Everyone says KL is a shopper's paradise, but not many people look beyond the big brands and international chains. We’ve handpicked the best local and independent stores the streets and malls have to offer. Get your wallets ready.
With a penchant for novelty design, technology, fashion and travel items, this minimalist all-white lifestyle shop is home to Project Watches (designed by renowned architexts), Nannini Eyewear and other emerging brands. In addition to Addex’s retro-chic Dolce radio and Skooba laptop satchels, Acquire also specialises in quirky home and living products from Belgium’s Serax, Innit Design from Canada and America’s ForLife Design, including dinnerware, furniture and vases.
With similarly well-stocked branches in neighbouring countries, this hidden gem of a bookstore dabbles in specialised books and magazines related to art, graphic design, animation, interior design, architecture, fashion and photography. The sheer amount of both old and up-to-date reading material in this cramped space can sometimes prove overwhelming. However, that inconvenience hasn’t deterred artists and designers from spending hours sifting through titles like ‘Instant: The Story of Polaroid’.
Book-lovers and bargain-hunters are all familiar with Book Xcess, the bookstore that undercuts all the major chains and brings forth hordes of readers every year with its Big Bad Wolf sale. It’s not the prettiest store, and stock can be unpredictable, but you’ll find fiction, hardbacks, reference works, children’s books and even games for at least 50 percent off (and sometimes up to 90 percent).
You can do up an entire Zen-looking home with just rattan furniture from this 85-year-old shop. Chop Sang Kee has existed since KL’s pre-war days where craftshops and clog makers abound, but don’t let this decrepit shop put you off. Look close enough and you’ll sniff great items out. Everything in the shop – trays, baskets and even bird cages – is woven from scratch. You won’t find mod pieces here but the owner cares for your spine – the beautiful rattan chairs, with their old-school design, sturdy frame and comfy backrest, will give you a better sitting posture for as long as they last.
This regional headphone retail store is the go-to destination for audiophiles on the prowl for professional earphones, custom in-ear monitors, headphone amplifiers and sound tuning cables. A who’s who in the headphone fraternity, ranging from usual suspects Audio-Technica, Shure and Grado to less established names like Hippo, Final Audio Design and Vision Ears, is available at this cosy outlet. Jaben also provides detailed consultation and demos for prospective buyers.
The man behind the name, Joe Rozario, is just as famous as his extensive vinyl store located in the basement of Amcorp Mall. What used to be a humble (but popular) stall in the mall’s weekend flea markets is now a bona fide shop of its own. Vinyl devotees flock there to peruse a mix of classic and contemporary vinyl, starting from a very reasonable RM5. Joe’s Mac also carries a selection of musical equipment, posters and antique paraphernalia, but the real draw is the music.
There’s no shortage of olde Chinese charm in this crockery shop stocked with flower-crested porcelain, oriental ceramics and Yuan dynasty-inspired plates. Buddha statues sit regally on top of the cabinets while the rear of the shop is packed with decorative chinaware that recalls family hand-me-downs. Every (fragile) item is placed cheek by jowl, and some along narrow walkways, but the shopowner of this 69-year-old institution on Jalan Tun HS Lee never forgets where he puts everything.
New homeowners unexcited about the prospect of another outing to IKEA should check out Lifeshop Atelier at neighbouring Kota Damansara. Expect to spot a variety of carefully curated novelty furniture and décor, ranging from antique art pieces to chic vintage French round chairs. Even festive pastries during the holiday seasons and fashion pieces like ethnic jewellery make cameos at this home and living outlet. Not one to rest on its laurels, the team behind Lifeshop Atelier has also opened a swanky looking flagship store in Ipoh.
Profiled by the New York Times, listed in many a guidebook – Peter Hoe Beyond is something of an institution. It occupies a whole floor of the Lee Rubber Building, and stocks an abundance of products from all over Asia that Peter himself has either designed or commissioned. You’ll find hand-dyed tablecloths, embroidered cushions, delicate silverware, and plenty of souvenir-worthy items to write home about.
Recro gives new life to furniture – they recreate, restore and revive carefully curated, one-of-a-kind vintage items. In a previous life, Recro was Second Charm, which began as a thrift store with trade-in pieces before custom orders, production and personalised services began taking off. Today, Recro is run by Aisha Shaharuddin; her Singaporean mother founded Second Charm and now manages the outlet in Singapore. Here, one will find Danish designs and ’60s-inspired mid-century retro furniture as well as a series of chic, industrial work and home accents such as grills and lamps. The pieces are handcrafted, limited and unique; form and functionality meet in colour, details and materials that are locally- and regionally-sourced and -made. Teak is the theme of the day; most of the furniture feature exquisite, hard-to-find Indonesian teak wood, along with brass caps, handcrafted handles and pencil legs. The aesthetic, too, screams attention to detail, clean lines and fine techniques.