Singapore’s Orchard Road, with its architecturally spectacular malls, is one of the world’s great retail districts, but it has long lacked a local feel. As shoppers moved from one colossus of commerce to the next, perusing brands from Armani to Zegna, the only place they were likely to see a Singaporean name was in a food court. Last year, however, one store began to change that.
Opened last January, the government-subsidized Design Orchard offers only labels created by Singaporean designers. The complex boasts a first-floor store operated by local retailer Naiise that sells apparel, accessories, and souvenirs from 72 small brands; a second-floor coworking area and incubator for young designers called The Cocoon Space that’s managed by the Singaporean Textile and Fashion Federation; and an amphitheater-style rooftop garden. Among the fledgling brands sold here are Rocket Eyewear, a brother-and-sister-run sunglasses company, and The Animal Project, which makes bags and accessories featuring animal patterns drawn by children with special needs.
“We want their stories to begin with, ‘My first store was in Design Orchard,’” says general manager Chin Hock Lau. “It’s part support, part guidance, in terms of how we help them.”
Before its debut, Design Orchard held an open call during which a panel of designers, industry experts, and tourism officials selected brands to be included. A second call was completed in October, and Lau anticipates that as the next round of designers comes in, 50 to 60 percent of the original class will “graduate” to their own stores. “We hope that Design Orchard bears fruit,” he says, “and they grow their skills, get their own locations, and go out there and [compete with] H&M and Michael Kors.” designorchard.sg