Breathe, relax and shop

Boutique Fairs Singapore (above) was founded by Mrs Charlotte Cain in 2002.
Boutique Fairs Singapore (above) was founded by Mrs Charlotte Cain in 2002.PHOTOS: BOUTIQUE FAIRS SINGAPORE
Boutique Fairs Singapore was founded by Mrs Charlotte Cain (above) in 2002.
Boutique Fairs Singapore was founded by Mrs Charlotte Cain (above) in 2002.PHOTOS: BOUTIQUE FAIRS SINGAPORE

This year's Boutique Fairs Singapore has a break room for customers to enjoy refreshments

Popular shopping event Boutique Fairs Singapore has become so big, it now has a room for shoppers to catch their breath in.

For its 36th edition from Nov 15 to 17, the bi-annual fashion, art and design-led shopping event has introduced a new room aptly named Breathe.

Inside the break room of sorts, visitors will find a cafe set up by sustainable furniture store Arthur Zaaro.

The raw-wood furniture pieces can seat 60 to 80 people.

Refreshments from a vendor, cafe-caterer Fine Palate, will be sold.

A second cafe area run by Violet Oon Kitchen sits in another room.

"Boutique Fairs keeps growing in intensity. I just wanted a space that is a little more airy and not so packed with brands, where customers could sit back and relax," says founder Charlotte Cain, 59.

  • BOOK IT /BOUTIQUE FAIRS SINGAPORE

  • WHERE: Levels 2 and 3 F1 Pit Building, 1 Republic Boulevard

    WHEN: Nov 15, 9am to 8pm; Nov 16, 10am to 8pm; and Nov 17, 10am to 6pm

    ADMISSION: Free

You can still shop in the Breathe room. It will house 30 eco-friendly and sustainable brands (compared with the usual 50 in a room) which are part of the slow movement, including socially conscious businesses The Social Space and The Nail Social. The former sells items such as recyclable cutlery and bamboo straws.

Mrs Cain has also curated workshops and talks for the fair. Hosted by participating vendors, they will take place inside Breathe as well - within a circular installation with a vertical green wall - and explore topics ranging from sustainability to mental health.

One such vendor is local youth charity Beyond Social Services, which has invited community volunteers and beneficiaries to speak on giving back to the community.

"We realised some of the vendors have interesting stories to tell that we'd like them to share with a larger audience," says Mrs Cain, who has sponsored 15 charities and social enterprises to set up booths at the event.

With more than 300 brands taking part this year, it is Boutique Fairs' largest turnout since its inception in 2002.

The debut edition had been a small affair - with just 17 expatriate-owned brands.

There was already a number of pop-up sales back then, recalls Denmark-born Mrs Cain, who had followed her Canadian husband here for work in 1989.

To make Boutique Fairs stand out, she organised it at Fort Canning Centre.

The fair has grown year on year since.

In 2012, it moved to its current home at the F1 Pit Building because of the sheer volume of vendors.

Now, the fair is held across seven rooms on two floors over 10,160 sq m of retail space.

"It just seems that in the past 10 to 12 years, the number of designers in Singapore has increased by leaps and bounds. I could fill up several more rooms of curated vendors because there's just so much more talent here."

The vendors are now split evenly between Singaporean and expat designers and nearly all are Singapore-based.

Since 2017, Boutique Fairs has also collaborated with the Singapore Textile and Fashion Federation (TaFF) to curate a room called Edit, housing Singapore brands and members of TaFF.

This year, these include designers Esther Tay and Sabrina Goh as well as veteran maison Thomas Wee in his first attendance at the fair.

Other local brands such as Reckless Ericka, Carrie K and designer Wykidd Song's new label Akinn are peppered across the rest of the rooms.

There are new, emerging designers too. It has been rewarding to see young brands grow, says Mrs Cain, who remembers labels such as resortwear designer Simone Irani "literally bringing suitcases of stuff" in early editions.

Irani has two stores in Singapore - at Tanglin Mall and Cluny Court.

"We also wanted to tell tourists this is what Singapore has to offer," says Mrs Cain, adding that she receives e-mail inquiries from tourists who plan specifically to be in town for Boutique Fairs.

"It's another way of putting Singapore on the map."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2019, with the headline 'Breathe, relax and shop'. Print Edition | Subscribe