The Brains Behind 852Prints, HKs Favourite Gift Brand
Hong Kong/ Venture/ Startups

The Creator and Brains Behind 852Prints, Hong Kong's Homegrown Brand Capturing a Unique Cantonese Essence

The Brains Behind 852 Prints Hong Kongs Homegrown Brand Capturing a Unique Cantonese Essence Header

Unless you’ve been dormant since January 2020 in Hong Kong (we don’t blame you if you have, it’s been a tough two years), you probably have heard of 852Prints, Hong Kong’s freshest gift brand company shaking up the design and gift-giving industry.

852Prints is a home-grown brand that strives to celebrate Hong Kong in its different faces, cultural nuances, colours, and looks, through the design of cool gift cards, male and female apparel, and gifts.

Close to celebrating their second birthday, 852prints is a one-woman operation, run by Hong Kong-born marketer Krystal Tolani, that strives to look at Hong Kong in a more comical perspective, with the heartfelt memories of the kids who grew up here.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, having lived in the city all her life, with the exception of four years spent at college in the U.S., Krystal is a self-described lover of all things Fragrant Harbour.

“It’s dynamic, fast-paced, and there’s a seemingly endless number of things to do and places to explore. There’s greenery, beautiful beaches & islands - and in under an hour, you can be in the middle of the bustling city. And no matter how many times I look at it, the skyline never gets any less breath-taking.”

“I love that Hong Kong is unlike any other city in the world. It’s a mishmash of east meets west and city & nature.”

Krystal’s love for Hong Kong became reinvigorated after moving back to the city in 2017, her hometown where she was born and grew up in.

“Visiting friends and relatives would be in awe of the city – for me, it was so ordinary. It was only when I returned to Hong Kong from university that I saw this city with a fresh set of eyes.”

She instantly was exposed to the city she has called home for twenty-plus years with a fresh set of eyes, similar to the bulging eyes of her overseas friends and family who would visit the city, amazed by the authenticity and rush of the city.

She began a photo journal shortly after to capture the sights, sounds, and sewer-like smells of Hong Kong and began incorporating art about the streets and neighbourhoods of the city.

Launched on Jan. 23, 2020, the date of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the city, a date that Krystal remembers vividly, the brand has braved the harsh pandemic and grown to a house-name amongst locals, expats, and Hong Kongers abroad.

Krystal’s selection of gifts, t-shirts, apparel, and cards on her online store take on Hong Kong’s quintessential eccentricities. A black and white hat with “yau lok” embroidered in, the Cantonese phrase for alighting a bus, a quaint lucky cat tote bag, t-shirts with koi fish floating in the air, and zany Mother’s Day, housewarming, birthday, congratulations, wedding, and love greeting cards featuring the best of Hong Kong iconography.

Krystal explains that 852Prints was created for three distinct, yet compelling reasons: she saw a gap in the market for quirky cards and apparel that represented the city without looking overly touristy, she was looking for a creative outlet outside her full-time job, and sought to learn more about graphic design and illustration.

In an email interview with The Beat Asia, she says that her inspirations come from her experiences of her storied life in Hong Kong. “Whether it be from my childhood growing up here or when I moved back and got to see the city with new eyes.”

She looks inter her memories of Hong Kong as a source for constant inspiration – meandering down the city streets, her childhood of lucky cats, TVB stars, Canto food, and the famous iconography of Hong Kong.

As a millennial living in an international city, Krystal stresses that business be done in a way that does not affect the environment negatively. 852Prints print cards in small batches, while embroidery work and printing batches are done on demand. Krystal ensures and strives to work with either local or sustainable global partners producing products for her series, where possible.

“We consciously try to make decisions about how we source our products.”

“I work with an incredible Hong Kong-based printing company. They source FSC-certified recycled paper, print with eco-friendly inks and toners, recycle their toner cartridges AND provide vegetarian meals for their staff,” Krystal told The Beat Asia..”

“If that wasn’t enough, they were also the only industrial printer I contacted to work with my incredibly tiny order when I first started out.”

Krystal’s initial goal for 852Prints during the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong was to break even and get stocked locally. By winter of 2020, she was able to realise both of those goals – her products are stocked at G.O.D., Bookazine, and other smaller lifestyle stores, and she broke even just before Christmas 2020.

Behind her project and business, she does not understate the effort and support her family, partner, and friends have done for the success of 852Prints.

“When I got stocked at GOD and Bookazine late last year, it was my parents and my partner that stayed up late at night stuffing cards into plastic sleeves to make it in time for Christmas.”

Krystal currently works as a marketer for an ed-tech company based in Hong Kong, running social media, writing copy, and testing SEO, transitioning to part-time in April 2021 when she saw the space to grow 852Prints and other side projects.

She describes herself as an “occasional hermit,” who loves listening to podcasts, working out, and eats good food and “sometimes” cooks it too.

Her favourite apparel and gifts in her selection are the cross-harbour tee and the Ride the Minibus game. “I initially designed it for a friend who I would frequently take cabs with after a night out [in Lan Kwai Fong]. We would struggle to hail a cab [to cross the harbour to travel to Kowloon], but then spent the entire ride home in the most entertaining conversations.”

Krystal's Ride the Minibus game is a newly launched drinking game for lovers of Hong Kong’s eccentric and wacky qualities, made in partnership with the team behind influencer account Get High.

“What started off as a passing comment about how a Hong Kong-based drinking game would be fun to play, has now turned into a reality.”

She has even more favourites for her designed and printed greeting cards: “You make my heart race,” “Choy to the world,” “Here comes Santa claws,” and the Freddy card!

“My family and partner HATED IT but [I would pick] "Here comes Santa claws". It was a last-minute addition to last year's Christmas card collection. I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea for it and had to put pen to paper immediately (or Apple pencil to iPad in this case)”

“The Freddy card [is a fave too]! Those weather forecasts punctuated my nights as a kid, so I had to go with the original Feddy. I love having that card out when I do pop-ups, because of the nostalgia and recognition of people.“

852Prints is always innovating and exploring new creative projects to blend that special Chinese culture and unique bubbly gifts and cards. In the new year, Krystal will be launching a Chinese New Year countdown calendar in partnership with the people at vegan brand, Conspiracy Chocolate, and YouTuber and tour guide, Humid with A Chance of Fishballs.

“We’re also looking to expand our distribution network, so if you’re a retailer looking to stock unique, eco-friendly cards, do get in touch!”

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