More than sportswear
January is in full swing, and with echoes of our health and wellness goals resounding in our minds, our first That Girl of 2017 is here to keep us on track with some serious inspiration and motivation! Founder of coveted athleisure and lifestyle store, Caelum Greene, Charlotte Tsuei left a corporate career in retail behind to start her own business that brings together her two greatest passions – fashion and wellness.
We chat to Charlotte about her favourite mindful spots in the city, her inspiration behind Caelum Greene and how we can keep grounded in our day-to-day busy lives in the city!
Tell us about your background and where you’re from.
I was born in Taiwan and spent most of my childhood in Hong Kong before my family relocated back to the States. Instead of the East Coast where my dad grew up, we settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, and that became home for over a decade before my move back to Hong Kong in 2012. My parents raised me in a way that ensured the development and fluency of both Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese –written and spoken, in addition to English, which I didn’t at the time, but can very much appreciate now!
My educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of California – Irvine, and a diploma in Visual Communications from FIDM. I graduated both with the highest honours. Old-school Asian parents, anyone? Just kidding. I am a huge nerd and a perfectionist. Thank god for my time in California, otherwise I’d be so intense.
Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live on Conduit Road with my husband and Pepper, our Mameshiba puppy in one of the few buildings remaining on the road that isn’t a 30-floor high rise. Our building has five floors and each floor has one unit, so it’s really cozy and we love that we get to know our neighbours. It’s also right by Morning Trail; a quick hike up to the Peak is a routine for us.
As an introvert (fun fact), my home is my sanctuary. It’s where I recharge and centre myself in this hustle and bustle of a city. I make my home my own by creating a healing, comfortable, indulgent, yet clutter-free space. For me, that means lots of candles, cushions, and a well-stocked kitchen! You know you’re on the right floor when you can smell lavender oils, or sandalwood incense. I also connect with my home and give thanks through my morning meditation and yoga practices.
How do you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?
My personal style is rather eclectic. It depends on the occasion and how I feel at that time! My style evolves as my lifestyle and circumstances change – it grows up with me, so to speak. Wherever I am in life, I wear what I feel comfortable and confident in – one day that might mean a minimal sports luxe athleisure ensemble, the next it might be a statement dress and heels with butterfly wings on them (Sophia Webster!).
Regardless of style, I believe that less is more and the quality of a garment is probably the most important detail when I shop.
Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
I must admit that I do often shop at Caelum Greene as the products fit my day-to-day lifestyle needs; from an intense HIIT session at the gym, to a weekend brunch and frequent travels!
Fashion aside, one of my favourite places to shop has got to be Just Green on Peel Street. They have the best selection of health foods and it’s right by the escalator. Amongst the many health foods I’ve discovered there, my latest obsession is a Hong Kong brand called Ice ‘N’ lean, which makes delicious paleo, high protein treats!
What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?
I’m not the most adventurous person when it comes to beauty products. Once I find a good brand or product that works for my skin, I stick with it. My daily essentials include a variety of products from bareMinerals and Benefit Cosmetics, any of the Naked Eyeshadow Palettes from Urban Decay, and a Burt’s Bees lip balm.
In terms of skincare, I have recently fallen in love with the EVE LOM Cleanser – touted as the Holy Grail cleanser by Vogue. The product itself turns face cleansing into a luxurious experience rather than a chore. Another product I cannot live without is quality Avocado Oil. I use in place of body lotions to nourish and protect my skin.
Since my move to Hong Kong, I’ve been going to the same hairdresser, Kolen Wong, who is the Creative Director at the Il Colpo Group and a hair genius! With my crazy schedule, getting my nails done is a luxury and reserved for special occasions. I go to Fast Beauty on Hollywood Road for exactly what they offer in the name.
Where are your favourite places to eat and drink in Hong Kong – bars and restaurants.
During the week, visits to our healthy neighbour, Grassroots Pantry, can be expected! Their seasonal menu changes all the time, keeping things fresh and interesting and I love the creativity and thoughtfulness that goes into every dish. Kasa on Wellington serves up Hong Kong dishes with a healthy and modern approach too. They have a grab-and-go station with the cutest takeaway boxes that’s perfect for a quick and nutritiously-balanced lunch.
For a girl’s night, if I’m not entertaining at home, I love starting the evening at Ho Lee Fook, Carbone, or any of the Black Sheep restaurants. The chic ambiance and delicious food is a recipe for great night out. Last but certainly not least, for dressed-up dates, my husband and I like to go to Man Wah for brunch and Caprice at the Four Seasons for dinner.
Describe your perfect weekend in Hong Kong.
Weekends are for relaxing and recharging the batteries! My perfect weekend starts slow with a longer meditation (than during the week) and a light breakfast, a lot of lounging and reading and followed by a walk or hike with the Hubs and Peps. I love walking around the neighbourhood and catching up with familiar faces over an afternoon coffee or Sunday brunch.
Work usually features too. I enjoy doing work on weekends as I can be focused, get creative and flush out ideas. I often get a lot of inspiration in the process. Plus, when you love your work, it’s not really work!
On a perfect weekend evening, I would explore the local super markets and health food stores to load up on fresh produce so I can play chef in the kitchen before winding down with a home-cooked meal, warm people and good conversation.
What’s your favourite place in Hong Kong and why?
My favourite place in Hong Kong is Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road. There’s something so peaceful about that temple that puts me right at ease. I go there to give thanks to the universe sometimes. I find the ritual of praying – lighting of the incenses, bowing before offering them – calming and humbling.
Tell us about your career and how/why you started Caelum Greene?
Most of my career has been in Fashion Retail. My first ‘real job’ was a role in E-Commerce for a Cali-based yoga wear brand, Zobha. Since my move to Hong Kong, I’ve worked in merchandising at Christian Louboutin for Asia Pacific, and as the Regional Retail Manager at Pure Group. What inspired me to start Caelum Green is my community. From my sisters to my friends (and myself included), I’ve noticed that most women I come across have a common desire to take care of and better themselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
When I look around, there are great alternatives to eat better and healthier, options for pampering and healthful travels, but not many in retail. So, I thought, why not create a business that brings together two of my greatest passions, fashion and wellness, while offering an option in retail for this inspiring group of women who live and love the city life and are passionate about bettering themselves and making a difference.
Why not a brand? One might ask. I chose to build a lifestyle retailer because I’d like to be that catalyst and platform for both designers and consumers to work towards a more sustainable future for fashion.
Read more: Sassy’s Guide to Yoga in Hong Kong
What has been your biggest challenge opening your own store in Hong Kong and why.
It’s been more like an on-going learning opportunity rather than a challenge, it’s all about staying balanced. As with any new business, there’s so much that can be done at any given time, and my passion drives me to always want to do more and do better, which sometimes takes me away from time and energy for other important things in life. I have to be extra aware of myself and know when to hit the pause button.
Why do think athleisure has become such popular attire and where do you see the trend going?
There are many factors that has made athleisure popular in my opinion. In short, however, I see the growth of this category as a natural extension from the general health and wellbeing movement. With advancements in technology, people these days are many things and ‘wear many hats’. Athleisure, or functional fashion, allows you to easily transition from one activity to the next while keeping you stylish.
Athleisure often get associated with sportswear. While the trend has its roots in active wear, it is more of a look than a category! It can be anything from a cashmere sweater or cropped hoodie over a cool sports bra and leggings, to a long structured wool coat over a silk tank and denim with sneakers. In that sense of the word, I foresee the trend to keep growing as people continue to demand more from their closets to meet the increasing complexity of their lifestyles.
What are your top 5 favourite athleisure brands and why?
Lanston: Not only does the brand offer highly wearable styles fusing luxury with downtown cool, all the pieces are handcrafted in Los Angeles from the finest fabrics.
MICHI: An ode to superheroines, MICHI is the original innovator of edgy mesh inserts and cut-outs in sports bras and performance leggings.
Daquini: Produced at the most prestigious eco-friendly Italian & French mills, the fabrics used in the Daquini collections are breathable and silky soft while being free from any harmful chemicals.
Kit & Ace: Known for their “Technical Cashmere” that you can throw in the wash, Kit & Ace is a true athleisure brand. I love their clever use of performance fabric in everyday silhouettes.
Zespa Aix-en-Provence: Awarded for their “Manufacturing Excellence” and craftsmanship, Zespa’s luxury offering of the athleisure essential – the white sneaker (with its many variations in trimmings) – is handmade in the South of France with the highest quality of naturally tanned leather.
As well as athleisure, you also sell some gorgeous lifestyle products (we love the candles!). How do you select what products and brands to stock?
When reviewing brands to bring on board, we always start by thinking about whether the product is something that fits into the lifestyle of our “gal”. We have a clear understanding of our target demographic’s lifestyle, and we do our best to try and create a product range that is truly useful!
The four key aspects we often look at are style, quality, function and sustainability. The candle brands that we carry is a perfect example of this. Candles itself has the power to cure the mind and body through its aroma (function), all the brands that we work with are soy based blended with natural fragrances (sustainable), all hand blended and hand poured in small batches and burns well (quality), and each and every one are beautifully and uniquely packaged (style).
Healthy living is obviously important to you – any tips for living a healthy lifestyle in Hong Kong (which can definitely be a challenge!)?
Wellness is personal and means different things for different people. To me, healthy living is an exploration of the self. From the broader questions of movements that feel good for your body, foods that serve your constitution, your wellness or fitness goals, to day-to day changes in energy levels and daily schedule – knowing yourself is key! Allow yourself to be as present as possible in what you’re doing, what you’re eating, and what you want to achieve, and define your own meaning of a healthy lifestyle.
Any advice for those looking to set up their own store/work in the fashion/health & fitness industries?
Create an A team, or find an environment, that is aligned with you and your vision.
I am very grateful for the lean but mean team that I have. I’m constantly inspired by them and learning from them.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years? What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
We are launching E-commerce in early 2017 to supplement the physical store and service the region. In 5 years, I hope to be able to grow Caelum Greene into a leading shopping destination in Hong Kong with a strong flagship store that fully embodies the Caelum Green message and lifestyle; from the store design/concept, to vendor partnerships and product offering, as well as community involvement. Perhaps even be in the process of setting up, if not already opened, a second location somewhere on the globe.
Personally, I’d like to be able to speak French and be raising mini-me’s!
Thanks to the talented Michelle Proctor of Michelle Proctor Photography for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Instagram @michellejproctor and Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleProctorPhotography.