By Ces Oreña-Drilon
In the middle of Singapore’s shopping mecca is Design Orchard, which aims to give the city-state’s young fashion and lifestyle brands prime exposure along Orchard Street, famous for its retail spaces featuring the world’s most recognizable brands.
Design Orchard combines both retail and incubation spaces on prime real estate to groom the next Singaporean homegrown brand that can make it big overseas, among a bevy of hopefuls.
It’s not just a one-stop shop to showcase authentic Singapore brands, it’s also a haven for budding designers to hone their skills and talents.
“Design Orchard is a multi-government agency effort spearheaded by Enterprise Singapore , JTC and Singapore Tourism Board (STB), “says Elyza Jan Mendoza Carbajal who is with the marketing division of the Singapore Fashion Council, (formerly known as Textile and Fashion Federation) which manages the space.
Carbajal cannot overemphasize the importance of Design Orchard’s strategic location. “This whole retail space is in the heart of Orchard, one of Singapore’s fashion destinations where both locals and tourists go to do their shopping. It’s really expensive to rent out your own store in the malls. What we do is create this space for them, even if it’s just one rack, two racks to give them exposure to both locals and tourists,” she says.
The government’s support doesn’t just focus on providing valuable retail display counters. The council supports its homegrown brands through multiple efforts – by providing venues to engage their communities, co-working spaces, workshops and even the latest fabric and accessories.
Design Orchard is every struggling fashion startup‘s dream. Carbajal says “having touchpoints and face-to-face time with their customers” is also important to a young brand’s growth.
Brands still have to prove themselves worthy to be featured at Design Orchard and rent isn’t free, although it’s highly subsidized. A pitching session is scheduled twice a year. “Every six months, we have an open call so during that time we select these brands that have to pitch their ideas to us and we really have to choose using the 3 pillars that we have — Asian craftsmanship, innovation technology as well as sustainability, “says Carbajal, a Filipina who grew up in Singapore.
Design Orchard has been around for five years now, after having survived the difficult pandemic years. With borders reopening, the store is seeing more tourists coming in. “It’s kind of known to be a one-stop shop for all of your local designs because Design Orchard only hosts local brands, the designers are Singaporean or a Permanent Resident (PR) and the brand has to be registered in Singapore.”
Every quarter, the fashion council also holds a town hall for the homegrown brands to learn about new opportunities or even get the chance to embark on cross brand collaborations. They also get feedback from customer and staff surveys.
On the second floor of Design Orchard is a maker’s studio and a co-working space called The Cocoon Space. The maker’s studio is rented out to members for their sampling and prototype needs. It s equipped with industrial grade and overlocking machines, not just the ordinary sewing machine.
The place is also versatile. Panels are adjustable to fit different configurations depending on the needs of brands at a particular time.
Popular brands are those that upcycle or those that feature a unique Singapore story like Photo Phactory, which uses the iconic shop houses in its products and even on its apparel.
Design Orchard has everything to help make a brand make it big. Housed in an eye-catching 3-story building designed by award-winning architecture firm WOHA Architects, is a space where creativity, commerce and collaboration converge.