It has been nearly a year since we first posted Amenpapa founder Salina Yam’s ‘I Was Made To…’ video. Since then, Salina has married and opened up Amenpapa’s first retail shop in Silvercord Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui. We check back in with Salina to find out what God has shown her since putting her faith into opening up her own store.
You’ve opened your first retail store in TST. Congrats! Why the transition from wholesale to retail?
Wholesale is actually relaxing. Only when people order, we ship. That’s it. But we noticed that when we just put it in other stores, we couldn’t get the message across as much as we would like. In the past, when our clothes were on the racks of stores like Harvey Nichols, Cocktail and Ztampz, we weren’t at those stores all the time so we couldn’t explain to the shoppers what our line means. It’s like a baby crying and crying and you don’t know what he wants. Now that we have a shop, we’re able to explain more clearly what our merchandise means. We get to push the message out more directly.
Who are your customers?
Young people who are not Christians. The Bible is filled with wisdoms that can teach you how to live a good life. But it’s really difficult getting friends to read the Bible – most of them would probably only read it after they retire. However, if you put it on a shirt, it’s a lot easier to absorb the message. Before we didn’t have a store but we got a lot of shoppers who bought our pieces and noticed the Bible verse on the back and they wrote in. We had one girl who wasn’t Christian tell us how when she saw the Bible verse on a shirt she bought, it sparked a really interesting conversation with her Christian friend and she’s now very interested in learning more about the Bible. So the point of these clothes is a way for you to share more conversations about the Bible and about God with those around you.
Faith is often a really sensitive topic but your brand is so open about it. Have you ever faced any negative reactions?
Very few. I think now that the shop has opened, there will be more. I find that non-Christians are actually not as judgmental as other Christians. Most people in Hong Kong are pretty liberal with faith, they’re okay with Jesus and Christianity. And most people just enjoy the positive energy from the messages of the shirt. But we have gotten some comments from other Christians about how we’re using the Lord to make money. The thing is we want to be self-sustainable in spreading the message, we don’t want to be a charity. Why should we fundraise and beg people to give us money when we don’t have to? I look to TOMS shoes and it’s so successful in sustaining itself and reaching out to other people, doing good work. That’s what we would like to model ourselves after.
很少。我覺得專門店開了後，可能會多一點。我發現非基督徒反而沒有基督徒那麼主觀判斷。 在香港，大部份人對信仰有著開放的態度，他們抱著平常心對待耶和華和基督教這些概念。而多數人都喜歡我們衣服上的信息所帶出的正能量。 可是，我們卻收到有些基督徒的評語覺得我們利用神來賺錢。問題是，我們傳播信息的同時也想做到自力更生，我們不想做慈善。要是我們有能力自力更生，我們為什麼要伸出手問別人要錢呢？我拿Toms這鞋履品牌做榜樣，它很成功地自我維持業務，也同時把信息廣泛傳達。這就是我們想效忠的榜樣。
Since starting your line, you’ve gotten married and found two more partners to join your team – your husband Jeff and his longtime business partner Leo. What is it like working with them?
My now-husband Jeff came to Christ when we were dating and when he saw all the positive support we received from the celebrities and the stores that wanted to carry our merchandise; it motivated him to join the company. And his longtime business partner Leo also came along because the two of them always worked really well together. Leo’s actually not Christian but it’s really good that he’s on our team because he gives us a more balanced business point of view. Sometimes he wouldn’t understand when Jeff and I would pray about things though [laughs].
自從你開始了自己的品牌以後，你結婚了，也找到了兩位搭檔 － 你的丈夫Jeff和他的長期生意夥伴Leo－加入你的團隊。跟他們一起合作是怎樣的？
What are some things that you think you’ve learned since starting your line?
I felt like through this experience, God really purified me because when you’re trying to market your product in the commercial world, I was tested to tell different lies or spin the story a different way in order to sell more. But this purified me instead because it made me realize how sinful our natures are and how we need to rely on Him to purify us. I would be tempted and then realize I needed to rely on Him more.
Amenpapa has a different theme each season, is that right?
Yes, we try to have a different theme each season. Currently, it’s called Who Cares. It has a double meaning. One meaning is the way young people nowadays just casually throw around ‘Who cares’ but it’s actually also the intention that God cares. Also I think it speaks to Hong Kong’s culture where they tell you ‘see bah guan gei, gei buht lo sum’ (事不關己， 己不勞心) – which means ‘things that don’t concern me, has nothing to do with me so I don’t care’. And that’s something my father has always taught me. We tend to go about just minding our own business and not really caring about others. I would only care about my own problems and think about myself. I didn’t even use to really care about my closest friends. But that’s not what the Bible preaches. The Bible tells you to care for others. And it’s because Christ cares so much about us.
Our next theme is going to be a little bit darker and talks about the gravity of gospel. Because Christ dying on the cross for us is not a happy thing. It’s a very dark, serious matter and we want to play on that with our new pieces.
The inspiration for this theme is from when I came to Christ. It was during a dark time in my life when I was suffering from mild depression. Even after I came to Christ, I didn’t get healed– I still suffered from insomnia. The only thing that kept me from committing suicide was knowing that I wouldn’t get into heaven that way. So I couldn’t commit suicide but I would pray that I could get killed by a car. It wasn’t until one night, a friend suggested that I read the Bible. He wasn’t a Christian but he wanted me to read the Bible because it was boring and maybe I could fall asleep from it [laughs]. I flipped to a random page and the story that I read was about the Samaritan woman who was thirsty. The woman encounters Jesus who asks her to fetch him some water. The woman says “I don’t know you, why would I get you water?” and Jesus said, “if you knew who I was, I would give you the living water and you would never be thirsty again”. After I read that chapter, it didn’t leave me with any lasting impression. But after 2-3 hours, I still couldn’t sleep so I randomly flipped the bible again and it was the SAME STORY that I turned to. So I immediately kneeled down and prayed to God and asked Him to tell me what he was trying to tell me. And He told me, “You are that woman. You keep trying to fill your heart with men. But you’re never satisfied with any of these relationships. You will only be satisfied if you build a relationship with me”. Since then I started building a personal relationship with the Lord.
對的，我們嘗試每季都有一個不同主題。現在的是“誰在乎”。這主題有著雙重意思。一方面，這代表了現代的年輕人那輕易就脫口而出的一句“誰在乎”（Who cares），也代表了暗藏的意義：“神在乎”。我覺得這也說白了香港文化裡的“事不關己， 己不勞心”，意思就是我不在乎不會影響或涉及到我的事情。這也是我爸爸常常教我的。我們往往只顧著自己的事情，不去關心別人。我曾會單單只關注自己的問題，我甚至連最要好的朋友也不是特別關心。但是聖經不是這樣教導我們的。聖經教我們要去關心別人，因為耶和華非常關心我們。
What’s one of your favorite Bible messages?
My husband and I play a game every night called ‘His word, last word’ where right before we sleep, we read a Bible verse three times and don’t speak another word for the rest of the night. This leaves God’s word as our last to meditate on for the rest of the night. My current favourite is: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:33. I feel like it’s a good one to deal with what I’ve been going through with Amenpapa right now. It’s nice to be reminded that I need to seek His kingdom first and worry about the rest second.
You can check out the Amenpapa store at: Shop 206, Silvercord Centre, 30 Canton Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui; amenpapa.com
Amenpapa 位於尖沙嘴廣東道30號新港中心商場206號舖; amenpapa.com