Shopping in Singapore is usually synonymous with splashy, high-end boutiques in even splashier sprawling malls, most along bustling Orchard Road or luxe Marina Bay Sands. But savvy stylistas look to a long thriving scene of homegrown fashion designers, who have been working to change this perception. For every Louis Vuitton or Prada (with repeat locations throughout the Little Red Dot), there’s the likes of In Good Company and Matter.
With a little guidance from local style guru Sharon Wong, here is our exclusive guide to the very best of Singapore’s indie fashion scene.
“Pants to see the world in” is how this socially conscious label got its start. Focused on creating affordable luxury (almost a misnomer in SG), co-founders Yvonne Suner and Renyung Ho have reinvented travel wear for the modern nomad. Matter’s mission: foster collaborations with artists and artisans, “inspire consumers to value provenance and process, and pioneer industry change and sustainability for rural textile communities.” No small feat, but one that has resulted in an eye-catching array of “dhoti” pants (think an updated version of this multifold draped style), versatile shorts, and even jumpsuits, all in their super cool, signature prints.
Describing it’s aesthetic as “black, genderless and morbid,” this line from former advertising creatives Andrew Loh and Kenny Lim isn’t new to the Singapore fashion scene. Founded in 2006 as a rebellion against SG’s staid design industry, the aptly named Depression maintains its edgy vibe with men’s and women’s collections like ‘Inner Demons’, ‘Dark Nature’, and ‘Dysmorphia’. Mixing the macabre and Manga to create what the duo calls “street goth luxury,” the clothes are at once structured and free – just right for a cult-like following of well-dressed misfits.
Eschewing the vicious cycle of seasonal trends, four friends founded this unique fashion label. Designers Sven Tan and Kane Tan, with managing directors Jacyln Teo and Julene Aw, together create thoughtfully edited women’s (and even kids, Mini Me) collections quarterly or bi-monthly. Minimal, modern, clean and simple, the homegrown selection in their stand-alone store at ION Orchard (one of those splashy malls) is at once modishly of-the-moment, yet completely transcendent. An affordably priced, fresh adaptation of wardrobe classics, In Good Company develops their textiles directly with local mills to ensure exclusiveness of fabrics, while maintaining an in-house sample room in Singapore. Did we mention their amazing eyewear and necklaces? They’ve even incorporated Café Plain Vanilla into the flagship space – an SG favorite for its exquisite baked goods.
For those seeking unconventional basics with a darkly quiet edge. With a few prestigious industry awards already under his belt since graduating from The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA, where he also teaches), Tan is one of the first designers selected to show during Singapore Fashion Week at the National Gallery, for which he collaborated with Microsoft Surface to present a stunning collection this past October. Encouraging women to “dress for no one else but yourself,” the MAX.TAN take on femininity is flattering and fluid; he takes shapes and drape to the next level. And it is his “masculine” spin on details like mesh, corsetry lacework, ruffles and fringe, that really sets him apart. If Rei Kawakubo and Rick Owens had a baby, he’d look a lot like Max.Tan.
Singapore’s gleaming new Capitol Piazza mall may be difficult to get to (even Uber gets turned around), but Sabrina Goh’s one-stop shop makes it worth the trip. Featuring her own collection, ELOHIM BY SABRINAGOH, she also carries several other designers’ accessories and leather goods. Winning the ELLE Awards Singapore Designer of the Year in 2010 helped propel the local designer to international recognition, including Vogue Fashion Night Out Bangkok and Fashion Futures 2015 X Singapore Fashion Week/CFDA. Inspired by architectural form, she’s made a statement creating strong yet sensuous silhouettes; yet she has her playful side, doing an uber cute collab with Disney called Minnie Rock the Dots.
Former-lawyer-turned-designer Priscilla Shunmugam eschews excess for longevity, evident in her very contemporary take on the traditional cheongsam. She’s taken this stereotypically Chinese body-hugging dress style and boldly reinterpreted it for today’s woman. In an array of textures and colors, with attention to craft and detail, she uses traditional Asian textiles in fresh new ways; and her prints are to die for. Collections are also produced in limited quantity, adding to the specialness of the line. She’s also exhibited at Beijing’s Chinese Museum of Women & Children and shown at Coterie in New York, the youngest Singaporean label to ever do so. And you’ll find her shop, Atelier Ong Shunmugam, as enticing as the brand’s beautifully curated Instagram account.
A minimalist’s dream, designed in a palette of (mostly) white, clean yet comfortable. Book the Big Skyroom for its lofty-vibe and outdoor private terrace, where you can thrillingly bathe al fresco.
Find true, new luxury here. The hotel is actually two exquisitely restored, historic buildings, re-imagined by Starchitect Richard Meier and the late, celebrated interior designer Jaya Ibrahim. With a big nod to sustainability, this stunning property is certified as a Green Mark GoldPlus building.
Seafood, seafood, seafood, in an adorable venue, situated along picturesque Bukit Pasoh Road. And get your drink on with their sister bar, Jigger & Pony, conveniently located upstairs.
Housed in a 70-year old traditional kopitiam (coffee shop), this unique Tiong Bahru bar and restaurant boasts some of the most inventive Japanese-inflected bites in town.