Like our city itself, Singapore’s fashion scene is an eclectic blend of new and old, with influences from across the region.
Take a stroll through its streets and shopping malls, and you’ll find a trove of establishments selling both old-world outfits and modern interpretations of classic designs.
Whether you’re looking to pay homage to heritage or discover a contemporary piece inspired by regional culture, this guide to local fashion is bound to help you find inspired new threads and channel your individuality.
Originating from Indonesia, batik is a fabric with a history that stretches back centuries, made with an ancient technique of wax-resisting hand dyeing.
This beautiful textile has captured the imagination of designers all across the world with its intricate designs and vivid colours, and you’ll find it used both in traditional clothes and contemporary threads alike.
To add a touch of tradition to your wardrobe, pay a visit to Wellie Batik at Holland Village. This father-son establishment has been in the business of creating batik accessories and apparel for over two decades, and stock a range of shirts, bags and sarongs (a length of fabric wrapped around the waist).
Batik is infused with significance, with motifs that symbolise concepts like wisdom, love and power. To discover the deeper meaning behind this tradition, drop by Galeri Tokokita. Oniatta Effendi—lifelong educator and owner of the store—will be happy to regale you with tales on the meaning behind the fabrics and contemporary fashion pieces stocked here.
Wellie Batik at Holland Road Shopping Centre. 211 Holland Avenue #03-18, Singapore 278967. +65 9171 5662. Mon-Sat 10am-7pm; Sun 11.30am-7pm.
Galeri Tokokita at MOX. 451 Joo Chiat Road #02-07, Singapore 427664. +65 8522 3505. Tue, Wed & Fri 10am-4pm; Thu 9am-4pm; Sat noon-6pm.
Baju Kurung and Baju Melayu
Widely regarded as symbols of Malay cultural heritage, baju kurung and baju melayu are often worn during both every day and formal occasions. The former is a loose-fitting full-length blouse and skirt combination worn by women, while the latter is a loose shirt paired with trousers worn by men.
To own a baju kurung or baju melayu of your own, take a stroll through Kampong Gelam. This historical enclave is home to a range of stores like Molkan Fabrics, where you can get a baju kurung tailored to suit your individuality. Modern twists on this modest outfit can be found at Sufyaa, which offers bespoke designs made to measure.
Molkan Fabrics. 62 Arab Street, Singapore 199769. +65 9625 1554. Daily 10.30am-7.30pm.
Sufyaa at Centropod. 80 Changi Road #02-32, Singapore 419715. +65 9102 3818. Tue-Sat 1-6pm.
You don’t have to be a Wong Kar Wai fan to appreciate the beauty of the traditional Chinese cheongsam. This close-fitting dress has origins in 1920s Shanghai, and evolved from the long robes worn by women during the Qing Dynasty.
While the outfit’s allure waned in Singapore during the 1970s, it’s since made a comeback in the modern day, with many local fashion designers creating both classical pieces and fashion that draws on the cheongsam for inspiration.
Fashionistas looking to add a touch of oriental beauty to their wardrobes should peruse the sophisticated pieces at Laichan. The boutique’s founder—Mr Goh Lai Chan—has been dubbed the city’s ‘cheongsam maestro’. While he learnt his craft from a traditional teacher, his dresses adopt both Western fashion techniques and Japanese kimono fabrics to add a unique, modern edge.
Alternatively, take it old school in Chinatown, with a visit to Golden Scissor Cheongsam—The store’s seamstress, Madam Li Qiying, has been creating cheongsams for over two decades. You’ll be able to peruse a range of affordable cotton pieces and fancier silk designs.
Laichan at Paragon. 290 Orchard Road #03-20, Singapore 238859. +65 6235 0049. Daily 11am-8pm.
Golden Scissor Cheongsam at People’s Park Food Centre. Block 32 New Market Road #02-1114-1116, Singapore 050032. +65 8163 0178. Daily 1-8pm.
If you flew to our sunny island by Singapore Airlines, chances are that you’ve seen the kebaya worn by the airline’s iconic flight attendants. While Javanese in origins, the kebaya is most commonly associated in Singapore as a hallmark of Peranakan* identity.
Traditionally, kebayas are made from muslin and tend to be elaborately embroidered, while modern designs are made from fabrics like batik, cotton and satin, and tend to be unembroidered.
You can find both modern and traditional design at Batique along Ubi Crescent. The store stocks a range of modern fashion designs for men, women and children, making it ideal for shoppers who crave variety.
If you’re a stickler for tradition, you may want to get a kebaya tailor-made at Rumah Kim Choo instead. Located in the vibrant Peranakan district of Katong-Joo Chiat, the store is a trove of trinkets, antiques and heirlooms, and owner Raymond Wong prides himself on the authenticity of his creations.
*The term is an Indonesian/Malay word that means “local born”, which generally refers to people of Chinese and Malay/Indonesian heritage.
Batique at Techniques Centre. 67 Ubi Crescent #06-09, Singapore 408560. Tue-Thu 1-4pm; Fri 2-5pm; Sat noon-3pm.
Rumah Kim Choo. 111 East Coast Road, Singapore 428801. +65 6741 2125. Daily 9am-9pm.