It's all geek to me

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 January, 2012, 12:00am


Arnault Castel, the owner of fashion and lifestyle boutique Kapok, says he isn't afraid to channel his inner geek when picking out an outfit.

Display shelves at his home are filled with childhood memorabilia, toy figurines and bunny-related decor - anything from a cushion cover to a taxidermy specimen.

His 1970s apartment in Tin Hau has kept most of its original interior. The spacious wooden closet that takes up a whole wall in his study was naturally in sync with the apartment's simple, sleek and old-school aesthetics.

'Style is simpler for guys. Usually when we like a brand, we keep going back to it. For me, it was A.P.C., which I went back to for 10 years,' says Castel. 'Then I finally got bored with it. Swedish brand Our Legacy is now my new A.P.C.'

Castel, who was born in the south of France, first came to Hong Kong for a banking job. Back then, he never had to think twice about what else to wear. It was all suits.

'My tie collection is from my banking period,' he says. 'But I don't wear them these days, unless I'm going to a wedding. I suppose that's also why I quit banking.'

His post-banking career has liberated his wardrobe choices. He worked with Lomography and Moleskine, and now has two shops in the Star Street area. One specialises in fashion, the other in lifestyle.

Castel says he had a hard time finding his style after he left banking.

'I had more options since I didn't have to wear suits any more. But it was more difficult getting dressed every morning,' he says.

So he regressed to his teenage favourites, and adopted a preppy look. 'That's the way I dressed when I was 13 or 14. I still like it a lot,' he says.

Castel says key style elements include geeky glasses, a pair of well-cut chinos, and plenty of shirts and cardigans. His closet is filled with shirts in different shades, styles and patterns - but none of them are black.

'Well, this one's black but there are flowers on it, so it doesn't count,' he says. 'Black is easy, but I really think we should try a bit harder.'

As expected, many of his shirts are from Swedish high-casual label Our Legacy.

'I like its good quality, fitted cuts and playful details. Plus I met the founders and they are actually very interesting people,' he says.

Other treasured pieces include a dish cloth-inspired shirt from American brand Gitman Brothers and Astier de Villatte-designed shirt with satin linings on the cuff.

The blackest things in his wardrobe are his thick-framed glasses, from edgy British eyewear label Cutler & Gross.

'Oh I have a lot of glasses, but I always wear the same pair,' he says.

The marine theme is also a major ingredient for a preppy look, Castel says. In fact he loves it so much, he has at least a dozen striped T-shirts and pullovers, mostly from Saint-James, a Normandy-based label that has been selling knitted woollen seaman's sweaters since 1889.

He also has nautical pullovers from A.P.C, a minimalist hooded sweater from New York designer Patrik Ervell and a navy-style sweater from Prada, which, he says, is the only big designer piece he owns.

An A.P.C. number is one of his most treasured pieces and has survived years of closet clearing.

'I bought it 10 years ago, just before I left France and moved to Hong Kong,' Castel says. 'I wore it all the time when I first came here. It reminds me of home a little bit.'

Castel's watches are plastic but he invests in quality shoes and bags.

'When I was younger, I only wore trainers, so you can imagine how much I love comfortable shoes,' he says. 'I invest in good shoes because they are good for your health and I love walking.'

His choices include Yuketen and colourful canvas espadrilles for summer. 'I like Yuketens because they are comfortable: you feel like wearing slippers,' he says.

His bags are almost all from Mismo. He has a mustard yellow carry-all and navy blue luggage.

'I use this bag every day, because I can fit a million things in it,' he says. 'I don't want things that are crazy or too fashion-forward. I don't want any fast fashion because of the poor quality. I've had some of my clothes for 10 years, and I still wear them.'