Written by Linus
Translated by Derek Leung
Photos by Kapok
Eight years ago, it was just a tiny shop next to a garage near Tin Hau Temple. Seeing a large banyan tree in front of the shop, Arnault used his head and named his shop Kapok. “The case is that kapok trees are everywhere in Hong Kong, it’s not good to name them banyan trees,” explained the Frenchman with a pretentious blink.
While the select shop concept has not yet then gained in popularity, a vast variety of designer goods found in Kapok have already wowed all the young artists. Needless to say, the shop is later moved from Tin Hau to the tranquil neighbourhood of Wan Chai, and its dazzling presence is in the pioneering spotlight among the local designer shops.
The shop is later moved from Tin Hau to the tranquil neighbourhood of Wan Chai, and its dazzling presence is in the pioneering spotlight among the local designer shops.
Arnault’s business development has continued to expand this year by opening another new branch in Central (near Sheung Wan) with the long-missing label: Crafted in Hong Kong. Over 80% of the shop products are made by local upcoming designers and artisans, and even what are being sold include the shirts of Kapok’s own design and with handmade crafts by a small factory.
A new branch in Central (near Sheung Wan) with the long-missing label: Crafted in Hong Kong.
Arnault does not find this strange: “Decades ago, Hong Kong's garment industry was famous all over the world, but it’s well forgotten...... At the very beginning when I sold things ‘Made in Hong Kong’ years ago, someone even looked down on them.”
Despite the high local production costs, he finds it is worth the investment, “Sometimes a piece of clothing costs incredibly low, it’s time you thought how hard people worked behind. At least we’re using organic cotton, the factory is clean and our tailors are happy to work.”
Having settled in Hong Kong for nearly two decades (despite keeping working hard on Cantonese), Arnault has as a Frenchman been promoting local manufactures probably because he has certain attachment to the city: At the age of 22 after he had just graduated from university, he joined an overseas working scheme in order to escape from the military service. One day before the date of selection of the venue for his army training, he watched the movie Chungking Express by Kar-Wai Wong in the theatre and hence deciding to make a long journey to Hong Kong.”
“This is a very good place. I’ll keep staying here. I haven’t thought about leaving here,” described Arnault.
But with a bigger scale in the business and more shops to open with even some in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and so on, we have a worry: has Kapok become a chain?
Arnault joked that no one understands more and feels more scared than him, “If I was young and fell in love with an indi band, I’d be afraid it’s getting very popular and even commercialized, and it’s not worth following!”
So now he always insists that different stores have different positions from the concepts to the merchandise. For instance, this shop focuses on bold designs whereas more professional crafts can be found in that one. What he emphasises is “harmony in diversity”.
“We’ve really grown up, but we’re still individual and independent,” claimed he seriously, “It’s not necessarily bad to develop and to grow bigger; if we remain “small”, how can our young designers to develop and to support local productions?”
In one word, it is the original idea that never changes. “Every single item that you can find in our stores is my favourite,” claimed Arnault, confident and collected.
Address: kapok – crafted in hong kong, HG10-HG12, G/F, Hollywood, PMQ