Eight Singapore fashion, beauty and lifestyle boutiques that break the cookie-cutter mould
Singapore is full of glitzy, cookie-cutter shopping malls selling major fashion brands, but some retail outlets prefer to stock emerging labels and local designs
Singapore often touts itself as a shoppers’ paradise, but although there are plenty of glitzy malls, they often feature the same range of designer boutiques and high street labels, making it hard to tell them apart.
But the tiny island is also home to a thriving community of fashionistas and retail maestros who have established a diverse range of fashion labels, concept stores and multilabel boutiques.
These establishments eschew the cookie-cutter mould in favour of championing local design and under-the-radar labels from abroad. For instance, the Tiong Bahru and Haji Lane enclaves have long been known to play host to a range of charming boutiques and quirky stores.
Shopping malls too have begun to diversify their retail offerings and are increasingly welcoming home-grown boutiques like fashion label In Good Company and concepts such as designer bookbinders and stationery makers Bynd Artisan into their fold. For the savvy shopaholic, here are eight shops to check out on the little red dot.
1. Bynd Artisan
In this digital world, there are very few places left where stationery aficionados can buy paper accessories like leather-bound notebooks and writing pad holders. Bynd Artisan, co-founded by husband-and-wife duo Winnie Chan and James Quan, is one such gem of a find.
The bookbinding atelier is best known for its customised notebook service, where every detail, including the type of paper and the colour of the elastic flap, can be chosen. The brand frequently collaborates with people from different creative fields to make interpretations of classic items.
For example, industrial designer Olivia Lee created a series of leather bound book-shaped accessories such as a magnifying glass and a jewellery box using traditional leather bookbinding techniques.
The next collaboration is a compilation of keepsake books by media personality, lyricist and author Dr Ng King Kang featuring his travel writing, photography and his original songs.
Multiple locations, including Holland Village, 44 Jalan Merah Saga, Singapore, tel: +65 6475 1680
Before the advent of Sephora, beauty junkies in Singapore flocked to multilabel beauty boutique Escentials to get their fix of cult labels such as Diptyque, By Terry and Le Labo.
Those in the know head to this cutting-edge beauty wonderland to sniff out niche fragrances, skincare and beauty products before they hit the mainstream.
This is the place to go to stock up on Byredo perfumes, Damselfly candles and 3Lab skincare. The stylish, streamlined flagship boutique at The Paragon shopping centre features “shop in shop” concepts of their most popular brands such as Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Memo and also has a make-up area and fragrance library for hands-on experimenting.
Paragon, 290 Orchard Road, tel: +65 6737 2478
With stark white walls, austere concrete flooring and curving, sculptural displays on which products are displayed, luxury street wear store Surrender looks and feels more like an art gallery than a clothing boutique.
Known for street wear labels such as Undercover and Public School NYC before they hit the big league, Surrender continues to source buzzy, emerging brands from around the globe. Cult labels include A-Cold-Wall, Mostly Heard Rarely Seen and Song For The Mute, among others. Surrender is in the same Orchard Road building as the Off-White and Christian Dada boutiques.
268 Orchard Road, tel: +65 6733 2130
4. Kevin Seah
Kevin Seah’s atelier at The Mill is arguably one of Singapore’s best bespoke tailors, Seah has a strong eye for detail and the pieces he makes are hand cut and hand stitched using only the finest fabrics from leading mills in England and Italy.
Besides accessories such as belts, handmade pocket squares and ties, the atelier also stocks a selection of dress shoes from Savile Row shoemaker Gaziano & Girling. Women need not feel left out either – Seah also makes bespoke suits, shirts, trousers and dresses for women.
The Mill, 5 Jalan Kilang, tel: +65 6532 2018
5. In Good Company
Launched by Sven Tan and Kane Tan, the former designers of now-defunct Singapore fashion label Alldressedup, In Good Company’s contemporary womenswear fuses sharp tailoring with sleek draping. Be sure to check out its range of quirky statement necklaces, which add pizazz to even the simplest outfit.
The label, which was awarded designer of the year at the Singapore Fashion Awards 2016, also does menswear. It also has a Mini Me collection featuring stylish apparel for boys and girls so mothers can coordinate their outfits with their kids. The spacious, light-filled boutique at Ion Orchard also has an in-store Plain Vanilla bakery, which serves a mean cuppa and delicious cupcakes.
ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, tel: +65 6509 4786
While small, Singapore’s burgeoning art and design scene certainly has no lack of talent, as seen at design and craft store Supermama. The tranquil retail space of its flagship, which resembles a museum gallery store, offers a delightful collection of collectible porcelain tableware as well as design and lifestyle items, many of which are locally designed.
Be sure to check out the in-house label Supermama Porcelain, featuring plates, cups and other tableware designed with familiar local motifs such as the HDB public housing flats and the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel. Supermam Porcelain, manufactured by Kiharain Arita, Japan, has been awarded the President’s Design Award in Singapore.
The brand’s souvenir range features beautifully designed items such as a calendar cut in the shape of iconic local buildings and printed melamine plates.
265 Beach Road, tel: +65 6291 1946
7. Dover Street Market
Since its launch just over a year ago, the Singapore outpost of Comme des Garcons’ founder Rei Kawakubo’s impossibly hip multilabel boutique Dover Street Market has become a key arbiter of cool in the country and the region.
There are not many places with such convenient access to a diverse range of brands, from luxury labels Balenciaga and Celine to Converse and Nike, with independent British designers such as Molly Goddard and Craig Green thrown into the mix.
The sprawling 12,325 sq ft store in Tanglin Village – large enough to contain a metal and wood house-shaped structure which doubles as a cashier – places a heavy emphasis on visual merchandising and interior design.
There are distinct spaces for many of the key brands, such as a floral carpeted and pink and green wallpapered area for Gucci and a severe black caged zone for Black Comme des Garcons.
For its first anniversary celebration in July, DSM orchestrated a huge product drop from an eclectic range of labels, including Off-White x Nike, Moncler Genius, Emotionally Unavailable and surprisingly, even the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club.
18 Dempsey Road, tel: +65 6304 13 88
In just five years, design retailer Naiise has grown from a start-up with an online portal into one of the region’s largest stores, with six bricks-and-mortar stores that stock more than 25,000 lifestyle products from more than 1,000 designers around the world. Still, despite its extensive product range, Naiise is still synonymous with Singapore design and is many a shopper’s go-to destination for local products.
Popular items include cushions in the shape of popular local pastries, T-shirts emblazoned with Singlish phrases and even food items such as chilli crab sauce and Singapore Sling flavoured jam. The outlet at The Cathay has a studio space where workshops on crafts ranging from modern calligraphy to floral arrangement are held on a regular basis.
The Cathay, 2 Handy Road, tel: +65 6266 8418
Where to stay
The recently opened InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay is located in the bar-filled neighbourhood of Robertson Quay on the Singapore River. The hotel draws a mixed crowd of hip locals, expats and travellers with its popular ground-floor eatery, Publico, a cosy Italian restaurant that is a welcoming deli during day and turns into a gourmet dining spot at night.
The laid-back sense of luxury of the property extends to the rooms and suites, which feel more like mini flats than the typical minimal accommodation of hotel chains. If you want to indulge in a drink in the privacy of your room, each minibar comes equipped with cocktail recipes and miniatures while if you’re the active type, you can grab one of the free bicycles for a fun ride along the river.