July 18, 2016
Mandarin Gallery’s easily one of Orchard Road’s gems. Some of the more obvious reasons include dining establishments like The Providore, Wild Honey and Antoinette – definitely places to be seen at – but the less obvious reasons you might not know about are the under-the-radar shopping finds that are waiting to be unearthed, only if you venture a bit deeper into the mall’s lush corridors.
We’ve done the exploring for you already, and picked out these three shopping destinations within Mandarin Gallery, both new and old, that you might not have been aware of. There’s a story behind each one as well, so read on to see what you’ve been missing out on; then zoom straight in on these stores the next time you’re in town.
Choo Yilin Jewellery
#02-03 Mandarin Gallery
Open daily 11am-9pm
This local jewellery brand’s second store at Mandarin Gallery is its new flagship, focused on showcasing Choo Yilin’s range of modern jewellery crafted from Type A Burmese jadeite, gemstone-based designs, as well as offering jade bangle customisation services and collection of purchases made on their e-commerce platform.
Camellia Drop Earrings and Camellia Open-ended Ring. Images: chooyilin.com
Choo Yilin was actually a political analyst before starting her eponymous brand, a completely different world from jewellery designer. For a time, she lived in Thailand where she was involved in non-profit community work, and this was when she decided to start a working partnership with the hill tribe artisans there to create jewellery. “I wanted to marry the two disparate worlds which I loved – social work and luxury design – and that was how I started working with the hill tribe artisans for our very first Choo Yilin collection,” she tells us.
Emblem Jade Studs and Sakura Garland Necklace. Images: chooyilin.com
Using jade to create a jewellery collection targeted at the modern woman seems an odd choice, but Choo tells us that her brand’s aim is to change existing perceptions. “Jade is, historically, an incredibly significant East-Asian icon. It’s mentioned in almost every piece of traditional Chinese literature and has been revered for being a symbol of protection and love. In this generation though, jade is more often associated with our grandparents and has unfortunately carried the connotation of being old-fashioned,” she says. “We hope that our modern interpretations of jade jewellery attempt to challenge the present notion of heirloom pieces and reinvent an Asian icon into a jewellery staple.”
Next month, look out for new pieces that truly celebrate an important part of local heritage. “Our upcoming Peranakan collection in August is one that I’m very very proud of – it truly showcases the mastery and skills of our artisans and is a testament of our dedication to capturing fine details in our jewellery,” Choo tells us. “It’s really one to watch so keep your eyes peeled for the launch!”
Fleurs de Tropic
#04-28 Mandarin Gallery
Open daily 11am-8.30pm
Previously known as Tulisan by Plus 62, Fleurs de Tropic is now a multi-label store that continues to feature mainly the hand-sketched designs from Tulisan, but also leather bags from Loevstyle, and lifestyle products from Ruma Manis – all hailing from Indonesia.
Loevstyle 2loev Mini in Black/Red, Ruma Manis ceramic crockery. Images: Instagram @fleursdetropic
“The products are handmade, and only available in limited quantities,” Farah Suraputra, one of the store’s founders, tells us. “They can make very unique South East Asian souvenirs, and they are products that are created by team of passionate & creative Indonesians, and last for a long time.”
The Tulisan pieces are undoubtedly the ones that take centre stage. “Besides its gorgeous prints, Tulisan’s line of bags, accessories and homeware are hand-sketched by artist Melissa Sunjaya, and silkscreened using water-based inks onto cotton canvas which is chlorine-free and coated for water resistance, using energy-efficient manufacturing methods,” Suraputra tells us. “And on top of that, each bag has an individuality about it; each print comes with a little tale, and is only available in limited numbers.”
Tulisan tote and Cube pouches. Images: Instagram @tulisansg
Look out for the Tulisan Bio Fantasy line, featuring prints that take inspiration from… microbes. The result is a rather abstract design that look mostly floral in nature, to make a strong statement especially when in bold shades. As Suraputra explains, “The inspiration and research behind Bio Fantasy came from personal observations on the interconnectedness of the universe. Just as cells communicate with each other to continuously deliver messages throughout the body, so too do humans as we relay information to each other.”
#04-27 Mandarin Gallery
Open daily 11am-8pm
Japanese lifestyle store Atomi has been at its current space in Mandarin Gallery since the mall opened in 2009 – the only difference is that it’s expanded by about three times in space and many more times in inventory, in the years since.
Singaporean Andrew Tan and Japanese Mitsuko Murano are the married couple who run it, and as Tan tells us, it all began from his numerous shopping hauls while he was in Japan – in his constant quest to source for unique, made-in-Japan items, he eventually decided to just bring them in to Singapore himself.
Plenty of careful thought and curation go into the furniture, apparel and lifestyle items on sale at Atomi, to ensure only the highest-quality Japanese-made items that embody a certain lifestyle are offered to the customers. “I’m not selling a product, because everyone will buy a glass, a plate, and all those things,” Tan says. “But I’m selling a lifestyle – I’ll tell you the story and maker behind it. And that’s what makes the whole story more interesting.”
Ouur Collection products
For example, home and lifestyle products from the Ouur Collection, a brand borne out of a collaboration between Japanese furniture brand Actus and Danish media company Ouur, with the products entirely made in Japan. Tan showed us a luxuriously understated colour pencil set created with Kinfolk magazine as an example of a product that might resonate with younger consumers. “It’s reaching out to a different group of people who still believe in the organic feel of things,” he says.
To & Fro travel pouches
There are also the ridiculously lightweight travel pouches from To & Fro – you have to feel them to believe how insubstantial they weigh – in a variety of cheery colours to add both form and function to the way you keep your things organised.
Step into Atomi if you want to explore unabashedly Japanese items like these and a more organic way of life. “There will always be a space for electronics. But we just focus on serving up an exclusive feel, for people who sometimes just feel like writing on paper, feel like scribbling something, doing sketches… the touch and the feel (of everything) is very different,” Tan sums up.
Main image: Choo Yilin/Mandarin Gallery Facebook page