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Where to Shop Local in Singapore

By Charlene Fang

Feb 6, 2020

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Behind every print by clothing brand Matter is a rich back story.

Courtesy of Matter

Behind every print by clothing brand Matter is a rich back story.

Do a deep dive into Singapore’s best local brands at Design Orchard.

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Not long ago, the phrase “Made in Singapore” was associated with a handful of tech companies like Razer and Creative and old-school health products like Tiger Balm and Axe Oil (a cure-all for headaches, stomachaches, insect bites, and “giddiness,” among other maladies). Meanwhile, shopping in Singapore was largely limited to designer brands or fast fashion lines sold inside gleaming mega malls on Orchard Road, an enjoyable, convenient experienceyou could walk for half a mile and never leave the air-conditioningbut one that remained indistinguishable from any other capital city. 

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With over 20 malls on a 1.3-mile strip, Orchard Road is still a shopping destination unto itself, but for anyone keen to discover small, independent brands, the shop-local opportunities were scattered at best—until the unveiling of Design Orchard in January 2019, with its official opening just last month. The three-in-one, concrete-and-glass complex on the corner of Orchard and Cairnhill Roads offers a self-proclaimed “integrated retail concept”: On the first floor is a showcase of more than 60 Singapore brands curated by local retailer Naiise (pronounced “nice”). The second level coworking/fashion incubator the Cocoon Space has a fabric library, pattern-cutting tables, and overlock sewing machines. On the roof, a public-access garden offers a sweeping view of Orchard Road with an amphitheatre and various breakout spaces designed to host fashion shows, concerts, and pop-up markets. Active Fashion Week held core yoga and barre classes in the rooftop garden. In March, a pop-up event will feature activewear brand Kydra and a new skincare launch. 

The visual impression of the two-and-a-half-story structure isn’t easily forgotten. Designed by WOHA Architects, Design Orchard lives up to its name with its lavish green roof and indoor landscaping throughout; its distinctive Swiss-cheese-like concrete facade is offset by glass and timber elements. Self-checkout counters and interactive mirrors that tell a brand’s backstory offer a modern retail approach while driving home the made-in-Singapore distinction.  

Make time to check out a few of our favorite brands:


Ling Wu 

Arm candy that’s often carried by Singapore’s fashionistas, Ling Wu’s buttery soft leather bags are beloved for their handmade touch. Each piece of leather is hand-rolled with glass bottles—and the bags’ practical designs means they hold more than just a cell phone and lipstick. Wu uses sustainably sourced hides stained in rich hues inspired by Asian ingredients like turmeric, chili, and star anise. Best sellers include the Miller bag in a cute printed Italian patent leather and the clutch-style Bubble 10-inch Python. (She sources products that fall within the standards set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, aka CITES.) 

Matter

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Behind every print by Matter is a rich back story, one that details the technique, the artisan behind the print, and the provenance of the garment itself. Founded by Renyung Ho, the clothing brand’s sustainable, social enterprise slant isn’t just for clicks—it has been around for six years—but to fill a gap: to create a steady source of income for rural textile-making communities. For travel lovers, the brand’s signature Sideswept Dhoti and Classic Wideleg are effortlessly stylish and make the perfect pants for flying or landing and launching right into a business meeting.

Nanyang Sauce 

Trust us when we tell you that this is one of the better soy sauces you’ll ever taste. After 50 years in the business, Nanyang Sauce still stands by its natural brewing method—it ages the sauce in clay vats placed outdoors in the sun—and use of non-GMO soybeans, which results in a full-flavored, thick soy sauce that’s full of umami goodness. Bring a few bottles home.

Onlewo

It’s hard to leave Design Orchard without a piece from the houseware shop Onlewo. Self-taught designer Mike Tay uses architectural motifs from Singapore’s neighborhoods (Chinatown, Little India) and attractions like the Singapore Botanic Gardens as inspiration for his chic collection: cushion covers, table runners, wallpaper, and floor tiles, all with a stylish pop-art slant to add a splash of color to any space.

Rye 

Bessie Ye’s minimalist designs bear a certain timelessness: Many local fashion editors wear her trend-proof pieces during fashion week. She turns out quality knit pieces and pared-back separates in neutral hues like navy and olive; of special note are her cocoon dresses with a subtle balloon-shape silhouette. 

Ying the Label 

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Known for its origami-inspired detailing and fabrics created from watercolor paintings, Ying the Label’s limited runs are understandable. Founder Phuay Li Ying designs and handpaints the designs—mostly in whimsical florals like orchids and cherry blossoms—before they are digitally printed on high-quality textiles from Japan, Korea, and Indonesia. Taking form in matching separates, dresses, and scarves, the wearable pieces of art can be easily styled up or down.

>>Next: Will Travel Save—or Destroy—the Maldives?

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