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Health, Beauty & Fashion

New in town

The growing retail landscape in Singapore has led to many expatriates setting up fashion businesses here
The Straits Times - September 14, 2012
By: Rohaizatul Azhar
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New in town PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

When it comes to designer and mainstream labels, Singapore shoppers are spoilt for choice. But where can one find a unique outfit?

Besides emerging home-grown labels, some are now turning to a growing group of small-scale fashion set-ups by expatriates.

Buoyed by the growing retail scene here, at least five independent labels have been launched in the past year by foreigners who have made Singapore their home.

Unlike the usual stores or pop-up events where expat vendors stock merchandise sourced from their home countries or during their travels, these new ventures offer customised clothes and accessories they design themselves.

The workmanship comes at a price - a pair of custom-made leather shoes, for example, will set you back at least $400 - but these retailers are mindful of keeping prices realistic for the sensible Singapore woman.

Irish venture capitalist Reyhan Perera, who co-owns Zardoze, a Singapore-based womenswear label, says: "There is a huge market for women seeking practical fashion. They are regular women who want to look good but cannot relate to hefty price tags."

One of these expat designers is American Kyle Keefe, who specialises in custom-made shoes and accessories made from leather and exotic skins.

The 25-year-old moved here in 2010 to work as a public relations and marketing manager, but quit her job last year to start the company.

"Singapore is making its mark in the global fashion industry and is slowly establishing herself as a leader in the regional retail scene," says Ms Keefe.

"With so many designer brands readily available, more Singaporeans are starting to appreciate niche brands and look for those that offer personalised services."

The attentive service is one draw of these new set-ups. For instance, Ms Keefe will meet her clients to measure their feet and discuss design ideas when they place an order for her shoes.

"The fact that I build a personal relationship with my customers while offering them quality custom-made products is my unique selling point," she says.

Best of all, Singapore's sound infrastructure and ideal location make it an ideal springboard to other parts of Asia, a growing market that retailers around the world are eyeing.

As Madagascan-born French designer Hasina Raonimahary, who owns a womenswear label, puts it: "Singapore is a good place to launch a fashion business because it is so central. It is easily accessible to countries such as India or Indonesia, where we can source for fabrics and pattern-makers."

She adds: "The cosmopolitan society also means people are more receptive to new retail concepts."

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