Sun, 01 Jun 2003

Hitting Singapore's hip fashion trail

Kenny Santana, Contributor, Singapore

When Singapore's young and trendy go on the prowl for the hippest, funkiest fashions, they head to two favorite hunting grounds.

Clustered among the famous boutiques are those serving members of Generation Y (the X-ers now having been passed by), offering the cheaper, brandless goods loved by their target market.

Located in and around Orchard Road, one of the most famous streets in the world, the two areas of choice are brimming with outlets to help put paid to a monthly allowance.

Earning most favored shopping status among Singapore's youth are the Annex in The Heeren (Orchard Road #19-01), and Level One in Far East Plaza (14 Scotts Rd) that only opened late last year.

Most of the designers are twenty-something yuppies, some of them aspiring John Gallianos fresh out of college. Don't be surprised to find that the store owners are just as young, bringing their own savvy to identifying what young shoppers want.

With about 90 stores cramming the basement of Far East Plaza, Level One has emerged as the place to go for young Singaporeans.

"We could find all the looks we want here, from hip hop to preppy chic," said Amala and Ruth, both 15, who were stopped during a visit to the stores.

"Not to mention the quality is very good."

They admitted they could spend up to S$100 (Rp 490,000) per visit.

Shopping for best buys is about strategy, and Level One's stores have a little bit of everything to outfit shoppers from head to toe.

There is lingerie and underclothes at Sheer Romance and Forever Love, and even that sleek black dress to cover them up at Womb, the best designed store (and each item on sale is guaranteed to be one of only 10 on sale nationwide). If you want to satisfy the Imelda Marcos in you, head over to Noda, a shoe heaven on earth with prices starting from S$19.

Clothes? Check. Shoes? Check. Then it may be time to trim your hair ($15 and up) at the funkily designed Haru Scene before heading off to the party. Or not so fast: You can finish off your total look with gorgeous silver pieces from Silvera or handmade jewelry from Artiris.

Guys need not fear being left out for they can also indulge themselves. The best place to start is 37 Degrees, my own personal favorite where cool T-shirts sell for about $30 and some sale items come for a real steal of $10. Lovers of streetwear should visit Hooked Clothings for graphic-based tees ($29.90). Pair them with the jeans sold at Pepper Plus for $20; the very reasonable price might explain why this store is crowded all the time, especially on weekends.

Once your shopaholic needs are sated, get the best kaya (the rich jam made of coconut cream and eggs) on toast in Singapore at Ya Kun Kaya Toast. Buy a jar or more to take home with you. Other food stalls include Ice Gotcha, a juice corner using catchy names for their beverages, which are also said to be good for detox cleansing and slimming programs.

Annex is on the fourth and fifth levels of The Heeren, an older shopping mall. The first store to welcome you at the entrance is Ego, with Korea-made clothes from $19.90. There is also On the Street, but it does not have much to offer guys.

While here, visit the FourSkin where, as the store's provocative name indicates, there are lots of edgy tees with edgy taglines. The prices of $40 and up are not that cool, however, but a pair of their slippers will only leave a $5 dent in your wallet.

If vintage is what takes your fancy, make a beeline for Oppt shop, where way-back-when tees and shirts sell for $39 to $49 each. Expensive indeed, but they look like value for money on their hangers.

Other must-visit stores are Re-/Barcode selling sandals (from $59) to shirts ($39), Footloose, with all kinds of footwear and 77th Street, the biggest store around selling unisex clothes. Actually, the best value for money at 77th Street is the ultra- cool collection of water bottles, bearing snazzily drawn cartoons, witty self-statements and retro but simple designs.

Annex also offers enticing home appliances at Alternatives, with cheeky slogans such as "Food Not War" on its plates. Want to impress your bedmate? Buy the pillows with the saucy messages and, if that does not do the trick, try giving him or her a gift certificate.

A different place to eat is Graffiti Cafe, its decor consisting of wall graffiti made by whoever is brave enough to leave their mark. Order the surprisingly tasty fried noodles for just $3.

Not all the stores are worth a visit. Give Tattoo by Andy a miss, its tastelessness is defined by the fact that it sells tacky suede shirts. None of its collection is worth plopping down some dollars for, unless you live in an 1980s time warp or are flamboyant soap star Anwar Fuadi.

You will probably feel personally satisfied that you did not resort to buying Louis Vuitton or Gucci or, God forbid, Versace to impress your peers. The lesson is that it takes a bit of creativity and patience to experiment with fashion. That, of course, and the money to spend.