Episode 1: Hong Kong's Man of Steel
TMS.SITE founder, Mei Sze, grew up in a blue-collar family and saw workers suffer from uncomfortable and bulky workwear in the Summer. The brand was founded in 2021 to promote class consciousness and develop a substitute for the heavy and non-breathable clothing common in worksites. Many of her friends growing up were in the construction industry and through providing modernized and aesthetic tooling, Mei Sze wishes to give back to the community closest to her heart and revalue workers as “industrial athletes.”
As part of our brand’s overarching mission, we’re launching TMS.SITE Community, a platform for sharing the stories of industrial athletes in our home city of Hong Kong and around the world. Through our content, we hope to inspire a change in industry perceptions and build an inclusive global community of industrial professionals.
For episode 1 of the series, we speak to Stone, a steel worker in Hong Kong with a passion for motorcycles. For those who have been following our brand, you may recognize him in our past campaigns. He’s played a crucial role in our product development, providing invaluable feedback on our garments from the field.
Stone takes us to visit CHOP SMITH CUSTOM, a bike shop he works as an apprentice when off the clock. There, we meet the owner Wuso and discuss the intersection between his work and passion, his interactions thus far with TMS.SITE, and more.
Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Stone: My name is Stone and I turn 30 years old this year. I’m a construction worker by profession and my hobby is riding motorcycles.
What can you tell us about the bike shop?
Stone: This bike shop is called CHOP SMITH CUSTOM. It was founded in 2012 by my mentor Wuso. While most garages in Hong Kong are built to carry out maintenance, this garage is dedicated to redesigning motorcycles. All the parts are made from scratch, and although our technique is not quite there yet, Master Wuso is determined to design the frame of the bikes himself as well. This is the only garage in Hong Kong that has the skill to do this. Wuso has a real burning passion for retro cars and choppers. Of course, I chose to follow one of the most hardcore guys.
How did you get to know Master Wuso?
Stone: The first motorcycle I drove was one of those sports models where you need to sprawl down completely. Over time I began to slowly dislike this style and took a liking to choppers, those with high handles. I got to know Wuso later through a friend and I’ve been riding with him ever since.
What similarities do you see between your day job and working on bikes?
Stone: For both my job and working at the bike shop, the handicraft needs to be very precise. You have big irons and small iron and both have their challenges. The structure of the big ones is easier to see but the small ones can be very complicated and messy, so you must approach them carefully. In both roles, we see a lot of interesting creations, and one might feel proud of themselves when they complete them, but without learning the basics, you don’t have a chance to produce anything at all.
How did you first come into contact with TMS.SITE?
Back then I was working in Tsuen Wan. The TMS.SITE team was looking for steel workers around the worksite and happened to find me.
How did you get into the steelworking industry?
Stone: The main reason I entered the industry was because I couldn't test into university so I started doing manual work, moving and delivering. After doing it for a while, some of my older friends asked me to pick up a trade. I asked them where I could learn and they told me to work at the construction sites. There are so many categories, all of which are worth learning. In the beginning, I chose to work in scaffolding, but it’s quite dangerous. Many people have fallen and died. The other option was to work with steel. By coincidence, I was watching TV at that time and I heard that you get $1000 HKD just to enter the industry, so I did.
How many years have you worked?
Stone: I have been doing it for 8 years, since November 2014.
How long did it take for you to get to your current position?
Stone: It was only recently that I became a middle-level worker. I’ve already passed the master’s license test in 2016, but it doesn’t mean much. In practice, you’re still just a blank slate. It takes a long time to be able to handle real-life emergencies and other scenarios that come up.
What was your first impression of TMS.SITE?
Stone: The pieces seemed unrealistic and impractical. Let’s not talk about other things. It didn’t look like workers’ clothes at all. I used to wear super old-school clothes, just a T-shirt and jeans. For jeans, we want them as thick as possible so we don’t get burned by sparks or flames. That was the style back then that I thought was cool and functional. I really couldn't imagine that there were better and more stylish options for us. At first I thought, ‘aren't these the clothes that internet celebrities used to check in and wear? Can I really wear it to the construction site?’ That was my first impression.
Wuso: It’s different, very avant-garde. I personally don’t accept it but I think it looks quite comfortable. When Stone wears your pants at the worksite, I’ve noticed that he’s been able to avoid injuries.
What’s the biggest difference you found between the TMS.SITE trousers you have on now and the clothes you wore before?
Stone: Definitely the look and the comfort. If we’re talking solely about trousers, the protection we were looking for before could be achieved by wearing hard jeans. However, in terms of comfort, they’re all rubbish — very stuffy, and not breathable. Because our job is very active, we are often worn down by our jeans. Even the hair on our thighs becomes worn smooth, for real! So the biggest difference between the pants I wore before and TMS.SITE pants is the comfort factor. The second is flexibility. It’s more flexible while at the same time, more protective than traditional jeans.
Can you think of an instance when the pants particularly came in handy?
Stone: These pants saved my life, saved my leg! During one hoisting, I noticed that the chain buckle was still hooked when untying the iron cable used for lifting. When I went to unwind the chain link, the crane operator jumped the gun and decided to start lifting. The iron materials fell in my direction and I instinctively jumped backwards, hitting my knees on the square screws set in the iron molds. The pants were so invincible! Thanks to the knee pads, the next day I was still able to work as usual, running and jumping were no problem at all and I could continue to sing and dance on the weekend.
How would you describe the relationship between your work and interest?
Stone: I like working on motorcycles more and my job as a steelworker allows me to support my personal interests. I’m greedy that way, I want to keep doing both until I can’t.
What advice do you have for the next generation of Hong Kongers stationed at the worksite?
Stone: Work Hard, be present, and be humble.
Wuso: Safety first, be home for dinner.