With so many fine made-in-Singapore labels to choose from, make sure you keep some space in your suitcase while you’re here.
Singapore offers quality retail at every turn and shopping here is something of a national pastime. The country’s depth in delivering international brands is widely known, with Marina Bay and Orchard Road lined with luxury outlets. Equally impressive though are the offerings from closer to home. Independent retailers are building on their success with entrepreneurial vigour and young Singaporean designers are pushing boundaries. The country is progressing in fashion and product design, creating brands with a “Made in Singapore” stamp and drawing on nearby Southeast Asian manufacturing hubs to deliver well-crafted items in bigger quantities. Showcasing such products are concept shops across the city. From luxury malls to streets lined with colourful shophouses, the allure of Singaporean wares is growing at a tremendous rate.
Naiise: Homegrown talent
The sheer size of Naiise’s third concept shop reflects the buoyancy of Singapore’s design scene. The sprawling space offers shoppers diverse retail terrain ranging from hi-tech gadgetry to well-made leather goods. There is a homegrown stamp on around 60 per cent of products here, which have been integrated with international lines.
The success of Naiise comes down to the hard work of Dennis Tay, who launched the business in 2013. “It wasn’t easy in the beginning we really had to scour the country,” he says. “But today we are seeing incredible design talent and we are able to provide them with a destination to sell their wares.”
Tuckshop & Sundry Supplies: Jeans therapy
This refined menswear shop is a haven for denim enthusiasts. It opened in 2011 and co-founder James Dung says his brand’s focus has always been on well-crafted pieces that don’t date. “We just want to bring in apparel and items that men can wear comfortably and constantly; just good products that will stand the test of time.” Among Dung’s picks are international cult brands such as the timeless denim of Iron Heart in Japan and the hardy Japan-made pieces of Stevenson Overall Clothings.
The shop champions Singaporean labels including local brand Obbi Good Label. It also creates custom handmade leather products in a workshop under the same roof.
Books Actually: Word on the street
This independent business is more than just a book merchant. Its narrow aisles are piled with publications, mostly literature and fiction, with a clever complement of art books, rare editions, magazines and stationery. Behind the cashier you’ll find a trove of vintage Singaporean memorabilia, while the resident cats add to the offbeat appeal.
The publishing arm of Books Actually, called Math Paper Press, sometimes produces subversive works on Southeast Asian topics and hosts author events. It is tucked away in the 1930s enclave of Tiong Bahru; devotees, both Singaporean and foreign, follow the brand with a cultish enthusiasm.
Manifesto: Boutique selection
French designer Walid ZaaZaa made Singapore his permanent business home due to its positioning within the dynamic Asian fashion market.
The crisp design of his shop Manifesto, an outlet he has spent years planning, forms a stunning setting for his favourite brands to make their Singaporean debut. In the carefully laid-out space there’s a concise selection of clothes across menswear and womenswear and a strong lifestyle offering too.
The names ZaaZaa has picked for Manifesto’s racks include Costume National, Linda Farrow and Hope. He says that in recent years there has been a shift in the attitudes of edgier fashion brands towards pushing into Southeast Asian markets. This meticulously designed concept shop in Singapore should be their ideal starting point.
“Previously, many of the brands we stock were a bit snobbish regarding this market but not anymore,” he says. “Of course they are protective and they want to know who you are and what your intention is. But I can now speak to any brand in the world and I think they’d be interested in working with us.”
Club 21: Fashion flagship
A Singaporean retail powerhouse and now a well-regarded name in global luxury, Club 21 was formed 44 years ago by Christina Ong. Today it is a global brand and its growth has been phenomenal.
That success rests on a forward-thinking approach to buying and an international distribution network that allows it to manage brands in retailers around the world. The flagship store at the Four Seasons Hotel prides itself on service and sets established brands such as Comme des Garçons alongside newer arrivals that include emerging South Korean menswear label Junn J.
Keepers: Craft collective
When Carolyn Kan formed jewellery label Carrie K in 2009, she was unaware of Singapore's craft-design community but her business soon attracted a community of artisans. To showcase their work, she founded collective Keepers.
Though its pop-up offerings have since concluded, Keepers has launched a permanent space at the National Design Centre, where wallets from Gnome & Bow and watches from Hypergrand sit alongside a selection from other Singaporean designers.
Benjamin Barker: Gentleman’s relish
Nelson Yap opened the first of his Benjamin Barker menswear shops in 2009 in Singapore. He has since grown the brand to 10 destinations – an impressive feat for a business that launched with little capital. “I honestly think that's why the business succeeded,” he says. “When you have constraints you have to do things differently. It helped us define our brand.”
Pact: Inside knowledge
A mall within a mall, Pact is the result of a collaboration between eight brands to create an experiential concept space. It is housed in Orchard Central in Singapore's key shopping district, with a key retail section devoted to the basics of Singaporean menswear brand Sifr and a collection of local and international homeware from Spur Hauswerks.
The expansive space was designed by Japanese interiors expert Teruhiro Yanagihara and cleverly preserves the separate identities of each business while maintaining a strong overall aesthetic. An industrial feel dominates throughout Pact, exemplified by in-house hairdresser Pact+Lim's clean, polished-concrete surroundings.
With your shopping bags full and your locks sheared, be sure to check out the sushi at Kilo, one of Singapore’s most exciting dining destinations. It offers well-presented, tasty Japanese food and fine views of the city streets.