How do you pronounce the Dutch word, Gekaapt? I have no clue! But what I do know is that it translates into one of the coolest shops I’ve ever experienced.
When I first walked into Gekaapt, I lost it – the sweats took over for a moment and then I managed to calm down (but not really). This shop is a feast for the eyes, my friends, and it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. In Dutch, Gekaapt means “hijacked’, which makes the name all more clear – the team behind this treasure trove will take over a space for about 3-4 months and then they’ll scour the city for another spot to take over and be up and running again within just a few months. The best part is the overload of unique goods that you’ll find there, curated, designed and brought to life by a small group of talented and driven young entrepreneurs.
I managed to get in touch with one of the shop’s (many) designers, Aanyoung Yeh, and she was able to take the time to answer some questions for me:
Can you explain to me the concept of Gekaapt and how it came about?
Gekaapt (which literally means hijacked) is a travelling store. We hijack empty spaces (in a good way of course) and turn it into a cool concept store. The store serves as a platform for young entrepreneurs that need a place to showcase their labels and products – together we have a bigger network and reach more people. For the owner of the space and the neighbourhood, it is also a good thing – sometimes spaces have been vacant for months or years, and when we move in, we create buzz and positive energy. We host events, book launches, workshops, and create a nice place to have coffee or lunch, etc… And we hope it will help the owner to better rent out their space in the future.
If you ask me how it came about…it wasn’t founded, it just happened. In December 2013, we started a Pop up Store in de Jan Evertsenstraat in Amsterdam West with a small group of entrepreneurs. This was initiated by Geef om de Jan Eef (Jan Evertsenstraat is also known as The Jan Eef. Geef om de Jan Eef, literally meaning ‘Care for the Jan Eef’) which is an organization that has been active for many years to revitalize and rid the area of its high crime rate, more specifically after the murder of a jewelry store owner. So, we were a bunch of randomly selected entrepreneurs together, and when we started it was about 7 or 8 brands only.
Within the first month, the store became known in Amsterdam and suddenly more people wanted to join. In one month we went from 8 brands to about 22, and a real concept store was born. We hosted events every Thursday and the place was packed with people. For 6 months, we made de Jan Evertsenstraat Pop up Store our home and we decided to keep it rolling, but it had to be professionalized a bit and we needed some structure. And so, with Rick Ruijter from Brut Amsterdam, we started Gekaapt.
In the summer of 2014, we moved into a new location on the Kinkerstraat for three months – again, a great success. After, we were given the chance to move into our present space on the Bilderdijkstraat 131. We learn each time, and the store looks better and better. Gekaapt is a true team effort and we a proud of what we achieve together.
How did you meet your fellow designers and labels that are carried? And I’ve noticed that many of your labels are ethically and sustainably produced – is this crucial to Gekaapt’s values when taking on new brands?
Many of the labels that started the Pop Up Store Jan Eef are still part of Gekaapt, and we have become a close group of colleagues. Brands find us, we meet each other at local markets or it is within our own network. What is most important is that the labels we carry have a strong sustainable way of working. All the fashion we carry is made from eco organic cottons, the bags are made of fair leather, the interior is vintage, and we carry many natural products. We also strongly believe in upcycling. More importantly, all the people we work with love what they do and it shows in their products, whether it’s fresh roasted coffee or that one beautiful piece that was found in France, or a naturally dyed t-shirt.
Our unique selling proposition is that the shop is run by the people themselves. When you join Gekaapt, you become part of Gekaapt. Each brand works a few hours per week in the store, this way our customer directly meets the designer behind a brand, and engages with the person that goes to Morocco to select the rugs and you can ask about where your marble serving plate came from and where it is made. In the current retail climate where all is mass produced and big brands rule the high streets, this is what makes us special.
I was immediately drawn to the visual displaying of Gekaapt, probably some of the coolest I’ve seen! How do you go about envisioning the layout of each shop after each move?
Well that is a big compliment! Since we always enter a space for a short period of time, we don’t spend a lot of money on the interior. What we do is strip the whole space. So out with the carpet, out with the ceiling, paint it white and go! We work with what we have. The layout is something we do together and it needs to be a space where our customers love to stay in for a while. We try create a vibe that is relaxed and inspiring for our customers. The products of our labels are already very beautiful, so when they’re arranged together it looks quite nice I think.
What is the process like to find new temporary homes for the shop? Are there many under-utilized spaces in Amsterdam?
It’s not easy to find something good. We sit around the table with owners, real estate companies, brokers and we bike around the city to see if any spaces have been up for rent for a long time and then we try to get in touch. We show them our presentation, and tell them our story. We have always been lucky to find a good location, but I also believe it is because we are structured and they see we are serious about what we do. Pop ups are not new, there are many people doing the same. But I think we proved that we are different and are not a one time shop.
Tell me a bit about your own label, Doing Goods and what helped inspire its creation.
Doing Goods is a veritable treasure trove of home wares, textiles and quirky curiosities that we collect during our travels. We both love stuff that’s been around the block (or an ocean) a few times. Scouring through alleyways and backstreets and stumbling upon small stores is a large part of the fun. Our love for collecting has a lot to do with meeting local merchants from around the world.
We started 5 years ago! My boyfriend Jan who worked in finance quit his job, flew to Asia, bought stuff, shipped it back to Europe and started selling it and I helped out whenever I could. But as I was working full time as a fashion designer, time was scarce. After a few years working late nights and too many weekends unpacking shipping crates, I quit my job. By this time Jan had formed another company called Wonderwall Studios, meaning that I had to take the reigns at DG. During my time as a designer, I got the chance to travel to all four corners of the world. It was during these trips that I would discover my love for collecting bits and bobs that would remind me of my experiences. Once home I archive each piece in my small apartment, so you can imagine it is quite full…
What’s your favourite part about your job?
At first I had to get used to being so free. I worked full time in fashion, I loved it and learnt all I know! But you were always bound to schedules and to have that feeling that I can actually do whatever I want and go whenever I please is very nice!
I’d love to know a few of your favourite spots you’ve travelled to, and what makes them so great!
My favourite places to go are actually all in Asia. The love for food, markets, bustling …that you only have in Asia is where I feel home most. Very known but still so good is Bali – I love going there. The food and vibe is amazing, and somehow the Balinese really know how to create a mix of authenticity & modern features in restaurants & shops.. it is super inspiring.
But the country I love most to travel in is China, not just because of my background (my parents are from Hongkong), but I lived in Beijing for a while and took time to travel all around this huge country. If you can look beyond the crowdedness, noise and pollution, you will see a country so beautiful and meet people who are real. The chinese people are true to who they are. The nature is amazing in many places, the south is especially nice for travel! And the food has so much variety, I could eat non stop when in China. But what I like most, is the fun. Not a day goes by where I don’t laugh out loud when I stumble into something funny, or unthinkable situations that only can happen in China. It is a super modern country in some ways, but still many places feel as if you go way way back. That mix is what makes it so interesting to travel.
If you’re ever in Amsterdam, do make a point to stop by and see what the Gekaapt crew is up to. Be sure to find their most current address though, this shop of traveling gypsies won’t stay put for long!
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