Hong Kong gets ready to party at music, food and fashion festival
Clothing entrepreneur Kevin Poon does his bit with Blohk Party festival, writes Oliver Clasper
Kevin Poon stands on the roof of The Factory in Wong Chuk Hang that houses the numerous companies he runs, and takes a sip of coffee. As he looks out over the ever-changing landscape, he laments the destruction of yet another mountain to build the new MTR station, which triggers a thought about mankind's place in the universe.
"We need to remember that this whole thing is just a tiny speck in the grand scheme of things, and we're an even smaller speck," he says. "It puts things into perspective. You have to remember to leave your ego at the door."
For a man deeply involved in the worlds of fashion and lifestyle (he is co-founder of the Clot clothing brand and launched the Juice retailers), Poon comes across as unnervingly polite and reflective. "I just feel good, now that I've hit my 30s. I was a little insecure and arrogant in my 20s. And I hear the 40s are even better, so I'm excited to see what that's like."
An hour earlier - before the high-energy, whistlestop tour of the four floors of distribution, design, and sales and marketing hubs that he oversees from his office at the summit - Poon had stepped out of a sleek black sedan for our interview. He's not exceptionally tall, but looks good in a red cap, plain cotton tee, green khakis, multi-coloured fishnet sneakers, and an all-weather jacket.
He exudes a bright-eyed eagerness as we do the obligatory card swap: he has four to my one. It's not hard to see why he has so many projects on the go. "I'm not sure it has that much to do with ambition so much as plain old attention deficit disorder," he says, self-mockingly. From here we move on to the Blohk Party music and cultural festival on December 7 that he has created alongside International Fixer's Alex Ng, with Grammy Award winner Pharrell Williams also a partner.
"[Eight months ago] Alex called me out of the blue and told me that the West Kowloon Cultural District was summoning me to see if I'd be interested in hosting an event there. That sparked off everything," Poon says.
"We want to provide a platform and give back to the community and the youth. A lot of time you look at hip hop or electronic music, and it stems from a rebellious standpoint. It's become more commercial, but we want to provide good positive vibes for the young people here," he says.
Poon wants to provide a platform for troubled youth but "we don't have the professional capacity to do that right now, but the vision has extended itself. Right now it's about Blohk Party, bringing our friends, and having a good time."
Some may question the inconsistency of catering for impoverished teenagers while running a high-end festival replete with expensive tickets, trendy pop-up clothing stores, and food from some of the city's top restaurants (Chachawan, Yardbird, Socialito). "When you say high end, it's about an elevated experience. We want to keep in mind that people in Hong Kong have high standards. We want to make sure the VIPs come and they don't have to line up for the bathroom or wait an hour for food and drinks."
In terms of music, Blohk Party is a combination of commercial hip hop and relatively high-tempo electronica from the likes of Williams, Pusha T, Grandmaster Flash and Steve Aoki, alongside the popular Ed Banger crew from France. There's also a small selection of local acts, including 24Herbs, Edison Chen Koon-hei and LMF. "For the whole of my life I've been bridging the gap between East and West. This goes back to my roots. It's a strong feeling of putting Hong Kong on the map," Poon says.
The dreamer was born at the start of the 1980s into a solid middle-class family in Hong Kong, attending international school by day and hitting the basketball courts by night where he first picked up a love for hip hop, street culture and fashion. "It was the basketball shoes that really got me into fashion. Everyone wanted the Jordans, the Charles Barkleys. And that really got me into Japanese trainers. From there it just grew. I was on the streets a lot and trying to find the meaning of life and juggling all this stuff at the same time. Hip hop music really gave me the motivation to learn, whether it's good or bad, but there were life lessons in the lyrics."
His family were keen on him moving into the world of finance and having a "secure life", but after completing his business degree at Pepperdine University in Malibu he landed himself an internship at Interscope Records in Los Angeles (home to 50 Cent, Dr Dre, Azealia Banks, M.I.A., and Lady Gaga). Arguably it is here that Poon the music fan, the clothing label owner, the entrepreneur, and the savvy businessman was really born.
"I really feel like I'm just getting started. I think at the end of the day I just want to leave this world knowing that I made it a better place. People will probably read this and think, 'whatever', but I'm really working towards that - day by day."
Blohk Party 2013, Dec 7, 12pm, West Kowloon Cultural District, HK$788 (advance), HK$888 (door), HK$1,288 (VIP) HK Ticketing. Inquiries: 9168 9713