#legendchats: Francesco Lee of Rollin’ at Belowground, Hong Kong

Photo: @francesco.lee/Instagram

If rice rolls are your jam, or you’d like to get your hands on some hip clothing in the colours of the Korean flag, look no further. Italian-born Korean, Francesco Lee (founder of Moyo and Moyo Sik) has just come up with a new concept combining fashion and food: Rollin‘.

Bursting onto the scene at The Landmark’s Belowground, Rollin’ brings delicious rice rolls and roll cakes as well as t-shirts and hoodies to Central. From vegetarian, keto-friendly rolls to indulgent Mortadella goodness, Rollin’ is sure to be a hit regardless of your dietary requirements.

We caught up with Rollin’s founder to gain an insight into his inspirations, production process and how to launch a brand in the midst of a global pandemic.

From left: Truffly Beef Rice, English Breakfast Rice, Mortadella Sandwich, K-pop Fishcake&Tofu Rice, Keto Egg Salad (Photo: Courtesy of Rollin’)

What inspired you to create and sell clothing as well as food?

My passion for fashion has always been there. I used to go to fashion shows with my aunt all the time – she works as a fashion distributor. I’d always wondered how I could implement food and fashion at the same time. My first thought was a concept store that had a cafe on the side, but the difference with concept stores is that you don’t sell your own brand. I wanted to make clothing that was more than just merch or uniforms. So, we started with our food packaging, which was designed to look like a shoebox.

Why did you name the brand Rollin’?

It has a couple of meanings. The first is to just keep rolling, no matter what life throws at you. It’s a way I like to look at life. And secondly, since we are selling rolls, it just makes sense.

What does your creative process look like? How do you come up with your design ideas?

The idea of the shoebox packaging came from the childhood memory of your parents buying you shoes and being so excited to open the box. I wanted people to have that feeling on a daily basis. This type of packaging does cost more both in terms of production time and money, but it’s worth it. Rollin‘ is meant to be an experience.

In terms of our oversized t-shirts, it’s not just restaurant merch – it’s its own label. Everything is made in Korea and I personally oversee the design process.

Photo: Rollin’

The Landmark’s Belowground aims to find connection between luxury, fashion and culture. How do you think Rollin’ achieves this?

Being located in the Landmark gave me an extra push, because it’s such a fast-moving fashionable place. I knew I needed good quality, beautiful packaging and high quality clothing. Belowground is a space that is always changing, it’s quite transient and we are the only F&B company in this establishment. It gives me inspiration and helps develop a community.

We will be mirroring the transient nature of Belowground by introducing a new flavour every month. Rollin’ is a platform and we will continue to experiment. I am using my mixed upbringing as an influence – there’s a bit of Italy, a bit of Korea and a bit of everywhere in between. Rollin’ is a bridge between people and industries. We are a place where you can come shopping, maybe for gifts, but also have some food at the same time.

The K-pop fishcake and tofu rice roll in Rollin’s signature shoebox packaging (Photo: Courtesy of Rollin’)

What are some of the unique challenges you have faced opening during a global pandemic?

Because of the pandemic and the restrictions, people are going out less. And when restricted from going out a lot, people are less adventurous, less likely to explore and try new things. They want to stick to things they already know are good. Because people are working from home more now, and we are located near many office blocks, we are not getting much traffic.

We have some exciting collaborations coming up, and we are also using this quieter time to develop more designs for our clothing and accessories. This time has allowed me to really prepare properly and spend a lot of time working on new launches. We have actually held back on releasing new clothing items because we need to have the volume of customers before we release anything new so it’s tough in terms F&B and fashion, but we keep Rollin’.

Photo: @francesco.lee/Instagram

If you were a roll, what would you be?

I would be a Korean braised pork ragu and pasta roll. I don’t think the seaweed would work and it would probably fall apart but I like the idea anyway.

Rollin‘, Belowground, Basement, Landmark, Central, Hong Kong, open 11 am–6 pm daily

See also: BELOWGROUND launches at Landmark Hong Kong

In this Story: #dining