Independent multi-label stores used to be the It place to shop, see and be seen at. They’ve also become increasingly rare. Keng Yang Shuen speaks to the folks keeping the concept alive about what makes a great retail experience.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Independent multi-label stores used to be the It place to shop, see and be seen at. They’ve also become increasingly rare. Keng Yang Shuen speaks to the folks keeping the concept alive about what makes a great retail experience. 

My Reading Room

Photography Vee Chin

Art Direction Adeline Eng

Hair & Makeup Sha Shamsi, using Nars 

Chic aesthetics aside, Le Salon is meant to put the customer at ease, with founder Goh Ling Ling personally hosting each customer and delivering purchases to one’s doorstep at no extra cost. 


Opened last August by veteran designer Goh Ling Ling along Chip Bee Gardens (#02-78, 43 Jalan Merah Saga), it’s – as Goh calls it – an “apartmentique”: a boutique-meets-apartment. Inside the homely space is a variety of eclectic brands that would appeal to the modern, fashion-loving boho: accessories specialist Dark Horse Vintage, contemporary jewellery label Alexandra Alberta, candle maker A Dose of Something Good and, of course, Goh’s own eponymous bag label. (PS: Fans of Wu can expect an eco-friendly line – which debuts later this year – made from plant-based materials that retain her simple yet sophisticated aesthetic.) 


“(Wouldn’t it be great to have) an offering of different lifestyle products and underground brands spread out across different parts of Singapore? We need to see more stores taking the risk of setting up at an (unexpected) address and creating interesting environments (that excite) shoppers.” 


“We don’t post too often on our social media platforms because our ethos is quality over quantity... With so many things in your face all the time, I don’t like the idea of posting for the sake of posting. If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it.” 


“Now, you enter a store and are greeted by inexperienced sales staff who (often) have no connection to the products or the brand. (This needs to change as) people are now buying less yet better (online) and the conventional way of shopping is dying.” 

My Reading Room

Photography Zaphs Zhang

Art Direction Adeline Eng

Hair & Grooming Benedict Choo, using 3INA 

With artisanal tableware, stationery, cult fragrances and plants. Shouten By Biro is a lifestyle extension of the design-driven, utilitarian menswear label Biro by Keng How (right) and Kage Chong. 


“Shouten” means shop in Japanese, and what’s sold in this tiny 310 sq ft-wide space tucked away in a corner on the third floor of Kitchener Complex is equally no-nonsense yet cool. Behind it are brothers Keng How and Kage Chong, who are also behind the utilitarian, made-in-Japan menswear label Biro that’s carried in store. 

Of the multi-label store’s curation, Keng How says: “We’re not afraid to introduce brands that are new to Singapore and unheard of here. We believe that through meticulous selection, people will slowly come to appreciate them.” 

Similar to Biro, most of the niche lifestyle products available are sourced from various prefectures in Japan and typically boast an artisanal background. Take Takashi Endo, a pottery label started by the eponymous artist from Kanagawa – sales orders have to be placed a year in advance as it’s a one-man production process. In the works: a subsidiary label of Biro that offers “economically priced” staples for both genders, set to launch later in the year. 


“Products that have more depth – when things are handmade or crafted with traditional techniques – tend to be more soulful, for lack of a better word. In Singapore’s retail scene, we don’t really lack anything. If something is not available here, you can always order it online. But the soul that comes about as a result of the hours of slow handiwork adds to the detailing that’s unique to handcrafted works.” 


“Global independent stores that we admire include (the 22-year-old cult fashion and lifestyle destination) Need Supply Co. in Virginia in the US, and the multi-label store Graphpaper in Tokyo. (Both are known to be) forward-thinking in their curation and presentation of products in store.” 


“We feel that most stores have neglected to cultivate customer loyalty. One way to do so is to educate customers on the products in a meaningful and sincere manner.” 

My Reading Room

Photography Zaphs Zhang

Art Direction Adeline Eng

Hair & Makeup Benedict Choo, using 3INA 

“I’m interested in preserving the humanistic element – the design and consideration that go into the making of a product – as well as the relationship between the maker, product and user,” says Winnie Li of EOMM. 


It’s easy to mistake EOMM – short for Emporium of the Modern Man – for a menswear boutique, but the lively store at 60 Somme Road also trades in womenswear and a wide assortment of elevated lifestyle products. Think non-slip hangers and goat-hair brushes from Germany,  and artisanal knives from Japan. Every label was personally curated by proprietor Winnie Li, and new to Singapore when EOMM opened in 2015. 

Come September, Li intends to reveal a completely revamped space with a new line-up of environmentally friendly, sustainable labels. It’s an approach already applied to her own women’s wear brand Ultramarine Studio, in which salvaged fabrics from Li’s family business are transformed into minimalist dresses and separates. For now, it’s business as usual (so yes, you can visit), with the store being transformed into a pop-up art gallery for two months starting July. 


“I am a strong believer that (when we purchase something), we are not only consuming the goods, but also the ideas and thoughts (that brands put into them). So to me, stores that educate their customers well on their products – albeit in a non-intrusive manner – will do well.” 


“Customer participation and communication are very important – it’s a two-way process and, a lot of the times, the relationships you build with your customer is really what keeps them coming back.” 


“(Different stores should) be working together towards a non-zero-sum game.”