A leisurely 10-minute walk away from Bugis MRT is an ethnic enclave turned shopping haven. Lined with an eclectic mix of generations-old heritage stores, independent boutiques and crafts shops, Kampong Gelam’s shophouses are a welcome change from air-conditioned shopping centres. Much of its charm as the former home of the local Sultan (King) has been retained, yet new tenants inject fresh allure into one of Singapore’s most iconic heritage neighbourhoods. Wander through back alleys and along five-foot ways offering trinkets that you won’t usually find in any malls. Start from the shops around the biggest landmark, Sultan Mosque, and work your way into the narrow alleyways that are full of curious finds.
All venues are near the Bugis MRT station
Collect a vial of custom fragrance by artisans who have honed their crafts for generations.
1. Jamal Kazura Aromatics
Enter an old-school perfume establishment for carefully blended scents to add to your collection. Possibly Singapore’s most well-known perfumery, 1 Jamal Kazura Aromatics will customise a signature scent for you–that’s if you haven’t already fallen for their readymade options. Be spoilt for choice at this quarter-century family-run business, where glass shelves are lined with jars of fragrant oils from all over the world.
2. Sifr Aromatics
2 Sifr Aromatics is an experimental offshoot by third-generation owner Johari Kazura. Here you can experiment with more innovative scents, ranging from oud (agarwood) to ambergris and bergamot, to create a perfume that channels the inner you. Shop for handmade and affordable, high-quality body balms, scented candles and vintage perfume bottles.
Independent and international labels
Kampong Gelam is chock-full of hole-in-the wall boutiques, where you can find tastefully curated fashion and homeware.
3. Fickle Store
While you may not associate the words ‘flip-flops’ and ‘fashionista’, 3 Fickle Store is likely to have you changing your mind. This charming establishment gives visitors the opportunity to customise their very own pair of footwear for their beach vacation in sunny Singapore. Flex those creative muscles, folks!
4.The Humble Man
From shirts designed with floral motifs to panama hats that come in arresting rainbow hues, 4 The Humble Man stocks a range of apparel for gents who appreciate bold fashion statements. Peruse racks of smart-casual ware, and discover a piece that shows off your playful side.
The outskirts of Kampong Gelam house textile shops that have been around for generations. Buy a yard or an entire roll of lace, satin and all sorts of fabrics, as well as craft supplies in these widely stocked shops.
5. Molkan Fabrics
Shop at 5 Molkan Fabrics, a long-standing shop that stocks a bit of everything from cotton, lace, satin and more. Local dressmakers still come here to pick up fabrics by the yard or metre. If you’re a budding seamstress, be inspired to create your own look from the wide array of colours and textures on display. Select textiles that are unique to the region, choose plain or printed fabrics or ask the knowledgeable store assistants for help if you have a particular type of look that you’d like to create.
If you want to take home a traditional ethnic outfit, why not get one made by a seamstress here? Create a traditional Malay attire like the songket suits made from silk or cotton fabric interwoven with intricate patterns using metallic threads or baju kurung, which is a traditional two-piece Malay costume, all from pre-stitched fabric that only require tailoring to suit your size.
You can buy fabrics that have been largely pre-constructed and take them to a seamstress who will be able to customise the design and size to your liking.
6. Kin Soon – Minton House of Ribbons
Shelves here overflow with colourful ribbons that suit every taste and occasion, whether you’re creating a dreamy wedding scrapbook project or perfecting your fearsome Halloween costume looks. 6 Kin Soon – Minton House of Ribbons is a wonderland for the creative minds.
You can come here if you are looking for a specific material—satin or organza ribbons, faux pearls, and even strings, ropes and twine. No fret if you don’t have a material in mind—simply browse through the collection to find one that matches your personality and project, from the wide array of ribbons and strings available.
Go down the aisles and be inspired to customise your clothes and bridal gowns. And because the store is also a wholesaler, you can even find an entire roll for as low as a dollar.