When I first moved to this island, one of the first things that hit me was the sheer amount of shopping options on offer. Back in the UK, you usually have to drive to the nearest town centre to get some retail therapy, but in Singapore you’re never more than a few minutes away from a mall (in fact, there’s usually one next to most MRT stations!)
This means that mass chain brands are literally everywhere – Topshop, Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, you name it, we’ve got it; and although I’ll admit that these usual suspects – which offer us high street copies of designer looks for less season after season – can be a more pocket-friendly shopping option, they soon lose their shine after you spot people wearing the same dress, or toting around the same bag on the street. *shudders*
Well, you can see what I’m getting at: fashion in Singapore became a bit “samey” for me very quickly, and that’s pretty tough going for someone who writes about it for a living. My saving grace? Discovering a growing pool of talented local designers and stores to get my style fix away from the mainstream masses. What’s more, I discovered that quite a few of these homegrown brands produce locally too, making them a fab ethical fashion choice for unique clothes and accessories.
Granted, this often means that Singapore labels can be slightly pricier than the cheaper chain brands, but when you factor in the passion and time that’s gone into making each piece or collection – whether it’s a series of hand-printed dresses, woven hats or handmade jewellery – well, I’d rather pay a few bucks more for that any day. Also, unlike cheap or blogshop options which tend to fall apart after a couple of wears, these guys offer decent, reliable quality as well as size ranges to fit both Asian and expat figures.
So if you’re finding yourself in a similar style rut and are keen to discover something new, here’s a couple of shopping recommendations below (again, this isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s just a couple of my favourites – enjoy!)
In Good Company
If simple silhouettes and quality fabrics are your thing, then I’m pretty sure you’ll love IGC. Founded by designers Sven and Kane Tan (same surname, but they’re not related!), the label boasts a structured yet feminine aesthetic with soft tailoring and draping – think flowing dresses, asymmetric tops and culotte pants. I bought an amazing black jumpsuit there late last year which gets lots of compliments! The label’s first concept store with Plain Vanilla bakery was opened last year at ION Orchard.
Recently selected to be part of Fashion Futures 2.0 – the second edition of an international development programme created by Singapore Fashion Week in partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) to help give local labels international exposure – Aijek is well-known for it’s sweet and a subtly sexy clothing collections crafted largely in natural materials such as silk. I styled model and entrepreneur Amanda Dyer in one of their lace dresses for a LIV/Expat Living cover last year.
ELOHIM by Sabrina Goh
Contemporary, slightly androgynous design in cool prints and silhouettes. LASALLE graduate Sabrina herself is a real sweetie, sourcing her flattering fabrics (neoprene, cottons) in Asia and producing in Singapore (size ranges are generous). I’m a firm fan of her designs plus her new concept store at Capitol Piazza, which also houses a range of cool independent fashion and beauty brands.
When I first visited Zen’s studio last year I fell in love with his draping technique and also his passion for designing. He’s a humble, hardworking guy inspired by all things feminine and Lanvin, and his work has been recognised by top magazine editors and celebs. You can check out a few more of his designs here on Gnossem, but he can do bespoke creations too.
A beautiful one-shoulder dress by Zenchi –
Model: Kristina Pakhomova
Hair and Makeup: Kelly Bilimoria
For monochrome lovers! Exhibit creations are all about the minimalist and androgynous aesthetic, with cool added details: an optional cinched waist here, a netted skirt there – all of which add textural interest. Pop in next time you’re in Far East Plaza getting your nails done (that’s how I stumbled across their store!)
Trish Van N
I discovered Trish Van N jewellery through my friend Susie Wallace, owner of Willow & Huxley boutique, who insisted I look at her pieces for use in an upcoming shoot (which is just what I did!) The designs – crafted in precious metals by Thai craftsmen – are bold and glamorous yet delicate-looking enough to be layered or stacked up to suit your mood.
For elegant cuffs and rings with interesting shape details, check out this local label. It’s founded by lawyer-turned-jeweller Joanne Low, each piece is handcrafted in precious metals and some collections accented by gemstones like sapphire and topaz.
Chi Chi von Tang
The brainchild of Gnossem founder Lisa Crosswhite, this street-chic new Singaporean label creates beautiful statement pieces which can be worn over your basics. The silk Warrior bomber jacket has been a firm favourite and can be thrown over virtually anything.
Carolyn Kan’s jewellery line is now well established now in Singapore, and I’ve always admired the way she melds playful creativity with quality. One example is one of her earlier lines – A Beautiful Mess (which I still love!) which was themed around the concept of spilled paint translated to cool leather bibs and cuffs. Recent collections have experimented more with metals.
Having recently opened a new store in Capitol Piazza after a slight brand hiatus, Reckless Ericka are set to make quite the comeback over the next year. I’ve really liked what I’ve seen so far in store – largely a few of their creative printed pieces (I’m wearing one of their recent creations above!) and some of their more dressy designs.
Though they stock a lot more lifestyle products than fashion, this Singapore-based site has something for everyone: cute tech products, food, furniture, stationary and accessories from independent designers the world over – great for thoughtful gifts and unique finds.
Gnossem (pronounced “nossem!” silent g…) is definitely one of the most successful multi-label online retailers to come out of Singapore in the past few years. Here you can find beautiful and unique designs from tons of Asian and independent labels and designers; I love having a good old browse every few weeks and seeing what’s new in, from cocktails dresses to casual essentials with a twist.