#JJStyle: Made-In-Hong Kong, kapok’s First Menswear Collection and Interview With Founder, Arnault Castel

Last week, kapok, one of Asia’s best destination boutiques of curated goods, finally celebrated 8 years in business. And in a city like Hong Kong with plenty of shopping options from mono brand Flagships to big Department Stores, kapok’s achievement in making a mark within the city’s luxury goods market is no small feat.

Known for proudly being the first to import and/or carry brands like Kitsune, Herschel, Dyptique, MISCHA, Uniform Wares, VOID Watch, Saint James, Miansai, and Mismo, Kapok and its founder, Arnault Castel, is now going towards yet another niche direction… specialty men’s shirts.

One can say that Castel’s curation has set a certain kind of aesthetic tone, even if it generally leans towards more French sensibilities. That said, since opening 8 years ago, i’ve noticed a shift away from the typical I.T, Comme Des Garcons, or whatever generic luxury suiting look that men prefer to define themselves in Hong Kong, with styles moving towards something more of what kapok has had on offer since the beginning, clothes reflecting an independently crafted spirit at a higher price point, blurring the lines between business and casual… and therefore tossing high street chic out the window.

kapoks’ inaugural menswear collection, a limited and careful series of 5 shirts and 3 hats to begin with under the same moniker, aim to continue to address the perfect shirt that even after 8 years in the business of importing looks, Castel still has yet to find available in the market. The shirts are defined by their classic colors (mostly white, navy, chambray) and classic looks (buttoned down), but with that extra flare (oversized pockets), that are quirky, yet not too outrageous for workwear. I wore it to work yesterday!

We interviewed Arnault last week regarding his new direction forward with kapok and his inspiration with the made in Hong Kong inaugural men’s line!

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theW+: About your new collection. What is kapok launching this month for the first time?

Arnault Castel: It’s the first time we launch kapok products, kapok will move from being a retailer to being a retailer and a brand! We will start with a capsule collection of 5 shirts, designed between Paris and Hong Kong and all made in a fantastic small workshop in Hong Kong. Starting the kapok label is a way for us to also define what is the kapok style.

theW+: How is it like to transition to creating your own fashion label vs. carrying other people’s label in your store?

AC: We’ve been running the store for 8 years, and we work with so many great brands so it was important for us to not create “just another label” to add to what we have in store.

We decided to start with shirts, as we carry really amazing European labels at kapok, but sometimes the fabrics are a bit too heavy for Hong Kong spring/summer and also the fitting was not really perfect for our customers.

theW+: In the creation of the brand’s design and aesthetic direction, what were your style influences?

AC: First we started with the fabrics. We wanted very high quality, light and breathable fabrics. We found an amazing supplier of Japanese organic cotton and it all started from there. This makes the shirts so comfortable. 

For the fit, we had some directions coming from our favourite brands, the cool minimalism of Margaret Howell, Kitsune’s French preppy style. but we wanted to create something unique, so we worked on some playful details such as oversized pockets or 3d pockets. 

Our main direction was to have styles that could work both for a casual weekend or at work, and add a slight touch of fun.

theW+: Of all the brands you carry at kapok, what are your most favorite labels ever?

AC: So many! Without being too PC, I must say that i really like all labels in the store. if i don’t like something, it wouldn’t end up at kapok, it’s simple. 

Personally, I love our legacy casual style, the cool simplicity of Margaret Howell, Kitsune preppiness with a french twist. Common Projects make the best looking sneakers season after season. Astier de Villatte ceramics and candles are just so beautiful. And I am a bit obsessed with Mismo bags … i could continue for hours, but don’t want to bore you and your readers

theW+: Where can you see kapok going in the next 3-5 years? Will there be a record label in the future? (kapok has always stocked an amazing collection of music since the shop’s inception.)

AC: I have so many ideas i think i could plan 10 years of kapok :) I would love to do an outdoor store, also exploring a café, do a secret store full of unique pieces… again, the list is long.

We now have quite a few fans in Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan so I am considering opening stores in these countries if i can. I think nothing beats opening our own retail stores to really communicate the kapok mood… of course, we also want to improve our webshop for those who cannot visit us often.

Anyway, i am sure the future of kapok will also be defined by luck, and by meeting new people along the way, let’s see!

introducing kapok first shirt collection - crafted in hong kong from kapok on Vimeo.

WEAR kapok First Collection . kapok shops, Sun Street and St. Francis Yard, Admiralty Hong Kong . kapokTOOLS, Harbour City . kapokTOOLS, K11
JJ.

Feng Shui Lifestyle. Emphasis on “Style”.

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(Above: Feng Shui Master, Thierry Chow)

Those who know me personally know that my addiction to multi-tasking and juggling of several projects from both being a designer and blogger keeps me up on my toes so high that I’m basically flying on my own space ship. This is the reason why to some, I must look like some kind of “Space Cadet.” Additionally, some may also consider me “Spacey” because of my vocal (to my close friends) beliefs in the active exploration of a “non-physical”/ spiritual universe. What the!? You Ask? Let me explain.

This means that, although I’m personally not religious (spirituality too boxed up according to other people’s definition), I believe in a “metaphysical” order to the Universe, meaning that from my perspective on things, the Universe we see is a sliver of a portion and a by-product of what is actually REALLY out there. And just because one can’t materially and physically feel, see, and directly measure something, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This has been conceptually confirmed theoretically in science within the last 6 months.

Living in Hong Kong, has been an amazing contributor in helping me foster my interests in the esoteric study which among the many “spiritual” topics I’ve been interested in, is Feng Shui. Additionally, I’ve noticed that every successful or creative person I know in this city, even those who seemingly only believe in the worship of money, have at one point or another, seeked the counsel of a Chinese medicine doctor, a Feng-Shui master, or a neighborhood temple’s local clairvoyant. From the culture of “paper burning” as a way to honor the dead visibly on sidewalk streets, to the iconic towers of the city designed by the likes of Norman Foster and IM Pei, Feng Shui has had a presence almost everywhere, shaping this unique first world city.

Feng Shui is older than Christianity and dates back practices to around 6,000 years ago in China, and is essentially the study of the correlative relationship between each human being and their spatial universe, using maths to calculate your relational physical elements “fire, water, earth, metal”. What Feng Shui allows people (who believe in it) to do, is to manipulate the physical environment they live and work in, so that this environment can work on their favor from a more “balanced” standpoint, balancing luck in career, relationship, and health in an yearly basis in relation to each individual. For 2014, I’ve finally gained a new local Feng Shui expert (I used to rely on my hobbyist aunt from Texas) in the name of the very stylish, Thierry Chow.. With fellow spiritualist, writer, and social media personality, Johannes Pong (below right), we met up with Thierry, and her boyfriend, Canadian artist, Peter Yuill (below left), for a welcome dinner in the neighborhood to discuss more of her work as both a budding Feng Shui master and the converging of her practice with design work for a new generation of dual-language/dual-culture believers.

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Thierry who has been featured locally with profiles in several magazines and websites like Sassy Hong Kong and Lifestyle Asia, has only just begun her practice. An apprentice of “legendary feng shui master”, Chow Hon Ming, her father, Thierry seeks to give modern solutions for people living in today’s world. She plans to soon design modern furniture and home items, which combine basic feng shui principles, that look and feel good from a design perspective. For the month of February, she even held events with her dad at the Little Square space on Square Street which is really fantastic for her new career because Little Square gets the cool young crowd, a completely different audience relative to your aunts and grandma, for example.

After dinner with Thierry and Peter, Thierry agreed to reorganize my home based on Feng Shui principles for 2014, as well as give me one of her special readings in which she assessed my whole life via that feng shui point of view. I’m here to tell you that Feng Shui needs not to be about old school crystals, weird statues, and balls with running water… in fact, as part of the modern incorporation and principals, it too can be stylish. Here are a few things I’ve had to do to integrate well spatially with 2014:

+ Money Corner

I had to get all “red” in the South Corner of my flat because this year my chances for wealth have doubled if this corner was “activated”. The aromatic diffuser, replaced fish bowls and tacky waterfall machines. Thank God for Thann Hong Kongat K11 and their diffusers! The red painting I sourced from Pinterest.com, plotted out in hi-resolution and framed myself. The charms (looking like a pot of Gold) are gifts from Mischa and John Hardy.

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+ Lucky Wrist

Because I naturally have so much “fire”, Thierry advised me to wear less read, and more soothing colors to reflect colder elements like water and metal. Ie. Jewellery. Even though men have begun to wear more jewellery and wrist pieces as part of today’s Dandy-inspired looks, I’ve just preferred to wear watches. After asking readers on Twitter where I can source “silvers” and “golds”, my friend, Angus, told me that Kapok on St. Francis Yard sells the full range of Men’s Miansai bracelets. Any of them would work, but I decided to purchase the Rose Gold Cuff. It’s a solid brass base with a 24K Rose Gold plate. I’ve been MORE lucky ever since.

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+ Green To Grow Relationships

My most favorite part about finding stuff for the home is filling it with plants. I was happy to buy more plants for the center portion of the flat, especially ones that looked a little more “floweri-sh”. Its best that one gets flowers for the relationship corner, however if the plant only looks like a flower, that can pass as well. Although I love flowers, they’re really a bit too high maintenance.

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+ Red, Yet Earthly Work Chair

 I was tempted to purchase this “Chinese” Style chair from Ikea, because according to Thierry, it’s best If my Western corner (My work corner) had more earthly elements. Also Red is a very lucky color for career, while the timber seat reflects more of the earthly vibe needed for this specific area, which is different for everyone. I ended up not getting the chair because it wasn’t available, and upon further research online, the chair had quality issues. I just wanted to point out, that solutions for Feng Shui can be stylish while also a fun challenge.

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+ Socks for Lunar New Year

Despite the fact that I’m supposed to wear less red, universally, everyone is supposed to wear red socks to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The GAP in Hong Kong had these amazing knitted boot socks at 30% off. It’s a great excuse to buy great looking pair of socks, while sticking to this superstitious rules in a fun and stylish way.

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I also wanted to point out for the month of February, BOOM Magazine released a special 2014 Feng Shui Almanac that totally looks old school. This is one of Thierry’s latest projects, and a way for her to make the practice be relevant to our generation and integrating her work with design. It’s quite cool. Some cool content on here is a guide on where you should stand at a bar in relation to your Chinese Horoscope and a guide to how to twerk.

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 (Twerking is not related to Feng Shui in anyway FYI.)

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Also I spotted Peter’s work area he shares with Thierry. Thematically, he’s into metaphysics too.

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Happy Go Lucky 2014 from Wanderlister.com!

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MORE INFORMATION Thierry Chow Feng Shui / WEAR Miansai via KAPOK / RELAX Thann Spa Hong Kong  

JJ.

#theWanderlist: In The Mood For Gastronomic Affairs? Serge et le Phoque

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The woman in that photo above is confused. She’s confused because everything about this mysterious restaurant, located in Wanchai’s side streets off Queens Road East, is so understated. Everything from a facade that’s just plain glass, basic no plastic plywood furniture, no signage, no visual clutter, basic painted walls, and no faux-crystal, makes the new restaurant, Serge et le Phoque, across the street from Wanchai Cooked Food Market… just so… un-Hong Kong. Thank God.

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Even by expat dining destination standards in the city, it’s so so so underratedly chill. No hostess on the sidewalk begging you to come in, no poster on the front door telling you what “Theme” Sunday is supposed to be (because in Hong Kong… to survive as a concept restaurant… you’ve go to theme EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK!) 

In exchange for Serge et le Phoque’s defiantly minimalist aesthetics and ambiance, you get a blank palette that sets back for the food. And Oh… the food. Just making me think of that experience, i’m literally salivating at the thought. Let me just put it this way… eating at Serge et le Phoque, is the equivalent of eating at say… an art gallery, where the degustation menu is the exhibition on display. And yes, this is saying a lot. And speaking highly of this restaurant is less than what they deserve/trying to achieve… it’s not enough! Chef Christophe Pele (photo below right) literally returns once a month from Paris to oversee this restaurant and to play in the kitchen with resident chef, Nic Chew (ex- L’atelier Robuchon and Saint Betty’s) which is run by restaurateurs, Charles Pelletier (photo below left) and Frederic Peneau, an ex architect (which explains the cool designer-ish surroundings, also former owner of Cafe Burq and current owner of Le Chateaubriand). Fred’s son came up with the random restaurant name (translating to “Serge and the Seals”) and the whole team combined worked hard in setting up a new kind of continental restaurant in the city focused on providing a no frills, no drama, unpretentious space where the quality of the food is the only taste left on one’s tongue by the end of the night. 

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And the taste… I still dream of it, one month after. My friend, Louise, and I took our pal Tangram’s designer, Paola Sinisterra for her birthday dinner last month. A few other friends came by to join, and we made a Sunday night of it. What make it more special was that Chef Christophe was in town to work that Sunday evening, putting together a special one-night only menu for the party! Some items were available on the regular menu, but other items, were based on ingredients he just purchased for that day, which may someday make it as an official offering.

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#theWanderlist: At La Cantoche, Child’s Play Can Equate to Seriously Great Dining

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Sheung Wan’s tiny and unassuming Wa Lane is a low-key little street relative to the adjacent Hollywood Road, a dining and shopping destination for most of Hong Kong’s tourists. While some new restaurants (Chachawan, 208 Duecento Otto, and Heirloom for example) can still afford prime Hollywood Road frontage, other eating establishments like the one year old La Cantoche (The Canteen) take on lanes like Wa Lane to make they’re own little mark in an already crowded dining market like Hong Kong’s. Additionally for this city, it is expected that a restaurant’s marketing is tied to an overt dining concept and theatrical dinner experience, La Canotche by contrast is absent of any formulaic choreography, yet wins points all around for what’s most important; Food, Concept, and Ambience. 

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The Food, delicious French-Vietnamese fare with a slightly Arabic twist. The Concept, casual hearty home-style “soul” food to share. The Ambience, a relaxed, no frills, no pressure, no pretense bistro, that’s as playful as a teenage boy’s bedroom. For all this combined, we only have owner, David Sung to thank.

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Everything about La Cantoche reflects Sung’s heritage and roots. All the dishes are derived from food his parents used to prepare for him and flavours he grew up with in France. The movies projected on whitewashed brick walls walls, the foosball table, Michael Jackson’s “BAD” written on a on the 2nd floor loft, and Super Famicom and games which are displayed on the wall adjacent to the ground floor bar, all reflect pieces of Sung’s youth. For the night I went there for a tasting, Sung was there to serve and personally introduce each dish himself. He was proud, enthusiastic, and after I tasted the meal, he had every right to be so.

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#theWanderlist: From Surf to Turf, Fatty Crab’s Southeast Asian Cuisine is Hot

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After posting about Fatty Crab Hong Kong’s “Ghetto Chic” interiors two weeks ago on the blog, I finally had a chance to check out the Southeast Asian flavours that the chain is really famous for.

It only makes sense, that Fatty Crab, with locations in New York City’s West Village and the Virgin Islands at St. John, opens the third location, a destination serving tropical asian food, in the East. According to the website, the menu is “inspired” by dishes from Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, and the Philippines, which to me is good direction to take the new “cool”. Chefs at all the Fatty Crabs have the freedom to extract the best combination of dishes from the region, and tuning the frequency to pick out the flavours derived from Southeast Asia’s colonial history. There are dishes that have distinctly Chinese sources, and others with that bit of Portuguese and Indian twist.

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While other establishments aim for authenticity, Fatty Crab reaches for the new… assuming your taste buds are a tabula rasa and ready for something different. They do inspired but new flavours very well. Imagine an American chef stationed in Asia, who then went back to the states and brought all of Asia’s flavours with him… this East meets west approach is what the Fatty Crab is all about.

As a welcoming drink, we were served a special shot of a Texan-inspired drink called the Recession Special, a combination of spicy pickle back and bourbon, opening my taste buds for a mostly spicy and sour meal. 

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Speaking of East-meets-west, these Duroc Grilled Pork Ribs, a new addition to the menu, come close to my home…ie. Texas for me. The difference here is the way it’s prepared is via Southeast Asian Barbecue Style, rubbed with flavours that have tangy edge, but topped with a very sweet and crispy layer thanks to the grill. This is the winning dish of the night for me.

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Another top winning item on the menu for me is the raw bar at the start of the meal. It’s been 3.5 years since my last raw oyster since i’m just so paranoid, but something about that shot of bourbon, and a long day’s stressful work made me feel more adventurous. I’m glad I jumped into the oysters at Fatty Crab HK. We were able to top them with a selection of garnishes; green chili seafood sauce, fried shallot, and herbs. It was perfect.

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The signature dish at the Fatty Crab is the Chilli Crab, a dungeness crab with chili sauce and pullman toast. This one dish alone can be an entire dinner for one person!

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ARTINFO Approved
Last weekend while I was in Phuket, I received a tweet from BLOUIN ARTINFO Hong Kong about their latest post titled; “Top Art and Fashion Bloggers in Hong Kong”. At first I was just trying to focus on the tweet adressed to me and blogger/stylist, Tina Leung. Actually I was in this beach/sun/pool vacation daze so I wasn’t quite sure what I was reading. Then I asked myself “Why would they tweet me?”. A moment passed when it occured to me that they may have tweeted me because I may have somehow been included on the list. It came out of nowhere. Usually when media includes you in a list they let you know first. In any rate, the wifi at the resort couldn’t load fast enough. When the site finally DID load I was shocked to see my blogs name as one of 7 on the list. Other bloggers include Samantha Wong of the fabulous SAMISHOME, Tina Leung of TinaLoves.com, and Cindy Ko of Cindiddy. All of who have been in my blog in some form or another. All friends.
Its a good list to be on, and very happy that ARTINFO is supportive of our social network community in Hong Kong. Thank you ARTINFO. 
ARTINFO on theWanderlister+:
Architect JJ. Acuna is behind theWanderlister+, a Hong Kong-based blog on art, design, men’s fashion, interspersed with some food porn. It is like a blog version of Dwell or Wallpaper. Acuna has the unnerving ability to be first on the scene with the latest gallery openings, boutique openings, art fairs, all while keeping his day job, leading us to suspect he has cloned himself.
Note to ARTINFO… it was expensive… but cloning IS worth every cent.
Original BLOUIN ARTINFO Article HERE.
JJ.

ARTINFO Approved

Last weekend while I was in Phuket, I received a tweet from BLOUIN ARTINFO Hong Kong about their latest post titled; “Top Art and Fashion Bloggers in Hong Kong”. At first I was just trying to focus on the tweet adressed to me and blogger/stylist, Tina Leung. Actually I was in this beach/sun/pool vacation daze so I wasn’t quite sure what I was reading. Then I asked myself “Why would they tweet me?”. A moment passed when it occured to me that they may have tweeted me because I may have somehow been included on the list. It came out of nowhere. Usually when media includes you in a list they let you know first. In any rate, the wifi at the resort couldn’t load fast enough. When the site finally DID load I was shocked to see my blogs name as one of 7 on the list. Other bloggers include Samantha Wong of the fabulous SAMISHOME, Tina Leung of TinaLoves.com, and Cindy Ko of Cindiddy. All of who have been in my blog in some form or another. All friends.

Its a good list to be on, and very happy that ARTINFO is supportive of our social network community in Hong Kong. Thank you ARTINFO. 

ARTINFO on theWanderlister+:

Architect JJ. Acuna is behind theWanderlister+, a Hong Kong-based blog on art, design, men’s fashion, interspersed with some food porn. It is like a blog version of Dwell or Wallpaper. Acuna has the unnerving ability to be first on the scene with the latest gallery openings, boutique openings, art fairs, all while keeping his day job, leading us to suspect he has cloned himself.

Note to ARTINFO… it was expensive… but cloning IS worth every cent.

Original BLOUIN ARTINFO Article HERE.

JJ.

A Thom Browne Black Fleece Birthday

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Sure Lehmann Maupin had their gallery opening at the Pedder Building on my birthday, but alas, I ended up choosing to celebrate the day with Thom Browne at the new Black Fleece Flagship Store instead. 

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Okay… so Thom Browne wasn’t there, but after New York, San Fransisco, and Tokyo, the Hong Kong flagship for the Brooks Brothers label is the 4th and only stand alone store for the brand in the world. I couldn’t miss this.   So apologies to Lehmann Maupin, a Black Fleece Flagship in Hong Kong has been a birthday wish of mine for some time now.

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The collection couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Menswear in Hong Kong is very hot at the moment. Guys in the city have been bold with their style choices lately, and for the most part, have been doing a great job styling themselves. The latest S/S 2013 collection by Thom Browne for Black Fleece allows men to be adventurous with prints, colors, and fabrics.

The bright prints, which could be found on jackets, trousers, and accessories, play with a pattern’s scale, making new motifs from classic madras for example, thus giving off a very iconic and resortique feel.

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theWanderlister+ x Affordable Art Fair

Readers of theWanderlister+ will now get a chance get to check out the first Official Affordable Art Fair (AAF) in Hong Kong next week via a Buy 1 Ticket Get 1 Ticket Free Deal. Simply click on the image above or this link to download your own form. Follow by filling out the form and bringing the form with you directly on the day of the fair from March 15th to March 17th. 

+ AAF Presents Arty-Licous Evening, Friday March 15th.

Also on March 15th, the AAF will be hosting their version of a Vernissage with the Arty-Licious Evening, featuring live art talks, great music, and artworks from international galleries. You can speak with fair director, Camilla Hewitson at the Cafe at 6pm, listen to a talk by Will Ramsay, Founder of the AAF at 7pm, attend an art walk by Young Talent Hong Kong’s Leung Shiu Kee Eric at 7:30, and discuss the state of Contemporary Art in Hong Kong with Caroline Ha Thuc at 8:30 PM.

Check out our profile interview with Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong Here.

VISIT Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong, 15-17 March 2014 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Expo Drive, Wanchai, Hong Kong

JJ.

theW+ x CuriousFiend: Trailblazers at Above Second Gallery HK

The first in a collaborative series of art, design, and exhibition posts in Asia of note via our friends at Curious Fiend and Fiend Projects.

curiousfiend:

Last Thursday I was invited by my friends at Above Second gallery to document their new exhibition ‘Trailblazers’ and the private view of the show.

Curated by Coates and Scarry the exhibition featured a great selection of new contemporary artists including the stunning ink drawings of Carne Griffiths, amazing photorealistic paintings by Nigel Cox, and some classic graphic work from British artist D*Face (as well as some prints of his recent sculpture/taxidermy works).


Coates and Scarry for their first show in Asia brought with them a fantastic array of work from these and plenty of other artists (check the photos) which absolutely provided something for everyone.

Coates and Scarry at Above Second Coates and Scarry at Above Second Coates and Scarry at Above Second Coates and Scarry at Above Second Coates and Scarry at Above Second Coates and Scarry at Above Second Coates and Scarry at Above Second

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Scene&Seen: Our Imminent Domain, Asia Society HK Brings Future Design Now

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Dreams and musings abound in a new exhibition about tomorrow’s design by 12 of Hong Kong’s most renowned and award-winning designers, curated  as an original show for Asia Society Hong Kong. This, the first non-imported exhibit for Asia Society since opening it’s doors in Admiralty a year ago, is a big push towards highlighting Hong Kong as a “Design City”. While I believe we have a very long way to go before that is the case, the site specific works within a grand venue, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, and the curation, by Fumio Nanjo, Director of Mori Art Museum in Tokyo gives the whole experience an added weight and legitimacy that is needed to further foster the works of these designers and to push their ideas further within a more international sphere.

The beautiful site, a building designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.

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This amazing piece, a mixture of steel and LED lights, by Architect/Designer, Dylan Kwok, titled, Skyscrapers.

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