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Edison Chen & Kevin Poon: JUICE Kuala Lumpur

juice-kuala-lumpur-edison-chen-kevin-poon-interview

With the recent return of Edison Chen to the Asian spotlight, the stars were in perfect alignment as Edison, alongside Edwin Choong and CLOT co-founder Kevin Poon, recently cut the ribbon to their latest retail venture. Occupying the emerging Bangsar district of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the opening of Juice KL offers eager locals a chance at many brands that were once only available through 3rd party and gray-market retailers. We had a chance to discuss with both Kevin Poon and Edison Chen about the coming together of this new project, which looks to be the catalyst for an Asia-wide retail representation of JUICE, on a retail level. With it, you can surely expect CLOT’s dominance to follow suit, as well, in the Asia region.

Interview: Eugene Kan
Photography: Kevin Ma

juice-kuala-lumpur-edison-chen-kevin-poon-interview

An Interview with Kevin Poon

How long ago did you start planning for this particular store?
 
My first thoughts of entering the Malaysia market probably were around Christmas time last year. There were a lot of requests and feedback from Malaysians and I thought “Hm, wouldn’t it be fresh to set up a store out there.” The first actual thought about doing it was probably during February of this year, so about 4 months of planning and brainstorming.
 
Whoa, 4 months is a super quick turn around, but that is pretty indicative of Hong Kong efficiency, haha. For those unaware, including myself, what is the retail market like in Malaysia? How does it differ from Hong Kong?
 
The retail market for a lack of a better term, for street fashion (at least), is just starting to develop. This provides us with a clean slate to start from. At the moment, there are a lot of fans that are from that region and I feel like they really have a passion for the culture and the products, but don’t have a real avenue to get any products. That’s really where the Malaysian market is at right now. Hopefully with the opening of Juice KL we can provide a platform for the youth and make it a possibility for them to get products at a retail price.
 
Of all the fledgling Asian cities engulfed in streetwear, why Kuala Lumpur as opposed to Taipei, Singapore or Mainland China? Are those viable expansion opportunities down the road as well?
 
Great question. We didn’t say we aren’t going to the places you mentioned. We just wanted to start with KL first. We always do things unconventionally.
 
Despite the obvious in a global economic downturn, how has the Asian region and more notably the JUICE/CLOT demographic reacted to the financial difficulties everybody is facing? Did this at all linger in the back of your mind before opening JUICE KL?
 
We are very thankful the recession didn’t really hit us in a negative way (at least up until now) and more in a positive way. It opened up doors for us to get lower rent as well as creating more ideas and keeping us focused. We believe that if we have a good product people will still buy.
 
I think we’ve seen a fair share of CLOT line-ups (i.e. KZKlot denim releases) in the very recent past, making me think that your demographic is perhaps (relatively) recession proof. Moving onto the store, I know that you guys really prided yourself on the renovations of the previous JUICE Hong Kong store, what sort of themes can we see in the KL location? Will it be a continuation of the HK store with the abundance of clean white lines juxtaposed with futuristic elements or will it take on a life of it’s own?
 
I think this time people will be excited. The store is more like a continuation of Hong Kong. You will see some clean bits and you will see some futuristic elements. This time we also tweaked with the lighting and the effects, so I hope you guys like it. Also, this is our flagship in South East Asia so the space really is a decent size and is in an area where there will be room to grow and see other developments move in. We are pretty excited about it… the store renovation, the location, the expansion. It’s really all about a maturing phase

we are stepping into.
 
I was speaking with the store’s designer, Linton Kwok and he mentioned the store came in at approximately 3,000 sq feet, which by most South East Asian standards is quite big. Did this make it easier to design on the whole or was it detrimental since you’re working with almost twice the space of JUICE HK. Did it provide more flexibility in creativity on the whole?
 
I think that the size of the space really gave us flexibility to do what we wanted to do and the sky was the limit. Looking at the plans after we confirmed the space, I was like “Whoa, how should we get started and what should we do here with this space.” Working with Linton this time was amazing because he was able to put everything in AutoCad and we were able to tweak the store the way we wanted to. I sat in front of his workstation and was basically quarterbacking the design, (mind you we were like a few thousand miles away from the site) and was being real bossy like “Hey do this, take this away, we want more of this” and he was putting his expertise to work by suggesting materials and all the calculations behind it.  It was kind of like when I was a kid building something in Sim City, except this time it came to life.
 
You touched upon how this new location would be a reflection of “a maturing phase”, what exactly does this mean and on what levels? Will we see a higher-end diffusion line perhaps or is it more indicative of your executions and aesthetics in the realm of streetwear?
 
When I say maturing phase I am talking about maturing on many levels. First and foremost, our mindset. In the past 5 years we have learned a lot from designing clothes to running a company, pushing for the culture in terms of music, ideas, way of operating, events, shows, collaboration ideas, I would say we just graduated from the beginning phase.

We’ve been in the game for 5 years now. It’s a short time in some aspects and long time in other aspects as well. I mean in 5 years we have accomplished a good amount with our retail, clothing label, consulting, and media management company.

I am hoping the next 5 years will bring stability in our operations, expanding our base, and continuation in a push for excellence moving forward. Whether it’s our execution in making clothes, the maturation of our company, our expansion regionally, it has always been organic and we continue to strive and move forward this way.
 
What does it mean to have EDC back and reunited with the whole CLOT/JUICE fam? Do you see the brand and operations being back on track and returning to a sense of normalcy? Or were you able to adapt with him being outside of Hong Kong for the last little while?
 
Having EDC back is great, we are like family, so its always good. We focus on different things, so even when we are not around together, the technology these days is so good we can stay connected easily. So for us, it hasn’t been a problem at all.


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An Interview with Edison Chen

First off, welcome back to Hong Kong. I imagine things were pretty tumultuous over the last little while. What does it mean to be back in Hong Kong for you?
 
Going back to Hong Kong was a great feeling, being back in my town and being back on the block has rejuvenated me to an even higher level. I don’t know what it means, to be honest, but I think it means my life in Asia can go on, been wilding out in America for a lil’ while now, missed the iced lemon teas, egg tarts and Tsiu Wah.. haha don’t hate.
 
From watching your CNN interview, as we understand, you dabble a bit more into the movie side of things. However on the CLOT/JUICE relevant-side of things, in terms of fashion, were you setting up any potential projects?
 
I live CLOT, CLOT is a part of me and I am a part of CLOT, so as time rolls along you will see the projects and the creative direction we at CLOT will bring. Malaysia is just the first installment, kind of like the prelude. CLOT is learning as we go along and let’s just put it this way, this one part of CLOT had a lot of time on his hands to be creative and exploratory so wait and see, the acts about to unfold. It will be interesting to most.
 
Were they any logistical difficulties being away from Hong Kong whilst working on these projects? Or has the Internet and the way communication works these days made it relatively painless, as if you had never left?
 
Ive got a great team behind me, I mean checking samples was hard and time tables were hard to keep. But now that I am back everything will be seamless. There are some things you can’t express or feel through the Internet, it is much better with real interaction. I feel people are losing this nowadays with all this madness going around.
 
While much of CLOT’s influence resides in its very own Hong Kong aesthetic, which is seemingly themed somewhat around Japanese streetwear, did your time back in North America create some inspirations for future collections? Maybe even collaborations with more American brands rooted only in Western markets?
 
I have always had that part of me but I guess being in North America updated me to that world cause I was living in Hong Kong and Asia for the longest time. Seeing the direction and movement in the States has deepened my inspirations to kind of bridge the East and the West together. More collabos will come and go but true experiences stay, we shall see what time will tell.
 
Was the launch of JUICE KL one of the major factors in deciding it was a good time to return back to Hong Kong and Asia or are they largely by coincidence?
 
I would say its purely coincidental, although its funny how things come out in sequence. I am not returning to Hong Kong, my heart has been here the whole time, now my physical being can be here as well. Timing is essential, but this time I guess things just clicked and it worked. Fate I guess you can call it.
 
Could you go into detail about some of the exclusive products that are

dropping for the launch of the store? What does the censored image of Michael Jackson represent?

Well, basically it is a part of the playful level in the Spring/Summer CLOTone series. The pixelated graphics are kind of about perspective and relation to where you stand and how you see different things. We chose a few people to represent this that many people have different views on… Princess Di, MJ, Obama, Jesus, Mao. If you are far away you see a clear image, if you are close you see obscure pixelated images. This tee is about perspective and also a fun go at some of the icons we feel at CLOT represent the time and condition of the era we live in. All in all, life is all about perspectives, it’s where you choose to stand and what you represent that affects the way you react or analyze things.

Having recently seen you hook-up with Shinsuke-san of NEIGHBORHOOD, is it safe to say something is in the works between NBHD and CLOT?

Haha, you’re funny. You don’t stop…Tak-Shin and I are good friends that go beyond just dollars and cents. NEIGHBORHOOD is a good brand and they have this one pair of denim everyone must have this Fall/Winter season. But it ain’t a CLOT collabo, maybe stay tuned and see.

Haha, I just saw it today on Shin’s blog. What do you hope to achieve with the opening of JUICE KL and where will JUICE and CLOT be within the next 2 years you hope?

JUICE KL Is just the beginning. We want to make a network of shops across South East Asia that not only reflect our own style and views but connect all the different regions we work in. There’s a bunch of other stores in-line that we are working on and we’re excited to finish the first wave of expansion.

Arguably much of the success in Asia on a product level comes down to branding and celebrity affiliation, does CLOT/JUICE get a boost from your ability to return back to the limelight on a consistent basis?
 
I don’t believe this. If this were true the brand would have collapsed by now. I believe the coming seasons, CLOT will be able to flex our muscles a bit with our products, improving in quality. CLOT is CLOT, Edison is Edison, I had this problem separating the two in people’s minds in Hong Kong for a lil’ while and I guess I still need to work harder to separate the two. The celeb affiliation helps at the beginning but without true creativity and influence we would not have been able to last until now, the consumers nowadays are much more savvy than most think.
 
Interesting answer, the relationship between marketing and celebrities seems to take many different angles as opposed to the Western world so it’s good to hear your insights on that. Do you have any last words or shout outs?
 
My last words are 21 gun salutes to those who have fallen and to those who have fell, like Aaliyah said, “just dust yourself off and try again”… Much love to the heads supporting CLOT, much more tasty treats coming your way.

- CLOT Website

Date: Jun 24, 2009  /  Views: 2158  /  Author: Eugene Kan
Category: Features  /  Tags: Hypebeast, Edison chen, Juice, Interviews, Kevin poon, Features