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 and check out these stores.
If you’re confused, 17A Select Store until recently was known as The Off Day & Snackfood. A quick rebranding exercise and it’s now 17A Select Store, specialising in fashion, home decor and general curiosities. The super-street concept store brings in unique labels such as Schott Bros NYC, Supreme, Jungmaven as well as homegrown brands like CheeseDenim and Suavecito Pomade.
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.
For beers enthusiasts, this is the best bottle shop in town. For the uninitiated, this is a bottle shop in which to educate yourself. Run by the good fellas behind beerbeer.org, Ales & Lagers focuses solely on craft brews (none of your commercial beers here). Currently, they stock about 60 different types of craft brews in bottles and the variety is constantly expanding. What’s more, they also provide some barstools and tables so you can buy and drink on the spot.
Stylist and designer Allien Gan has taken over a small corner of Publika, and with great results. His edit of streetwear and accessories, designed by himself and other regional designers, is cool but not intimidatingly so – there’s a line of simple, sharp leather bags, alphabet totes, slouchy T-shirts and slinky tops. If you’re looking for a slightly funkier outfit for a night out, that can be arranged too – Allien’s recent collection that showed at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week is available in store.
Bang Bang Geng is not a camera shop. Owner Chin Koon Yik enshrines his impressive camera collection (there’s a Kodak Autograph 3A made in 1914) on shelves and none are for sale. The dozens of analogue cameras attest to his cultish hobby of collecting anything photographic, from magazines, films and accessories to books. Chin’s aim is to share his film photography knowledge so the shop’s main product is his expertise.
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’.
We’ve heard of people driving across the city to do their weekly shop in BIG, and we don’t blame them. It has everything you need in a supermarket: excellent stock, good organisation, well-lit and spaced aisles and a whole lot more. Like a florist. And an oyster bar.
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 want to party in Changkat, but drinks are expensive and you’re broke. Do you have RM20? Great, that’ll buy you six cans of beer at Bottlez Houz opposite Bakita – you can mix and match at RM10 for three cans, including Chang, Foster’s and Hollandia. Do you have five friends? Great, get everyone to fork out RM20, pool that cash and buy a bottle of Jack Daniel’s priced at RM110 (cue gasp). A bottle of Bombay Sapphire will set you back only RM80 (that’s the price of a diluted ‘tall’ jar of Long Island at most bars and clubs in Changkat, by the way); Johnnie Walker sells at RM100; and a bottle of Chivas goes for RM149.
Christmas comes early for young’uns and the young at heart during visits to Carousel, a vintage London-style toy store with giant window displays and a couple of life-sized Nutcracker figurines at the entrance. The welcome appearance of model airplanes, jack-in-a-box, rocking horses and toy soldiers, among other playthings from a bygone era, elevates this vibrant red-and-white shop beyond the ubiquitous toy chains in town.
If your grandmother failed to bequeath you with adequate dresses, head over to Chalk. Ok, we’re not going to lie, Chalk has only a range of pre-loved reworked items, vintage bags and accessories, but the selection is large enough for a leisurely afternoon of browsing. Judging from its façade it looks exactly like one of the cheap and cheerful stores among the de facto shops, but inside, it’s like a wardrobe of hidden gems
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 will give you a better sitting posture for as long as they last.