You won't find them all in one place anywhere else
You won't find them all in one place anywhere else
- By Amanda Chai
- | Feb 18, 2019
A month back we got wind about that mysterious new space that popped up in the heart of Somerset. A tri-agency retail hub months in the making, Design Orchard promised to be a revolutionary alternative to shopping along Orchard Road—housing 61 independent Singaporean brands under one roof.
Now open, the first floor, operated by Naiise, and brings together a good range of labels, categorised as New Brands (1 to 2 years old), Emerging (2 to 10), and Established (more than 10 years old). 60 to 70 percent of the store is dedicated to apparel and accessories, in line with the belief that a lot of people still shop physically for fashion today. Every brand featured was selected for their unique story, and okayed after a rigorous selection process that went through both the Singapore Tourism Board and Naiise.
When it comes to criteria, it’s less about stock availability; brand representatives from Naiise pointed out that most fashion brands in Singapore are “slow fashion”, and release new collections in their own time. Rather, it’s what stories and design aspects they bring to the table that counts.
Hence, you have established labels like Yacht21 and Depression displayed alongside newbies like Esse. Of the 61 here, nine brands don’t have their own brick-and-mortar stores; Design Orchard is their first time having a physical store presence.
Sixty-one might seem like a lot, but the retail hub is already looking to expand its categories—branching into cosmetics, watches, and shoes specifically. We had a poke around to scope out the best in homegrown designs.
Esse (since 2017)
The youngest brand in the entire store, this conscious womenswear brand founded in 2017 has its first brick-and-mortar presence in Design Orchard—and is already selling out. Founder Alicia Tsi makes her pieces with organic materials like Tencel and organic cotton, to promote the idea of investment pieces that reduce wastage in the fashion industry. You’ll find clean cuts and chic silhouettes here—made with the assistance of Tsi’s right-hand woman: her mother.
Matter (since 2014)
At first glance, Matter’s items might not seem all that unique. But a closer look at the lines and patterns reveals familiar motifs—a batik print here, an Indian dhoti there. The clothing brand by Renyung Ho reinterprets textile heritage into prints, working with rural textile communities in an effort to preserve textile artisanship in a sea of uninspired, mass-produced copies. While the brand first debuted with comfortable women’s pants in a variety of fabrics and styles, they’ve since expanded to include jumpsuits, dresses, and even menswear.
The Missing Piece (since 2016)
A tongue-in-cheek name tells it like it is at this womenswear label heavy on cut-outs and “missing pieces”. Founder Fock Ee-Ling keeps it classy with flattering silhouettes and soft fabrics, letting the cut-out details pop tastefully on their own. Cheongsams are the mother-of-three’s main product; you’ll find a selection of them in solid primary colours at Design Orchard.
Ling Wu (since 2010)
No longer a stranger to the local accessories scene, Wu Ling Ling’s namesake brand is all about timeless bags made with care and detail. As Ling Wu prides itself on a slower pace and process (‘Few and Better’ is their brand philosophy), only one bag per design is brought in for sale at Design Orchard; once it’s gone, it’s gone. The designs here are also exclusive to the store, as part of a more affordable range made from non-exotic leather (ie. no crocodile leather or snakeskin). Each one transitions seamlessly from day to night.
Rocket Eyewear (since 2017)
Rocket Eyewear is brother-and-sister team Ong En Ming and Ong Ker Shing’s brainchild, inspired by their mother’s knack for losing her sunglasses in extraordinary places. Ker Shing designs and En Ming facilitates the manufacturing. Currently, the brand only carries one shape: the P3, a classic round frame originally designed for US soldiers during World War II, and their mother’s favourite shape. Still, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the variety of frames and colours; even better, the sunglasses were specifically designed to better fit Asian faces.
Eden + Elie (since 2015)
Focusing on socially conscious jewellery, Stephanie Choo’s colourful label enlists the handiwork of special-needs communities, empowering children with autism to develop their skills and live independently. The brand marries traditional bead-weaving techniques with modern, functional designs for gorgeous statement pieces that hide hints of heritage.
Ivonovi (since 2014)
For unisex, abstract jewellery pieces, check out accessories label Ivonovi. In sleek golds and silvers, the pieces take basic cuts and turn them into edgy works of art that you can stack, or wear alone. Designer Ivon Wong is also set to be the only Singaporean designer showing at Milan Fashion Week later this year.
Onlewo (since 2015)
Founder Mike Tay hit a nostalgic nerve when he first took old designs of Singapore and fashioned them into cushion covers, table runners and the like. The name meaning ‘safe and happy home’ in Chinese, Onlewo aptly captures that sense of warmth and familiarity through its heritage prints—which you can now also find in curtains and wallpaper available in-store.
Photo Phactory (since 2016)
A brand that will excite both tourists and locals alike, Singaporean photographer Valley Arora’s Photo Phactory takes the vivid scenes of Singapore’s various neighbourhoods and turns them into vibrant home furnishing. The prints on her coasters, cushions, serving trays and clutch bags come from real photographs hoping to document our ever-changing landscape.
Sucre (since 2013)
They initially kicked off with an original creation of pineapple truffles—a modern rendition of pineapple tarts—but Lucy Pek’s Sucre now has an expanded range of artisanal sweets that include mooncakes, cookies and butter melts. We’re zoning in on their gift teas, beautifully packaged and available in fun flavours like Kyoto Cherry Rose and Bedtime Stories.
RE:ERTH (since 2017)
Founded only two years ago by Toh Ziling, the locally owned mindful skincare label is already flying off the shelves. Designed in Singapore and made in Japan, the brand focuses on the restorative aspects of nature (hence the abbreviated name “Re-encountering Earth”). It’s especially popular for its line of products promising firm, bright “mochi skin” results.
Design Orchard is located at #01-01, 250 Orchard Road. More information here.