25 May 2011

An Orchard Road fashion sojourn

A month ago my friend and fashion stylist Alina Batoni of viaStyle posted a Facebook message describing half a dozen new fashion stores opening in Singapore. Five of them are on Orchard Road which is the "Rodeo Drive" of Singapore.

After a nice lunch, a great coffee and my gorgeous husband's wonderful company, I set out to investigate these stores with a handful of criteria in mind such as: price range, design and quality, age group, demographics and store aesthetics.

Hilton’s Shopping Gallery

The Shopping Gallery is a delectable collection of elite brands like Balenciaga, Issey Miyake, Donna Karan, Bulgari and Patek Philippe. Whilst silent and ghostly, you can sense the glamour and elegance throughout.

Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair

A Swedish company whose company motto is “... dedication to traditional tailoring, pattern making and the old ways of the trade.”

Well that says it all. Fifth Avenue is certainly exclusive, has attention to detail and is right at home at the Shopping Gallery.

A monochrome store with limited injections of colour it is not a shop for the faint hearted. Black, grey and white rule with the occasional navy blue, pink or red peeking through. The designs are certainly to be admired for their uniqueness.

For women draping seems to be the current flavour whilst for men classic straight cuts for trousers and shirts with minimal amount of outer seams are just some of the samples on display. The clothes are fashion statements with an equal collection for both genders.

A slender and tall body shape would do the clothes justice particularly for women in order to carry off some of the heavy draping. The shop assistant played her part by wearing the designed clothes and accessorising with a pair of fashion eye frames without the glass. These eye frames are all the rage here at the moment.

Prices as expected are in the upper three figures.

For me personally it was just a little too much black in such a tropical climate but perfect for Melbournians, Londoners, New Yorkers and anywhere else where black rules.

So, if you love black, are looking for the quirky and unusual but not completely off the wall, then Fifth Avenue is worth a visit.

NB: Quite a contrast is Jilsander located opposite Fifth Avenue, which showcases a kaleidoscope of bright green, red, watermelon and orange interspersed with small splashes of black and white.

Images courtesy of www.whiteboardjournal.com

3.1 Philip Lim

Philip Lim is a Thai-born, US-raised fashioner designer, who debuted on the fashion world a mere six years ago. In a short period of time he has established himself internationally with his brand selling in 50 countries and over 400 stores worldwide.

His Singaporean flagship store is designed to evoke subtlety intertwined with exclusivity. With mature salespeople the store is elegant and refined. The colours are soft and neutral indicating a mature target market although the runway collection looks fresh and youthful.

The beauty of this designer is in the detail of the clothes and the fabrics. A closer inspection will reveal charming garments with a touch of quirky and intricate details. Individual pieces allow the customers to create their own style and mix and match. I never thought that shorts could be interesting but Philip Lim managed to do just that by using subtle embroidery details, making them perfect for any dressy casual occasion.

Since I live in bold colours, regardless of the season, Philip Lim is not for me. However, if you are in town give it a whirl and make your own mind up.

Summer 2011 Collection – www.31philliplim.com

Pacific Plaza

Lauren Jasmine

I loved it. Conceptualised and designed by two Singaporeans, Lauren Jasmine opened its doors to the public in November 2010.

Its focus is the career woman who wants to look professional yet still infuse her own creative style and individuality. The retro designed interior leads you to an elegant collection of dresses, jackets, skirts, tops and accessories.

Each piece is interesting and unique with lots of potential to mix and match and build a very nice professional wardrobe. It would be a stylist’s paradise with almost a one-stop shop.

Retro influenced fabrics and designs, here you will find the sheer asymmetrical overlay skirt, side cinched shirt, empire line tube dress and the reversible jacket to name a few. There is no shortage of asymmetry, overlays, pleats, layers, drapes and sheers.

Amongst all these gorgeous pieces you will come across ribbed knit singlets in every colour of the rainbow and tights. Not sure how they fit into a corporate wardrobe but here they are.

Lauren Jasmine has a broad ranging price from as little as $28 for the singlets to $200+ for structured and exclusive designs. Most certainly accessible to your corporate climbing woman.

The shop itself is spacious and has a great feel with nostalgic pieces adding to the overall atmosphere of the store.

A definite recommendation. You never know what treasure you might find.

Images courtesy of www.laurenjasmine.com

Mandarin Gallery


Named after the designer’s pet dog, Hansel originates in Singapore and is owned by local fashion designer Jo Soh. Hansel has won numerous local awards and dressed several local and international celebrities.

The small store within Mandarin Gallery Mall, focuses on ready-to-wear retro inspired styles. The brand is described as quirky and playful, often colourful yet with an understated elegance. That maybe so, but for me it was not a brand that inspired.

I couldn’t work out the target group, since I thought mature but the brand’s further description as a “blend of girlie charm and clever cheekiness” indicates 20s-30s. I found some of the garments conservative but not austere. A few too many ruffles and flounces for my liking but since I prefer solid colours and simpler designs, I am probably not the best person to recognise the qualities and designs of this brand.

A visit will satisfy any customer who can make up her own mind whether it’s a brand that suits her style or not.

Hansel’s Geometric Swan inspired by a vintage button – www.ilovehansel.com

Orchard Central

The Reckless Shop

Founded by three classmates who graduated together from Raffles Design Institute, Reckless Ericka was launched only three years ago. The target market was office workers who like a bit of avant-garde in their style.

Reckless Ericka then launched The Reckless Shop. A euro-centric focus carrying a variety of European labels as well as its own in-house line. Their advertised prices of $40-$80 in the window raises the curiousity and draws you into the store where an interesting collection of black and grey soft knits are on display.

As you move through the green and grey carpeting that creates a park-inspired footpath towards the rear of the store, you will discover the real avant-garde Reckless Ericka designs. These pieces range around $300.

The shop whilst not big is kept clear of excesses in order to only show off what is of interest. Unfortunately being tailed by not one shop assistant but two, it made my experience less appealing. I kept looking over my shoulder and found it difficult to focus on the merchandise.

Spring/Summer ’11 Fleur de Sel Collection – www.recklessericka.com

These high-end retailers certainly deserve a certain amount of respect for their capability to constantly create, invent and commercialise their runway trends. Fashion is definitely art.

14 May 2011

Singapore Zoo

Located in the heart of Singapore and among 28 hectares of lush rainforest-like environment you will find a conglomeration of 305 animal species.  With a total of 3,700 specimens of which 36% are endangered species, the zoo is a feast for the eyes.
There's your typical delightful collection of zebras, giraffes and big cats mixed in with endangered species such as the Sumatran orangutans, Asiatic lions, Indian rhinos and Komodo dragons to name a few. 
This is Trinity's eighth visit to a zoo.  At the tender age of two and a half she is already becoming a professional zoo visitor.  From the first visit when she was a mere 14 months of age, she has been captivated with animals.  The first trip we made to Singapore Zoo, we were concerned that Trinity would not cope with a full day of walking and missing her afternoon nap.  She proved such a trooper.  Arriving at 9.15am, she carried on till closing time at 6pm.  Whilst John and I were done for, Trini pipes up "more animals mummy!!".  Within five minutes of sitting in a taxi, she was out for the count until the next morning.  Now that's my girl, a traveller at heart.
I have been to zoos a few times before but I can honestly say I have never really paid attention to the animals' stories.  Beyond the visual feast of seeing the grandeur of an elephant or height of a giraffe or the beautiful mane of a lion, I did not connect with their plight and how many of them are critically endangered species.
What made it different this time around?  Perhaps my approach in really experiencing Singapore and everything that it has to offer.  Perhaps knowing that I will write a blog about it and wanting to impart my learnings to those who read them.  Whatever it is, I am now aware and it is sad at how with all the intelligence we garner we seem to have the power to create and destroy almost all in the one breath.
Many of the endangered species lose their homes due to deforestation, fires, poaching and persecution by farmers.  We encroach on their homes with little regard to how they are being affected.  A sad case indeed knowing that we have driven many wonderful species into extinction or near extinction.
However, to bring some fun back into this article, here are some fun facts about some of the animals we have encountered.
Cheetahs - although fast runners, they have the problem of physically overheating.  They must rest after each run for about a minute or else they can die from overheating.
Elephants - are led by an experienced matriarch, whilst the males leave to lead solitary lives or join bull herds.  Imagine the testosterone levels there.  Pregnancies last between 20-22 months with the longest on record being 25 months.  At birth, a baby elephant weights between 80-120kgs.
Gharials - an ancient line of crocodiles believed to have been in existence for the last 65 million years.  It can grow to 5m in length. 
Giant Tortoises - can weigh up to 360kg.  With a long life span the oldest known tortoise was named Harriett.  She was caught on the Galapagos Island in the mid 1830s and lived to a ripe old age of 176.
Giraffes - their coat pattern are like our fingerprints.  Each one different and unique.  There are 9 subspecies of giraffes in Africa, each one differentiated by their coat patterns.  They sleep a maximum of 4 hours and go into a deep sleep for only one minute each time.  Whilst very tall, giraffes have the same number of neck bones as humans (that being 7).  Maximum recorded height was 6.1m.
Komodo Dragon - these ginormous lizards are the largest of its kind, growing up to 3m in length and weighing as much as 166kg.  Since they have to fight amongst themselves for food, it pays to be able to eat fast.  A Komodo dragon is capable of eating a 30kg wild boar within 17 minutes.  Their throats and jaw muscles are adapted to swallowing large chunks of food.  Let's not cross their paths.
Lions - with a roar that can be heard 8km away and capable of sleeping 20 hours a day, this magnificent animal is the pride of the jungle.  Young males are tossed out of the pride at three years of age and together they form wandering groups who challenge males in other prides.  The aging males get driven out in order to take over the pride.
Orangutans - once they swung the trees of Java through Laos and into China.  Today they can only be found in Sumatra and Borneo.  If deforestation continues at a rapid rate then in as little as 10 years time they will only ever be found in zoos.  The Singapore zoo has successfully bred 37 orangutans who as part of an animal exchange programme have found new homes in Australia, Japan, Malaysia, NZ & Sri Lanka.
Rhinos - these fellas easily weigh in at 1 tonne but is countered by a pee wee brain that weighs only 600g.  Their protective skin can be as thick as 5cm.  Their horns are made of a mass of hair stuck together for which they are often hunted to be either traded, used for traditional medicine or in some Middle Eastern countries to make dagger handles.
White Tigers - are Bengal tigers and descendants of Mohan.  Caught in 1951 by a Maharajah in India, Mohan lived in the palace all of his life.  Father of many cubs he died at age 20.  The white tigers have a unique set of genes.  They exist because of a rare recessive variant which can occur with the correct combination of parents.  One in 10,000 tigers will be white.  With a jumping range of 10m they can reach speeds of up to 70km/h.
Zebras - don't be fooled by these monochrome animals.  They are not all the same.  Each zebra has different patterns unique to the individual.  One of the subspecies called Quagga became extinct in the late 19th century.  This species only had the B&W stripes on the front part of the body.  The rear end was just plain brown.  Here's an internet image of a quagga.

Quagga specimen on display at the The Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich
Image courtesy of www.carolsnotebook.wordpress.com
And so I've reached the end from what is possibly one of my longest blogs.  I have really been touched by the animals and the zoo and pretty much expect to return soon.  Partly for visitors to experience it and partly for Trini who often asks about going to see the animals.