A Mixed Bag

Whoever dresses up head to toe in a single label these days? With the rise of multilabel boutiques here, mixing and matching cool pieces from different international labels, as well as rare vintage pieces and brands, have never been easier. More adventurous shoppers are abandoning established fashion names for these funkier shopping alternatives. We check out the newest and hottest multilabel boutiques for the latest fashion tips.
You literally have to squint to see the signboard of Actually…, a casual multilabel boutique with a cult-like attitude, flanked by old Chinese medicine halls and hole-in-the-wall eateries along Seah Street. Actually… looks shabby on the outside, and as you trudge up the dungy flight of stairs to the second floor, you can’t help but wonder what you are in for. It is only when you step into the store that you see its quirky and tongue-in-cheek personality stand out. Hanging spotlights, floating tables and suspended rickety chairs set against a backdrop of exposed brick and mortar walls make the interior, draped with assorted jeans, tees and bags, the epitome of street style, and then some.
“I wanted a place that is accessible, yet eschews the common,” says founder Paul Khor. “I wanted to move away from Orchard, while places like Ann Siang and Club Street are too gentrified.” Clearly a sensible choice, as the snazzy image Actually… projects is more in sync with the street scene of Liang Seah rather than the upmarket areas of Ann Siang or Club Street. The merchandise and clothes it carries are no less funky than its interior suggests. One of the bestsellers here is the Freitag dragnet bag from Germany. It’s made of tarpaulin from trucks, with handles from recycled car seat belts—extremely cool.
Other items to look out for here: The zipperless, expandable Furoshinki Shiki jeans, and premium handmade denim from Yen, Rifles, Gsus, CBGB and Elvis Denim. “Actually… is the exclusive distributor of these jeans … as I can feel and connect with them, and I can explain to customers about the different washes and cuts etc.,” says Khor. “The idea was to have a groundbreaking, yet fully functional store.” But more than just that, Actually… is a welcome fashion haven for hipsters and those who dare to be different.
29A Seah St., 6336-7298.
Opening its doors in February this year, this fledging multilabel boutique has enjoyed amazing and unprecedented success, rapidly closing in on other multilabel stores. At its helm is young upstart Hazel Chang, a fresh-faced 23-year-old graduate from the London School of Economics. Apart from living up to the challenge, Chang has created a wonderful new space. With full financial backing from her family and guidance from interior designer Mo Mo, Chang’s business has taken off without much of a glitch. “I wanted a place where people can shop and relax, and take their time to choose what they want,” she says. “The other parts of Orchard Road are just too crowded, and the idea here was also to create a homely vintage place for people to shop in.”
The brands of apparel and accessories which Eclecticism carries are as varied as its name suggests—from 575, American Apparel, Free People, Bliss Lau, Twinkle by Wenlan, Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent to Tarina Tarantino, just to name a few. Though mainly a women’s boutique, Eclecticism also carries menswear labels including David & Goliath, Religion and Ringspun. The atmosphere of the store’s interior also exudes the very image that Chang aims to project. With its vintage English sofas, redwood railings, a spray black chandelier and an unusual rustic staircase leading up to her inventory room, Eclecticism is the epitome of a cozy classic English home. An added plus is the spacious fitting room for customers. We’ll certainly be back for more.
#03-22/23 Mandarin Gallery, Meritus Mandarin Hotel, 333 Orchard Rd., 6735-7290.
Front Row
Front Row has been making waves over the past few months for its hip fashion labels A.P.C., Fab & Jo, Kim Jones, Umbro by Kim Jones and Woods & Woods, and it still is. Located in the historic heart of Singapore in a conservation quarter, adjacent to Ann Siang Hill Park and more than a stone’s throw from any MRT station or bus stop, Front Row isn’t considered the most accessible place to do your shopping. Yet, this hasn’t stopped fashionistas from making their way to the three-storey shophouse which stocks various women’s and men’s apparel, footwear and accessories from London, Paris, Milan, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles and other key fashion cities.
Fronted by chic lacquered white paneled wood, Front Row’s first floor opens up to a gourmet-style café serving coffees, cakes, pastries and yummy sandwiches. The mood is heightened by old classics and easy listening numbers—just the way we like it. “The concept is to make shopping more enjoyable for customers,” says founder Ann Kositchotitana. “They can shop and then later chill out at the café, or grab a bite from the café before starting to shop. Either way, it’s good for them.”
Front Row’s second storey is its highlight. With red wooden ceilings, mild cornices and yellow spotlights centered solely on its clothes, accessories, bags, pouches, CDs and jeans on the studio-like second floor, Front Row projects a soothing, minimalist, yet lively feeling to its shoppers. The third floor, though, houses convertible spaces used for private collection viewing, artworks, fashion shoots and private events, while the rooftop terrace with a panoramic view of the city provides a relaxed alfresco setting for small private groups.
It’s no wonder why Front Row is so popular. Its mix of cool international brands and chill-out café, coupled with quality and personalized service, makes it the place to be, and a frontrunner in our multilabel fashion boutique scene.
5 Ann Siang Rd., 6224-5501.
Lipstick Bandit
Six-month-old Lipstick Bandit is ideally located at the anomalous Haji Lane, where fashion, food and art come together in a vibrant setup. The mischievous mixture of styles is jarringly attractive and inviting. While the exteriors are lined with colorful deck chairs, the café inside plays host to differing furniture types beautifully accompanied by fairy tale sketches on the walls. The real treat is hidden on the second floor, where a burst of bright pink walls, red carpets and a collection of dazzling treasures embellish this colorful boutique.
Replete with antique chairs, vintage dresses, handmade acrylic rings, chic knitted jackets and even a bird cage and a suitcase, this is no ordinary store. Its signature style is an amalgamation of the tastes of its four founders: Mandy Wong, who is a video editor by day; Jocelyn Wong and Jean Tan, boutique owners at Far East Plaza; and Steven Kay, a freelance stylist. Their intentions when setting up Lipstick Bandit was to create a café cum boutique that allows them to express their creativity, and give their customers a space to chill out in. Like the camaraderie between a bunch of friends, Lipstick Bandit exudes a homely friendliness with a stylistic edge.
These supporters of local designers are eager to promote the talent within the country, and house many local and Hong Kong brands. The wide mix of vintage, pop and retro sees brands like Past and Present, AdeG, Vice and Vanity, and Alissia Melka-Teichroew, just to name a few. The availability of many labels allows them to put up the best of all their favorite names and simultaneously weave them into their DIY concept store. From walls painted by the owners’ good friends to the many self-customized accessories, Lipstick Bandit is an alternative fashion outlaw alright.
51 Haji Lane, 6392-4493.
Another new multilabel boutique at Haji Lane is salad. Its slick interior carries a variety of fashionable home accessories conforming to its present black and white theme. Like a bowl of salad, the eclectic range found here goes from a curious horn-shaped chandelier to customized shoes—the mix is definitely interesting. In the spirit of consistent creative changes, salad also modifies its theme to bring customers varying choices, making each trip a whole new experience. As founder Eileen Teo states: “Salad is an appetizer, and we want to tease our customers so that they keep coming back for more.”
The behind the scene players of salad are interior designers Teo and Mike Tan, while Wendy Lam manages the marketing. Though big on diversity, they stand firm on not giving into quantity over quality and shun mass marketed products. Catering to a niche market allows them to concentrate on sourcing individualized, rare items such as hard-to-find T-shirts and accessories. Without relying on fixed labels or ideas of what and how to sell and display their paraphernalia, they cherish the unbridled freedom they have in fully exploiting their imaginative ideas. With an edgy attitude and a well developed concept, salad is touted to be a huge hit in the fashion and home accessories world. The freshness of this salad is in its innovative crunch. Whet your appetites for more to come.
25/27 Haji Lane, 6299-5805.
Venue Berlin
Describing itself as a destination boutique, Venue Berlin is a one stop shopping fantasy for the initiated. With the arrival of unconventional designer Raf Simons, Venue is also home to sought after designer collaborations between Puma and Alexander McQueen, Neil Barrett, Christy Turlington’s nuala, Mihara Yasuhiro, Alexander van Slobbe’s Rudolf Dassler and Philippe Starck. Representing non-conformist ideals, their eclectic collection is vibrant, avant-garde and functional all at the same time.
Founded by Alex Hascher, its first store opened at Club Street in April last year, and has since found a second home in upscale Palais Renaissance. Replete with a section dedicated to fashion testimonials of trendsetters such as Chris Ho and Tracy Phillips, coupled with a fashion photography gallery called Venue Art which features a seductive body of work by New Yorker Alex Cayley, the Venue Berlin is a fusion of art, philosophy, history and fashion. As Marketing Manager Jacqueline Tan puts it: “Venue is an amalgamation of cutting edge street fashion couture that flaunts unquestionably crafty or uber cool designs and details which offer uncompromising comfort.”
From sharp, slick shoes to snug outfits that flirt with vivacious colors, this multilabel boutique is the next chi-chi giant in alternative fashion. The feline prowess of each designer brings with them a distinctive set of ideals, goals and aesthetics that makes them idiosyncratically stand out, and at the same time fall under a unique umbrella of untraditional style. Brazen about its attitude against commercialization and setting out to cause a stir in the existing predictability of marketable fashion, Venue Berlin is a fashion force to be reckoned with.
#01-07 Palais Renaissance, 390 Orchard Rd., 6732-6140.