Orchard Road may be touted as the iconic shopping belt in Singapore but there are heaps of cool independent stores where you can find local labels, vintage memorabilia and random knick-knacks. Here are six hipper-than-thou shops to check out, along with one must-buy item from each to bring home.
Armed with only $3,000 and a bedroomturned- office, founder Dennis Tay started Naiise in 2013 with the simple goal of making good design more accessible to the public. This lifestyle store now stocks over 1,000 local and international brands selling cute stationery, household items, local books and more across its six locations.
Get this Singlish Card Deck, SayWhat? ($25). This deck of playing card teaches you Singlish terms to use in everyday life – perfect as gifts for visiting friends.
Here’s a throwback to your salad days. Check out the kitschy trinkets from When I Was Four – four being the tender age when children still look at life through rose-tinted glasses. Certainly, owner Tan Li Ling hopes to stir up fuzzy warm childhood memories through her small quantity of handmade products by bringing back familiar pieces and designs from simpler days. Most of the products are from her in-house brand, with a small collection from local designers such as Chirashi Bomb and Typesettingsg.
Get this Kopi bag ($19.90). Watch people do a double take when you carry this lifelike tote that resembles the takeaway coffee plastic bags you usually get at a local coffeeshop.
No home is complete without an art piece or two and that’s where Wandewoo comes in. The brainchild of Singaporean space stylist Sonny Boey and his two siblings, this home and lifestyle accessories store stocks one-of-a-kind items made by talented designers from around the world.
Get this Decorative art sculptures ($120-$820). These stunning brightly coloured pieces – all are hand-painted and crafted from fibreglass resin – instantly liven up any room.
If the Japanese term ‘wabi-sabi’ means anything to you, then you’ll probably already know Supermama. The store specialises in porcelain homeware – by both local and Japanese craftsmen – whose beauty lies in its flaws and its delicateness. In other words, the wabi-sabi mantra of ‘imperfect, incomplete and impermanent’. Think asymmetrical bowls, dimpled cups and painstakingly handpainted plates inspired by modern Singapore culture. Because most items are available in limited quantities, your best bet’s to pop in and find out what’s in stock.
Get this Star Wars kopi set ($36). The traditional green and beige coffee cup and saucer set is given a contemporary twist – with designs inspired by Star Wars: The Last Jedi, no less. The Force is definitely strong with this one.
Since its inception in 2010, The Farm Store has been collaborating with local up-and-coming designers to showcase Singapore design at its best. Each piece you find in the store links back to our Singaporean identity – whether it’s a chilli crab coaster or a vintage Peranakan tile table runner – so if you’re looking for a unique keepsake, you’re in luck.
Get this Strangely Singaporean Notebooks ($6.90). Available in 46 designs, this series celebrates distinctly Singaporean traits – you might just identify with these quirky qualities.
Dim lighting and a crowded display space lend this independent retail shop a cosy feel. Cat Socrates carries a variety of knick-knacks such as terrariums (and planters for making your own), tote bags, clothes, homeware, fabric, books by homegrown writers, postcards, Singapore-themed products like local music albums, and, of course, a section of cat-related merchandise. Bonus points if you manage to lure resident cat Chestnut out from his favourite spot under a red table. Cat Socrates’ second branch, in Katong, also has a store kitty: Zoo-Zoo.
Get this Assorted planners ($12.80). Do you really need another planner, you say? If it has a shy feline with the tiniest party hat on the cover, the answer is unequivocally yes – there’s no two ways about it.