kapok: Purveyor of taste

HOMEHIGHLIGHT ▸ kapok: Purveyor of taste

One of Hong Kong’s most successful select shops, kapok has quietly grown into an authority on independent fashion and lifestyle labels renowned for their authentic and approachable take on design

Frenchman Arnault Castel opened the first kapok boutique in the quiet neighbourhood of Tin Hau in 2006. Thirteen years on, kapok is now based in the leafy surrounds of the Sun Street precinct in Wanchai, with several stores located in Hong Kong and two in Singapore. The boutique now occupies a unique place in Hong Kong’s retail landscape, offering a curated collection of independent fashion and lifestyle brands that echo the kapok aesthetic – classic with great details – and shares the founder’s insistence on quality.

kapok started out by importing French labels and items that Castel discovered during his travels. Over the years, however, more and more Hong Kong brands have been incorporated into its portfolio, giving it a subtle yet unmistakable local flavour.

“When we are curating, we only think about quality, and whether the brands fit within the style of what we do. We like to call our style “future classics” – pieces that are interesting but not too flashy, with some quiet detailing,” he explains.

kapok at Sun Street

As kapok grows from strength to strength, Castel still revels in the independent spirit and the fact that he remains very accessible to new designers. Some of these designers were his customers and he is always open to meeting potential partners.

However, it takes time to introduce a new brand to customers, he admits. “Some may need a year to take off. So I need to have the feeling that a new label has the potential to grow rather than having only just one good collection.”

“I enjoy working with local designers because we can have more of a dialogue rather just picking and buying,” added Castel.

Among local brands kapok carries, womenswear and accessories label Berayah by Enoch Ho is doing well, while Teddyfish bags are the stores’ second-biggest seller in terms of accessories; its use of water-resistant, lightweight materials has made it a favourite among customers. In addition, PCYCL, a local menswear label that creates functional, sustainable clothing through smart cutting and fabrics sourced from responsible mills is also doing well, as its ethical approach to fashion is a concept that today’s consumers are ready to embrace.

This year is shaping up to be a big one for kapok, with another new space near its home base in Wanchai opening in May and a big opening at K11 MUSEA in Tsim Sha Tsui in August. The K11 MUSEA store will be the biggest kapok space to date and enable even more brands to unite under one roof. It is going to be a major milestone and exciting challenge for Castel and his team.

Another highly anticipated project for kapok is the major launch of its own line of clothing and accessories, “Future Classics”, later this year. kapok has been experimenting with the label for almost three years now and it will be launched in earnest this year.

“After being a retailer for more than 10 years, I want to try something new. With ‘Future Classics’, I want to send out a strong message. I’m working with designers from Hong Kong and France so ‘Future Classics’ will be a blend of both places. It will be French style in essence, but more relaxed and laid-back.”

“Being a retailer we have an advantage. We were able to put “Future Classics” on the same rack with other labels and see how our products interact with other designs. Hopefully we can make a bit of noise when it finally launches.”

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