1. Singapasar 2016
National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road, Atrium & Gallery 1
Opening hours: July 29, 4pm to 9pm;
July 30, 31, 11am to 8pm

Singapasar, the design-centric weekend pasar malam was created last year to celebrate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. But the response was so encouraging with some 6,000 people attending and better than expected sales figures, that it is making a comeback.

“We first created Singapasar when we noticed an increasing trend of designers and artists creating works that represent our local culture and identity,” says Mabel Low, brand manager for The Farm Store, Singapasar’s organiser. “Singapasar is where we celebrate the nation’s birthday through a marketplace filled with locally designed products.”

(Related: Singapore is now the one to watch in the global creative landscape.)

It wasn’t just the public that loved the pasar malam. Vendors were encouraged by the response they received too. “Earlier this year, we started getting enquiries from last year’s vendors to host Singapasar again,” says Low. “So out of overwhelming response and love, Singapasar 2016 is born.”

This year’s event promises to be bigger and better. There will be 35 product and food vendors, up from 22 last year, and it is now spread across a bigger space at the National Design Centre.

Low says vendors at Singapasar are specially curated by the team at The Farm Store: “We only pick vendors who are Singaporean and their product or food item must be locally designed or made, telling stories of our Singaporean identity.”

Some of the vendors include the Fingersmith Letterpress, a studio specialising in hand-lettered prints inspired by objects in Singapore; Entrepot, a design firm that produces T-shirts and bags with prints of old Singapore; Binary Style which produces scarves with Singapore-inspired prints; Kayamila, which makes a range of kaya such as calamansi citrus; and Demochoco, a small-batch chocolatier that will be creating specially flavoured chocolates such as masala chai and salted egg and cereal.

Other vendors will be debuting their new collections at Singapasar. One of them is Onlewo, a local design studio that creates bespoke ranges of wallpaper, upholstery fabric and homeware items. The designs are inspired by Asian roots with a focus on heritage, places and culture in Singapore. Onlewo will launch the “My Home” collection featuring four patterns titled Blk 1, Blk 2, Blk 3 and Blk 4; and the geometric patterns mirror the many faces of Singapore’s HDB blocks.

Founder Mike Tay says the collection is inspired by fond childhood memories of huddling with his grandfather to watch the Chingay Parade from the corridor just outside their home. Besides cushion covers, upholstery fabric and wallpaper, these patterns will also be made into cement tiles. “I wanted to launch this new collection at Singapasar to celebrate our country’s birthday and the success of our public housing design and planning that contributed significantly towards our nation building,” says Tay.

Similarly, design collective Souvenirs from Singapore will be launching two new products at Singapasar. The first is the SS54, an ang ku kueh-shaped coaster that comes in an auspicious bright red shade; and the SS45.2, the Merlion Chouchou mini-keychain, so that anyone can bring the smiling Merlion with them.

For some vendors, this will be their pop-up debut. One of them is Homebakee, a community of homebakers. Homebakee will be selling homemade treats such as cupcakes and macarons in kaya toast and Milo dinosaur flavours.

Another is heritage brand, Hai Seng Porcelain, which sells old-school enamelware. This year, instead of depending on walk-in customers at their store in Chinatown, they are buying into the pasar malam concept of Singapasar. Perhaps, this could see them maintaining a presence in more pop-up events. “This could possibly be a turning point for an established but heritage brand like theirs to change their business model or client base. We are always on the lookout for brands like them,” says Low.

She believes that Singapasar is well-loved because “it provides a platform for all our experiences and stories to come together under one roof”. She adds: “These are things Singaporeans can relate to and have fond memories of. Through these objects, we might be able to view and understand ourselves better, consolidating our own identity as we celebrate the nation’s 51st birthday.”

Organiser The Farm Store foresees Singapasar to be an annual event, and may even extend it beyond just one weekend. “We want to make this something that everyone shouldn’t miss to immerse in the Nation’s celebration,” says Low.

2. K+
Scotts Square, #03-11
Opening hours: Mon to Thurs, 11.30am to 8.30pm; Fri to Sun, 11am to 8.30pm

If you have friends from overseas in town, who are looking to buy souvenirs, you may want to direct them away from the shops selling tacky fridge magnets and instead lead them to K+ at Scotts Square, which stocks beautiful, locally designed items.

K+ started in January 2015 as a curatorial space, but it recently rebranded itself into a multi-concept store. The new 4,000 sq ft space now has three elements – retail, gallery and community. It’s an offshoot of Kinetic, a boutique design and advertising agency.

Carolyn Teo, co-founder of Kinetic says that the new space allows them to feature more products for sale, even though retail is just one of the three elements. It is collaborating with five well-known brands for this section. BooksActually, GoodStuph, Pomelo, Supermama and Tofu Design are curating a range of lifestyle products, literature, furniture and apparel that showcases the best of Singapore’s creative scene. Kinetic also has a range of items in the retail space.

(Related: 4 industry leaders on the toys that shaped them.)

Teo says Kinetic would like K+ to be the “Noah’s Ark” of the Singapore art and design scene, especially in these trying economic times. But they know they cannot do it on their own. “So we approached our friends in the industry, like-minded independents who believe in giving back to the local scene, who passionately believe in the importance of art and design, and that its future is more important than what we do individually,” she says.

The five jumped on board without hesitation. “All six brands are quite varied so each of us will bring our individual expertise and something different to the table, showcasing the breadth of the Singapore design scene while at the same time offering shoppers a diversity of tastes and influences,” says Teo.

For example, Pomelo will be retailing a range of furniture, Supermama will have its popular porcelain range with Singapore motifs on them, and Tofu Design will have a range of stationery that’s exclusive to K+.

Apart from the principal collaborators, K+ also has a list of pop-up collaborators, such as Chubby Bunny, which makes handcrafted dolls; and Still Wares, which makes limited, small- batch editions of ceramic products.

Pop-up booths are available to them for short-term stints, allowing budding creators to kickstart their business without the worry of costly overheads. “We’ve seen many local brands close shop as they couldn’t pay rent,” says Teo. “We were concerned that many good brands might not make it through, so we approached like-minded independents who share our vision of creating a better future for Singapore’s art and design landscape.”

K+ will be working closely with up-and-coming creators to provide them a platform to grow and thrive. “There is strength in numbers, and together we hope that we can ride out these tough times,” says Teo. While some of the brands already have a presence elsewhere, Ms Teo says that being at K+ offers them better exposure. “Our vision is to help raise the profile of local artists, designers and brands, and elevate their works by giving them a highly visible platform in the heart of prime Orchard Road,” says Teo.

Each brand has brought what they think best represents them as well as Singapore design, and will be update their collections or products frequently too, to keep things fresh. “It is also the first time many of our brands have been in a retail mall,” she says.

While retail will be the main draw for shoppers, K+ offers more than just shopping. “We are still very much a platform for local talent,” says Teo. Just like the old K+, which was also at Scotts Square, the new gallery space is now bigger than before, and it will feature a new artist every six weeks.

Currently, award-winning furniture designer Nathan Yong has his new collections on display at the Gallery. His Construction collection is a series of multi-functional and versatile shelves that can be mounted in unused corner spaces. His second collection is Constellation, a range of furniture made using velvet and marble, a departure from his usual wood and steel.

Mr Yong’s works will be on show till August 14 and the pieces will be sold in K+ after that.

The Community space is what makes K+ different from other retail spaces. “We welcome anyone interested in art and design to come sit and work at our communal table, or just make friends and talk shop,” says Ms Teo.

This community space will also play host to K+’s monthly “Design Leftovers” corner. “We’re currently working with other agencies and studios in Singapore, to acquire excess brochures or printed matter – “leftovers” from the production process. We’d like students to have access to these leftovers and learn from them,” says Teo.

From time to time, hobbyists, amateur creators, local art schools and associations can also showcase their works at a smaller exhibition space on the premises. “What we really want to create in the long run is a K+ community where practitioners, students and anyone interested in art and design can freely mingle and interact, helping to build a strong art and design community from the ground up,” says Teo.

3. Naiise
Suntec City, North Wing, #01-477/478/479/480
Opening hours: 11am-10pm daily

The Cathay, #B1-08
Opening hours: 12pm-10pm daily

In a mere 16 months, homegrown design and lifestyle brand Naiise has grown from just an online presence into a group of six brick-and-mortar stores. Customers can still buy their design-centric curated items online, but they can also do so at Westgate, Clarke Quay Central, Katong I12, Wheelock Place, Orchard Gateway, The Cathay and Suntec City. The last two are their newest stores. About 60 to 70 per cent of the inventory at all the stores are local brands.

“Having run four successful pop-up stores in 2014, Naiise saw value in having a strong offline presence, providing customers greater convenience, allowing them to interact with design products first-hand and also helping them understand what they are buying into,” says Cheryl Yong, its public relations and buying manager. “With a wider retail footprint, Naiise also helps local designers reach out to more people.”

(Related: Where do these 3 Singapore designers find inspiration from?)

Deciding where to open the Naiise stores is not just about location, location, location. Yong says: “Naiise strives to maintain strategic relations with landlords who understand our position as a young, bootstrapped local startup and see value in our business model and range of products.”

She adds that the company also looks at each potential store location’s primary target demographic, and aims to reach out to a variety of people, as “we believe that our products have strong appeal to audiences across all ages”.

By working closely with landlords to create a strong retail presence in Singapore, Yong says Naiise can provide a differentiated retail experience in a variety of locations and help establish the brand as a top-of-mind recall retail destination among both locals and tourists. She cites the example of the Naiise store at The Cathay which targets a younger, arts-oriented market from a youth-oriented mall destination as well as neighbouring art schools and institutions in the vicinity. Over at its Suntec City store, the crowd is mostly executives working in the surrounding offices, and tourists.

With this in mind, each store’s interiors and product ranges are curated to target its specific demographic. For example, The Cathay store has a workshop space which emulates the look and feel of a creative studio equipped with tools of the trade for visitors to interact and play with. Workshops conducted here include book binding, handmade skincare for men, copper and concrete lamp casting and Japanese incense-making.

Naiise has also partnered renowned laminate maker, Lamitak, to showcase a range of laminates suitable for a variety of surfaces and products. Designers can be inspired to incorporate use of laminates into new product creations, while shoppers also get ideas on how to customise their homes and furniture.

Local brands which sell their merchandise here include Concrete Everything (home accessories made of concrete), Scene Shang (cushion covers with Singapore-inspired prints) and Ashbolt (collar pins).

Over at the Suntec City store, weary office folks can not only get their retail fix at Naiise, but they can chill out in the store’s Games Room. “To complement the store concept of a whimsical Wonderland, the Games Room reintroduces the concept of ‘play’ to jaded customers, reminding them of simple, childhood happiness – just encouraging them to take a break from the mundane,” says Yong.

The Games Room holds several mini-challenges – Disc-O-Fun, Cap-uracy, Stick-Em-Up, Ping-A-Pong and Block Off – and rewards players with discounts, privileges and an entry on the leaderboards. While simple in concept, the Games Room has been a hit with Naiise shoppers. “It ignites their youthful, competitive spirit, and lets us reward them for taking part. It creates a sense of novelty and happiness in the shopping experience,” says Yong.

While it may be fun and games at this store, Naiise still keeps a wide range of locally designed products on the shelves. They include the Handmade Heroes range of cosmetics, Singapore-inspired printed cards from The Kapok Tree and packet sauces from Kwong Woh Hing Sauce Factory. “Our stores maintain some consistency in branding, but each has been conceptualised with a different theme and product range, which helps give it an identity which consumers can connect with,” says Yong. “We believe that creating thematic store elements can create a sense of discovery and novelty each time our customers shop with us.”

Adapted from The Business Times.