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​Singapore Showcase

Published on: 25-Jan-2019

This weekend, a new shopping spot opens on Orchard Road. Not another mall with the usual suspects, one may moan. But this one promises, and may well be, different. 

Design Orchard, located at the junction of Orchard and Cairnhill roads, brings together over 60 local brands under one roof. The 2.5-storey development by Woha Architects comprises retail and incubation spaces, plus an amphitheatre on the rooftop.

Jonathan Choe, associate at Woha says, "the wedge-shape of the building, porthole windows and the public park on the roof are quite unconventional and eyecatching. The sloping green roof provides a number of different spaces for diverse programming and, being fully visible to passers-by, it's an inviting space that draws in the public."

Part of the government's ongoing efforts to transform Orchard Road into a lifestyle destination, Design Singapore is spearheaded by Enterprise Singapore, JTC and Singapore Tourism Board. The plan is to groom new and emerging talents in the lifestyle and fashion sector, and prepare them to take their products overseas.

The 9,000 sq ft retail showcase, which is done up like a garden, is operated by pioneering local brand Naiise. It houses 61 new, emerging and established local brands, spread across fashion, beauty, small home furnishings, souvenirs and food. Naiise received responses from over 100 brands when it made an open call.

Dennis Tay, its founder says, "the brands were picked for their interesting stories, and their potential for growth. We want Design Orchard to not just empower designers today, but to also grow those for tomorrow."

Mike Tay, founder of fabric firm Onlewo says, "being in the heart of Orchard, it offers us an important retail channel to reach out to international visitors." Onlewo's products include sofa throws and cushion covers made from fabric with Singapore-inspired prints.

Although stationery and lifestyle company, The Paper Bunny, already has several stockists on Orchard Road, its products will also be made available at Design Orchard. Charmaine Foo, its branding maven says, "We see Design Orchard as more than just another shop. We want visitors to experience our brand more holistically through visual merchandising elements and unique product offerings."

Valley Aurora, who takes photos of shophouses in Singapore and reprints them onto home and fashion items, says, "Souvenirs made by local artisans are the best ideas to gift friends or relatives abroad but hunting them down in Singapore can be challenging. Design Orchard is thus an exciting opportunity for Photo Phactory to be with the best of Singapore talent under one roof in world famous Orchard Road."

Andrew Tan, founder of Japanese furniture and lifestyle store atomi, who has been a retailer on Orchard Road for a decade says, "while having another mini departmental store specializing in homegrown brands would pull in some crowd during the initial buzz, the key is its sustainability and longevity. It's a very prime location and a perfect platform for the local brands. The platform is definitely there, but the devil lies in the execution."

Retail expert Lynda Wee, says that when Design Orchard opens, shoppers will be curious to check it out. "Having said that, there is a need for lifestyle based engagement events to lure these visitors back and attract new ones," says Dr Wee, who is also an adjunct associate professor at the division of marketing and international business, at Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University. 

She says that retail shops in malls are unlikely to be affected by Design Orchard's opening. "Malls operate differently as their main goal is profitability. Hence, they tend to go for tenants with proven track records," she says. "On the other hand, Design Orchard appeals to shoppers who want something different and artisanal." 

Besides the retail space, Naiise will also run a mentorship programme, covering topics such as marketing, merchandising and expansion plans. Well-known entrepreneurs such as Loh Lik Peng of Unlisted Collection and Cynthia Chua of Spa Esprit Group are among the mentors who will be sharing their experience and knowledge.

Ms Aurora says that to grow her brand, being at Design Orchard means that she can tap on supporting programmes that include access to trade shows, market access trips and business mentoring, as well as connect with overseas production partners and associations.

The incubation space, The Cocoon Space, will be operated by the Textile and Fashion Federation Singapore (Taff). It will nurture independent designers and fashion businesses by offering co-working space with resources, such as sewing machines and a fabric library.

Taff will also run an incubation programme for aspiring fashion startups, covering talent development, training and overseas sourcing and production trips.

Dr Wee says that the incubation space will bring freshness. "The retail space will satisfy our shopping needs, while we can hop on the incubation programme for adventure."

Design Orchard will house a retail space, incubation spaces and an amphitheatre on the roof.

Source: The Business Times, 25 January 2019

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