Even though his company owns and manages a growing portfolio with over 20 shophouses spread across six neighbourhoods, Fang Low is a minimalist. Home for the co-founder and CEO of boutique co-living space purveyor Figment is a spartan Petain Road conservation unit his father bought years ago, its bare walls emphasising the height of the rooms.
He doesn’t own a car, and you won’t see him waving the latest iPhone.
In the same vein, his wardrobe comprises dark denim and tailored shirts. “I am fond of classics and craftsmanship, so I go for heritage brands from the UK or dark selvedge jeans. They are pieces I can return to day after day. They also age well and tell a story over time,” says Low.
He applies the same principles when furnishing his home. “I try to have minimal possessions that are well-thought-out. They might not be branded, but they are meaningful, like a fun piece I found in used furniture store Hock Siong.”
The intentionality behind minimalism also guides him at work, and Low likes to simplify his business plans. “This means a lot of strategising and planning before implementation, listening and mindfulness. It takes time and effort, but leads to greater success.”
When Low finds something he likes, he confesses to buying many of the same. His wardrobe is full of selvedge jeans and tailored shirts. Similarly, the portfolio of shophouses under Figment has boomed since the company’s inception in 2019. At the end of 2020, the collection grew from eight to 16 shophouse homes, and he plans to launch three more in January.
Despite this, he isn’t out to snap up every shophouse available, but rather approaches his acquisitions as if they were pieces being added to a gallery. “When collecting art, it is important to think of how a piece relates to a broader canon. Ultimately, narratives matter.”
He applied that ethos for Figment’s first home: Canvas House on Blair Road. “It’s where I grew up. Colin Seah of Ministry of Design painted the whole building white and put up Thomas Jefferson’s quote ‘I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past’ in neon lights. A collection grows along with the collector, thus Figment isn’t about me exclusively. Not every house we manage is a house I like, but they are all distinct with personality and soul.”
While old, squalid tenement houses crammed six families into a single shophouse, Figment spaces are plush suites-only properties, with thoughtful details that add a distinct sense of place. Shang House in Balestier, for example, is filled with rattan-based furniture, a nod to the neighbourhood’s rich rattan-weaving history. Also, the works of local artists such as Wu Yanrong and Khairullah Rahim take pride of place in many of the homes.
“We encourage creators to infuse our spaces with a local spirit,” says Low. “Many of our residents are transient, but we still engage them in terms of curation and connect them with the local businesses in the neighbourhood. By doing so, we hope to establish a sense of home.”
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Despite his preference for classics, Low surprised us with his choice of a bright plaid jacket for our shoot, matching it with dark drawstring pants. He tells us, “I wanted to take a chance with this jacket because it’s got so much personality.”