. If you don’t, you don’t. I’m not tryna put super political things on the walls, I told the artists, do whatever you want. Just don’t have a burning flag… other than that everything is cool.
What made you want to incorporate an art exhibition into the trip as well as the skating?
Everyone that I asked to showcase their work, I respect very much outside of their skate abilities. I just wanted to showcase these people we have in our community. They’re not all skaters but the ones that are, I wanted them to be appreciated outside of that. I wanted to involve everyone from the fashion scene, from the music scene, so basically just bringing our whole community from Hong Kong over to Taipei and putting on a good party.
Why call it “BULLY”?
I mean it’s just a single word that represents how we feel. I don’t wanna speak for the Taiwan people but it’s kinda like, unspoken, ya know? I think it’s the perfect word for how the Hong Kong people might feel.
Would you say the exhibition was a success?
I was really nervous cause I didn’t know how big our presence in Taipei would be… But it was fun dude, it was a rager wasn’t it?
The feedback I got from a lot of the local shop owners and stuff was great to hear. They said they’d never seen this type of culture exchange in Taipei, and how we had a good balance of local artists and musicians, etc. They said most brands come in and do an event, it’s like free beer and pizza. So that was touching, and I wanna do more of that throughout Asia in different cities.
It doesn’t matter where Victoria is based in the future. That vibe is there. It’s not just Victoria Hong Kong, we’re an Asia collective and I just wanna keep growing it.
“It’s not just Victoria Hong Kong, we’re an Asia collective and I just wanna keep growing it.”
How did the streets of Taipei compare to Hong Kong?
200 times smoother. Less people, bigger sidewalks and roads, well paved. In every aspect. You can cruise from spot to spot, like in Hong Kong you kinda have to jump off your board, hop back on, jump off. And theres like rough ass ground.. Which is cool at the same time, but you don’t really get to skate from one spot to another in HK.
Any ideas for where the next Victoria skate trip might be to?
Dude… f*cking Bangkok would be cool. The Preduce guys, Sergio, Jasper, I’m sure they would take care of us if we go over there. And it would be good to reach out to more of the Thailand community, we’ve been kinda neglecting that and haven’t been out there that much. So it would be good to be out there and have some exchanges ya know. That would be rad. We can just skate and get massages all day, it’d be perfect. We could do a f*cking skate trip and end the last two days on a beach.