選物店（select shop）這個概念對近年的消費者來說，應該一點都不陌生。而遠在選物店的風潮盛行之前，Arnault Castel 悄悄創立了 kapok 這品牌。時隔十三年，這棵木棉樹已經茁壯成長，由一間坐落天后的小店變成了在灣仔獨佔兩層空間的旗艦店。在 Arnault 的眼裡，kapok 終於慢慢的成為他心中所想的樣子，也漸漸與香港建立了深厚的連結。
「香港有很多連鎖的時裝店，但是沒有這些具標誌性的概念店。數個月後我們就會進駐尖沙咀的 K-11 MUSEA，而這兩間 kapok 的旗艦店會真的成為能代表香港的概念店。十三年是一個頗長的故事，當中有無數高低起跌，但這個是我的想法和夢想；現在快要夢想成真，所以我非常開心、興奮！」日程密密麻麻的他，在衣著及談吐之間，還是帶著一絲悠閒感。或者是因為時裝對他來說一直都在生活裏扮演著重要的角色，所以 kapok 也理所當然地由時裝起家，直到他決定為「美」而戰。「我對於世界裏的醜陋感到難過。包括視覺的醜陋、醜陋的新聞、醜陋的說話，甚至是人們醜陋的行為，我只是認為我們需要對抗這種種。」從那時候開始，kapok 就增添了多個範疇的選物。
Most shoppers are probably not unfamiliar with the concept of “select shop”. Before the idea started gaining popularity in recent years, Arnault Castel had already founded Kapok in 2006. This beautiful Kapok tree has grown into a strong brand over the past 13 years. Starting as a small shop in Tin Hau, Kapok has now a two-story flagship store in Wan Chai. Castel is happy to see how the shop is getting closer to his original idea and has created a close bonding with Hong Kong culture.
“There are plenty of fashion chains in Hong Kong, but you can hardly find such iconic kind of concept store. In a couple of months, we will be launching our second project in MUSEA of K11 Mall. Kapok will then have two flagship stores, and I really think they can be the iconic concept stores to represent Hong Kong. This is a long story with many ups and downs, but this is my idea, my dream. I am getting close to achieving them, so I feel very happy, very excited.” Regardless of his packed schedule, Castel was still dressed in a laid-back style and talked at a relaxed pace. Fashion is, to Castel, always one of the most important aspects of life, no wonder he began the Kapok shop selling fashion items. Recently, he has slightly shifted his focus to fight for beauty, “I feel sad about the ugliness in the world, for example, visual ugliness, ugly news, ugly things that people say, and ugly behavior of some people. I just think we have to fight against all of these.” Once he began to have this thought, Kapok has welcomed a wider spectrum of products.
除了注重款式與設計，Arnault 明確地把社會責任（social responsibility）納入了考量。「我想主要是兩個想法。第一，生活方式不只是外表或外觀，而是一些比較內在的東西，比如說你把什麼吃進身體、你怎樣過生活，及怎樣佈置家居等；第二，是可持續性（sustainability）、環保和社會責任感，這些都是我相信的東西，老實說人們不太在意，在早期的時候有人會說『對，你這樣做很好，但是貨品就更昂貴了。』」日子有功，Arnault 自豪地表示 Freitag 與 Veja 現在是其中兩個最受歡迎的品牌。他開懷地笑著說道，「人不喜歡被告知要做什麼事情，而我也不是一名教師；我只是想讓別人有多點選擇，讓他們知道履行社會責任的同時也可以有型格。」
“We have to fight by surrounding ourselves with beauty, such as beautiful objects that are well-made and poetic. An object is more than just a thing, it is something that we can connect with emotionally. They are things that can make us feel good.” Products in a select shop are always chosen according to the owner’s preference; in a way, it is the customers’ confidence in the owner’s style that asserts the shop’s identity. This assumption surely applies to Kapok. “People ask ‘How can you have everything? Like you sell from sneakers to books, to chocolates, to toothpaste…’” This made me curious to know how did Kapok survive before the concept of select shops became known to people. He responded to my question first with a frown then with a smile and said, “It’s okay to do a fashion store, but then I think we would lose our character, and we would lose what makes us quite unique. Even though it was not working out so well, I thought people would change, people would explore. People like to travel, they like to read blogs and watch shows… I just thought they could have a lot more exposure, I thought their worldview was changing.”
On top of style and design, social responsibility is also one of Castel’s biggest concerns. “There are two thoughts. The first part is the lifestyle. It is not just about appearance, not about the look, it is more about the inside… What you put in your body, how you live your life, what you surround yourself with at home. The second part is sustainability, environmentally-friendly and social responsibility. These are things that I believe in, and I think people didn’t care too much about them to be honest. At the very beginning, they are like ‘yeah, you are very nice, but the products would become more expensive.’” With his efforts spent all these years, Castel can be proud to say FREITAG and Veja are the two most popular brands in the shop now. He laughed and said, “People don’t like to be told what to do, I am not a teacher, but I just want to explore people and say, like ‘you can be cool, and be socially responsible at the same time’.”
八月份除了將進駐尖沙咀外，kapok 的自家品牌 future classics 亦會重新推出。「我有一半的時間在法國生活，一半的時間在香港。雖然現在在香港居住，但平均每年會到巴黎五至六次。今次我和 Chris 與巴黎的設計師合作，共同創造出這個新的女裝系列！我非常喜歡那個風格，舒適、易於走動，甚至可以隨意跑動……很匆忙地。那些緊身的、不舒適的都不適合我們。不是 kapok，也不是香港的風格。」眼前的 Arnault 可是一個不折不扣的香港人。
Apart from launching their new shop in Tsim Sha Tsui, another big project coming for Kapok is their in-house label Future Classics. “I lived half of my life in France and half of my life here. I live here but I go to Paris 5 or 6 times a year. Me and Chris work with designers in Paris to come up with this Paris/Hong Kong collaboration. This is coming up this summer. I am very happy with this style. It is comfortable, easy for movement. People can even run around in these clothes. The tight clothes, the uncomfortable ones are not for us. Those are not Kapok, and they’re not Hong Kong.” When telling me this, Castle looked like a hundred percent local Hong Konger to me.
“I mean when you do something, you don’t do it halfway. Sometimes it is painful, but you need to go straight.” This is how Kapok grew along the way.
If you have time to visit the Kapok shop on Sun Street, you might want to have a look at these brands.
他們的鞋面喜歡以白色為底色，配以色彩繽紛的線條，明亮顯眼。每一對「Giveh」(這是一種波斯的傳統鞋履，在伊朗普遍而流行)都柔軟、舒適，創辦人 Oceane Castanet 堅持把在巴黎設計的鞋子送到伊朗，請當地的居民手織出每對鞋的圖案，再轉至葡萄牙的工作室完成最後的製作步驟。在炎炎夏日，Amrose 的作品都顯得輕盈而又帶點調皮。
The Amrose shoes usually have white as the base colour with bright and colorful lines embroidered as decoration. Each pair of their Giveh, the traditional Iranian shoes, is soft and comfortable. The founder Oceane Castanet insists on sending the Paris-designed shoes to Iran for the local artisans to work on the embroidery before sending them to the workshop in Portugal for the final production step. The Amrose shoe is a light and playful choice for the hot summertime.
設計簡約的 Volta Mobiles 來自巴塞隆拿。每件動態雕塑或靜態雕塑全都由設計師兄弟 Otxo 及 Mario Conti 親手裝嵌，他們運用循環再造的鋁與鋼製作出一個又一個用色柔和的家居擺設，能令我們在日常瑣事中靜下心來。
The Barcelona-based brand Volta Mobiles is famous for its minimal design. Both their mobiles and stables collections are assembled by the designer duo Otxo and Mario Conti themselves. The Conti brothers use recycled aluminum and steel to produce mellow colored home decoration that can give you serenity when returning home from a busy and stressful day.
大家可能早已聽聞這個集合無數設計師的品牌，在日街的旗艦店內吸引我眼球的是設計師 Roos van de Velde 的 Perfect Imperfection 系列。 純白色的器皿形態各異，看似單薄，觸摸時卻毫無脆弱之感；加上系列名字裏所說的意思，碟邊、碗邊等都隨心而作，瀟灑而美麗。
Many would find the name Serax familiar. This is the brand that is always keen on collaborating with upcoming and renowned designers. The Serax products that attract me the most in the Kapok Sun Street shop are the ones from Roos van de Velde’s Perfect Imperfection. The white porcelain ware comes in irregular shapes. Regardless of how flimsy they may look, you would actually find them substantial once holding them in your hand. As told by the name of the collection, these tableware celebrates imperfections and defects as an unrestricted form of beauty.
kapok將送出2份Future Classics與Moon Laboratory合作推出的day/night香薰蠟燭給讀者，詳情請瀏覽以下連結。
Kapok is giving out 2 sets of DAY/NIGHT scented candles jointly launched by Future Classics and MOON LABORATORY for our readers. Please refer to the link below for details.
Facebook：Obscura Giveaway Campaign for July