Get to know: Yu Xian from kapok


kapok was founded in 2006 by Arnault Castel, with the first store opening in Hong Kong. The brand made its debut in Singapore at Tangs Orchard in 2013, and opened another branch at the National Design Centre in 2014.

How did the name “kapok” come about?
The tree which we took our name from grow tall in their ecosystem, branching out to provide a home for plants and animals dependent on nourishment and exposure. Likewise, kapok provides a unique roof under which people in the community can meet freely and find inspiring quality goods with great aesthetic. Our founder initially wanted to name the store after a tree, as there was a large banyan tree outside kapok’s first store in Tin Hau, Hong Kong. But as you know, the banyan name is already taken. Locally, you can find the kapok tree in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, right beside the famous white band stand.

How many brands does kapok stock at the moment?
Our brand curation is constantly changing, but we have up to 100 brands. In our National Design Centre (NDC) store we are required to present 40% home-grown brands and right now, Singaporean brands take up half of our NDC brand curation. Most of our international brands, such as A.P.C. and Maison Kitsune are from France, as our founder Arnault Castel himself is French.

Why does kapok display local brands alongside international ones, rather than have a dedicated Singapore section?
Our goal is to present emerging or independent brands on a same platform, regardless of its country of origin. In Hong Kong, home-grown brands are placed side by side with international brands, and we group our products according to fashion, jewellery or lifestyle categories. The point is for people to buy things because they are well-made. When they discover that an item is from a Singapore label, that’s a bonus.

What does kapok look for when it comes to deciding which brands to stock?
‘Discovering future classics’ has always been our theme. We look for authenticity, a sense of freshness yet timelessness in brands stocked in our stores. We prefer products that are more sustainable and are made from natural materials. The design should be understated and warm, not aggressive or loud.

How different is kapok Singapore from kapok Hong Kong, and in what ways?
kapok NDC is the first store to incorporate a dine-in cafe and it is one of the biggest kapok stores in the region. Of course kapok NDC also holds the largest number of Singaporean brands. Those that do very well in NDC may go on to be stocked in our Hong Kong stores, like menswear label Faculty, and cassette posters seller Rehyphen.

There are several other multi-label designer stores in Singapore – what makes kapok stand out?
We have a very approachable take on fashion and design. Being in this neighbouhood, we have people from all walks of life come in and chat with us. To quote Arnault Castel: “The kapok person is someone who is always curious about new things, is an idealist and looks for sustainable products. Shopping here isn’t about age or gender. The brand is not elitist.”

What can we look forward to from kapok in 2018?
In 2018, we will bring new brands to kapok Singapore, such as Johnny Romance from France (who are bringing cross-stitch back in fashion) and Wood Wood (the new kings of Scandinavian sportswear). We will also release the fourth collection of our own fashion label, future classics, including our take on the perfect raincoat.

By Gwen Pew
Published on 10 January 2018


Yu Xian from kapok

Tell us about your role at kapok.
I handle the marketing and operations at kapok. Basically, I’m the person you should be nice to if you want any upcoming insider news, haha!

What’s one item from the kapok store that you absolutely love right now?
The Luna Moon Lamp by Taiwanese Acorn Art Studio. There’s something magical about being able to hold the moon in your hand. Also, the outdoor Luna at kapok exhibition for Singapore Night Festival 2017 was one of our biggest projects to date, and that brings many good memories for me.

What are your favourite lunch spots in the Bras Basah / Bugis area?
Waterloo Centre’s Leong Yeow Chicken Rice! Honestly better than Tian Tian at Maxwell. We even introduced this to our founder and overseas friends when they’re in town. Otherwise, you can find me at the second level of Fortune Centre for either the Korean or vegetarian food.

Check out kapok’s latest collections on their website, and follow their Facebook page here. Friends of Centre 42 can also quote “kapok a pok” to get a 10% discount off selected brands at kapok at the National Design Centre.