On the surface, Singapore comes across as a behemoth of commerce and consumerism, between its towering CBD buildings dedicated to banking to the seemingly countless malls that dot the island. But like all things, there is more to Singapore than meets the eye. In recent years, Singaporeans have surged towards creative pursuits and the result is a thriving contemporary arts scene and a flurry of locally handcrafted goods. The Design Shop inside the Red Dot Design Museum is a great place to start your collection of locally designed contemporary art pieces, however, venture into these indie shops located across the city for even more unique gems.
Hiding inside Singapore’s School of the Arts (SOTA), is the hyper-adorable The Little Dröm Store. The high school is beautifully designed with wide welcoming steps that are as likely to have students chatting in small groups as putting on a performance of some kind, as well as a lot of greenery as part of the architecture of the building. Inside the actual store, you will find an eclectic, quirky collection of retro cameras, pins inspired by Singapore in the 1970s and 1980s and more. They also carry some of the same products as The Farm Store, meaning it is a convenient place to pick up souvenirs with its ideal location in the heart of the shopping district near Dhoby Ghaut.
Cat Socrates, first opened in 2008, is located in the Bras Basah neighborhood next door to the Singapore Public Library. This eclectic shop carries an incredibly diverse range of adorable, eye-catching products. Stocking everything from home decor and kitchenware to pretty dresses, plants, and even bicycles and a few food items, this is a great way to kill some time musing over how you can incorporate as many adorable, vintage things into your life as possible.
BooksActually, Singapore | Courtesy of Books Actually
Tiong Bahru is arguably Singapore’s original hipster enclave. The neighborhood is marked by its art deco architecture as a result of being a housing project in the 1930s. The neighborhood has been slowly gentrifying and is now home to several popular restaurants and several local fashion designers. It is here in Tiong Bahru that you will find Books Actually, half dedicated to print and half dedicated to vintage knickknacks that the proprietor has collected himself traveling around the island.
Instead of bringing back durian chocolate in the shape of a merlion or those terrible ‘Singapore is a FINE city’ t-shirts, visit The Farm Store and pick up quirky, adorable souvenirs that your friends and family will actually really like. Best yet, these products are crafted by local designers. Think earrings in the shape of moon cakes, pastel-colored magnets of famous local spots such as Maxwell Hainanese Chicken Rice and 328 Katong Laksa and pillowcases with art-deco architecture prints. The Farm Store is online only, so you have no excuse when you can do the shopping from your home or hotel.
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The Local People
Not a shop per se, but rather a moving pop-up market that is run by designers and artists who want to give young brands a platform to showcase their products and find their place within the contemporary arts scene. The Local People run events 2-3 times a month and this is the place to go to find the burgeoning designers who aspire to be the next Benny Ong or Carrie K.