In Singapore, looking good is easy thanks to a new generation of local brands that’s taking men’s style to grand heights. Together with international high-street labels and luxury couture houses in the city, these Singaporean fashion and accessory brands are adding to the vibrant shopping scene for the gents.
Benjamin Barker and Azimuth Watch are two to take note of. The former is a menswear label that specialises in suits and shirts, while the latter is a luxury watch brand. Both stand out for their carefully sourced materials, ingenuity in design and international ambition. And if their success has proven anything, it’s that Singapore’s fashion scene should be on any style maven’s watch list.
Making menswear new
Given Singapore’s endless summer, the biggest challenge for Benjamin Barker’s founder, Nelson Yap, was to make his shirts and suits a local wardrobe staple. Instead of competing head-on with more established international brands, Yap homed in on a gap in the market: high-quality suits for the Asian physique at affordable prices.
“In terms of aesthetics, I love classic menswear. [When it comes to] technical construction, I follow the way the Japanese cut their suits as I think they have perfected the fit for Asian men,” says Yap.
While Yap initially started by focusing on executive wear, the brand has developed a personality over the past eight years since its founding. Instead of simply stocking basics in muted colours, Benjamin Barker’s repertoire of shirts (from SGD 69.90) and suits (from SGD 280) expanded to include quirky details, such as vintage patches and wooden buttons, in fabrics sourced mainly from Europe and Japan—with little to no increase in its prices.
Stepping into a Benjamin Barker store is a fresh experience. To his credit, Yap puts plenty of thought into the interiors, designing them like living rooms that are every bit as handsome as the suits on the racks. Each of the 10 outlets is filled with curios and keepsakes that Yap has collected over the years. The Cathay Cineleisure Orchard store even has a vintage typewriter that a man from London used when he proposed to his wife.
“From the moment you enter a Benjamin Barker store, it’s like walking into somebody’s house. It has to be accessible, interesting and should make people want to stay in there for a while,” he explains.
Take Benjamin Barker’s multi-label outlet The Assembly Store, for instance. Its cool industrial-chic vibe will remind you of a city loft—except it is filled with shirts, jackets, belts and other accessories. Get a suit tailored by the in-house team, pick up accessories from Happy Socks and Komono to complement your outfit, then grab a cuppa at Benjamin Barker’s sister café, The Assembly Ground.
On the watch list
Just as Benjamin Barker is able to draw customers in with a menswear experience that is out of the ordinary, Azimuth Watch prides itself on crafting unique timepieces that are literal works of art. One look at its online catalogue and it’s clear that Azimuth Watch is neither your run-of-the-mill nor minimalist watch brand.
Instead, co-founders Alvin Lye and Christopher Long draw inspiration from science fiction, supercars and tin toys to bring to life outrageously wild, avant-garde watches. Unlike many other watch brands, Lye and Long don’t design their watches around mechanical components. They do it in reverse, adapting the mechanisms into their wild designs. It means that for the pair, the sky’s the limit.
Each timepiece undergoes a laborious and stringent process. Lye and Long begin with a concept, which is then rendered into 3D. Watch components can then be designed and built, and the final timepiece is assembled at Azimuth Watch’s own atelier in Neuchatel, Switzerland. The average price of an Azimuth timepiece ranges from SGD 5,000 to 8,000.
In fact, one of the first watches Lye and Long produced, the Twin Barrel Tourbillon (SGD 120,000), was dreamt up while they were on a flight back to Singapore from Switzerland. “We were flipping through the in-flight magazine and there was this article on supercars. We were amazed by how beautiful one of the cars was and imagined how it would look on a wrist. That was our Eureka moment,” recalls Lye.
Supporting local brands
Over the years, Azimuth and Benjamin Barker have established themselves in Singapore. Despite many international brands with stores in the city, Yap is convinced about the quality of the local fashion and design scene. Far from being carbon copies of household names, these local brands are making their own mark.
He says, “We are very blessed at the moment to have a lot of support from the government to help push local designers out into the overseas market to make our brands global.”
One of his haunts for local design is Arab Street in the historic Kampong Glam district. The neighbourhood is home to many homegrown brands, including third-generation-run perfumery SIFR Aromatics and hip barbershop Hounds of the Baskervilles. He frequents Orchard Road, too, as it offers a wide variety of shops, from marquee brands to multi-label shops such as K+ Curatorial Space and Naiise, which stock bric-a-brac by local artisans.
Given his store’s emphasis on interiors, it comes as no surprise that Yap frequents furniture stores in Ubi and Kallang. Those neighbourhoods are well known for shops such as Hock Siong & Co, where you can find authentic and refurbished vintage and mid-century furniture. As Yap says, these local shops aren’t just cool places to visit—they’re adding much needed variety and richness to the shopping tapestry that is Singapore.
Red Army Watches. Wisma Atria. 435 Orchard Road #03-02, Singapore 238877. +65 6732 6043.
Krasnaya – The Watch Art Gallery. ION Orchard. 2 Orchard Turn #B3-03, Singapore 238801. +65 6509 8606.
Nanking Watch Dealers. Peninsula Shopping Complex. 3 Coleman Street #01-15/26. +65 6337 3304.
Mon-Sat 10am-7pm; Sun 11am-5pm.
For a full list of stockists, visit here.
Capitol Piazza. 11 Stamford Road #B1-30, Singapore 178884. +65 6384 6755.
The Cathay. 2 Handy Rd #01-21/22/23, Singapore 229233. +65 6733 3143.
Mon-Thu & Sun 11am-10pm; Fri & Sat noon-11pm.
Cathay Orchard Cineleisure. 8 Grange Road #03-01, Singapore 239695. +65 6235 3703.
Mon-Thu & Sun 11am-10pm; Fri & Sat noon-11pm.
For a full list of stores, visit here.