kapok: Hong Kong’s preeminent curator of cool celebrates 15 years in the city

Lifestyle select store kapok celebrates 15 years in Hong Kong with a new logo, renewed energy and a host of exciting collaborations

O.N.S kapok store: Photo: kapok

When you consider Hong Kong’s famously sky-high rents, coupled with the challenges of the past few years, it’s really not easy for businesses to stick it out here. So as premium lifestyle select store kapok celebrates its 15th anniversary in the Fragrant Harbour, its founder Arnault Castel is simply grateful to still be standing strong.

“Our major achievement is to be here, 15 years later, still bringing happiness to our customers and their families, still working with brands we love and respect,” Castel says. “We went through the craziness of the Hong Kong retail market, with an extra dose of crazy in the past three years.”

Kapok has made a name for itself by championing Hong Kong brands as well as introducing new international brands. “We have developed a kapok touch, with a strong point of view in our brand selection and through collabs,” Castel explains in reference to his company’s taste and sense for curation. “I’m also proud we manage to grow, to adapt with a webshop, social media and also bigger stores, while remaining very approachable and personal.”

Undel Castel’s helm, the company has kept its finger on the pulse of the city while keeping its original mission in mind. “In the past three years, kapok has launched a programme of new flagship stores in Wan Chai, Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay. This brings kapok very close to the vision I had when I started the project 15 years ago,” he says.

Arnault Castel and Brian Chung. Photo: kapok

“We have also explored different markets all around Asia, with stores opening in Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. But at the end of the day, there’s no place like home and we are happy to be super focused on Hong Kong.”

As part of its 15th-anniversary celebrations, kapok is launching a new logo. “The first inspiration is to start from the letter k – k for kapok – and the kapok flower. Choosing the kapok name for our stores is very fitting, as it’s a very resilient tree and also a tree that provides shelter to many plants and animals, just like we provide a beautiful home for our customers and brands,” Castel says.

“We developed different flower shapes, from thin to bold to represent the blooming and evolution of kapok. These shapes can be mixed to create beautiful patterns, from the most minimal to the very bold.”

#legend logo reimagined through the eyes of kapok.

For the colour palette, Castel wanted “vibrant and happy colours” as he feels kapok is always about bringing happiness, small and big. “With this toolbox of patterns, shapes and colours, we set out to work with 15 of our beloved kapok brands, new and old, to create a collection of 15 collaborations especially for our anniversary,” he adds.

One of the brands that kapok will be collaborating with is New York-based O.N.S. “O.N.S was born out of the ideals of big cities. I find the similarities between Hong Kong and New York fascinating. From their young and rich history, to their eclectic styles and their people’s resilience,” says founder Brian Chung, who was born in Hong Kong and raised in Macau.

Chung opened O.N.S’ first shop in Hong Kong in 2019 right before the protests began. The timing may have been unfortunate but the collaboration with kapok has helped O.N.S finally find a foothold in the city. 

“I find that Hong Kong and New York have an underserved men’s middle market that calls for unique quality products at attainable pricing. So Hong Kong is a natural fit for the brand’s values outside of New York,” says Chung, who has a vision for the “modern man” and menswear in the two megacities.

“The modern man is adaptable and confident throughout the day. He needs a quality foundation, garnished with unique items that reflect his style. He is savvy and inquisitive, he understands the true meaning of value,” he adds. “More importantly, he is busy, in work and in life. Offering a value-driven, efficient and effective way to build his style is O.N.S’ reason for being.”

Chung believes a person should wear the clothes and not the other way around, so he emphasises a “confidence > fashion” approach. He also has a fairly simplistic fashion philosophy for his own life and the brand.

kapok Victoria Park store. Photo: kapok

“A rotation of shirts is the definition of my style. But I find that a comfortable, well fitted pair of bottoms, no matter the style, is more important than any other item in my life,” he says.

Introducing brands like O.N.S that add new energy to Hong Kong is what excites kapok’s Castel. “We never want to lose our personal touch and the wonderful community we have created around the kapok brand. We will continue to grow and evolve with care and patience and never lose sense of who we are,” he insists. “Finally, the major achievement for me is to create a strong and fantastic team, with faithful collaborators and new members that always bring new directions!” 

Castel certainly intends to use that “kapok touch” to keep things exciting for him, the brand and Hong Kong. “We’ve got the taste of developing products, so you will see more and more kapok creations and collabs in the future,” he says. “Finally, I can’t tell you what to expect because I don’t know. I very often have very crazy ideas and I get very excited until we make them happen, so kapok will always remain unpredictable. Fifteen years later, let’s keep rocking!”

Founder to Founder

#legend’s co-founder Anne Lim-Chaplain chats with kapok’s Arnault Castel

Arnault Castel. Photo: kapok

What keeps you up at night?
Always changing, evolving, remaining relevant while staying faithful to our values!

What motivates you?

Every time I see one of our customers looking happy inside our store, or in the streets with our shopping bag, I feel we are doing the right thing and that motivates me to keep going!

What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with a great team, that knows their field better than you do, while also trusting your instinct. Always keep this balance right!

Also see:
Arnault Castel talks retail and culture in Hong Kong’s Vitra at kapok

In this Story: #art & design