Pop-ups with multi concepts

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 1, 2013

The humble apron, interpreted eight ways by home-grown artists and designers, is the focus of the latest multidisciplinary collaboration in town.

Good Craft is a weekend-long pop-up gallery in Waterloo Street which opens tonight. The eight aprons are on sale there, ranging from an elegant, minimalist apron-dress to mixed media and pop-art painted aprons that look like works of art.

Other recent examples of local creatives joining forces are bar-cafe The Tuckshop's gallery of craft products curated by artist management firm The General Company and Atomi x Bar + Cafe, a week-old pop-up outlet at Isetan Scotts that involves furniture and product retailer Atomi and three food and beverage merchants.

Designers and retailers interviewed say such collaborations are all the rage now because they allow local brands from different sectors to leverage on one another's strengths and following.

Fashion designer Elyn Wong of the Stolen label welcomed the chance to participate in Good Craft when approached by its proponents, graphic designer James Teo and craft-goods designer Fahmy Ishak, who has his own brand, FIN.

Wong, 37, says: "Collaboration forces me to think outside of my comfort zone, out of a fashion designer's point of view, and opens my mind to other possibilities.

"At the same time, a lot of the people in the show are artists and illustrators and a lot of the people who will come to the show will be their fans, who will then get a chance to see the fashion perspective too."

Fahmy, 37, designed eight aprons out of raw, unbleached cotton and leather, which Teo, 41, gave to Wong and seven other artists to put their stamp on.

Wong recreated the apron in Stolen's signature romantic, minimalist and back- less style using calico toile, the fabric used for the first fitting of a dress. It flows into a floor-length skirt with a pleated back.

Good Craft runs till Sunday. The others who put their spin on the aprons include tattoo artists Hounds Of The Baskervilles and artist and sign painter Sabotage. The aprons will be on sale for $180 to $680.

Teo and Fahmy also created their own apron, which is available for purchase. They have made a limited run of 30 navy blue aprons, which are made of wabash, denim and leather, and are for sale at $88 each at Good Craft's opening today at 7pm or $95 from tomorrow onwards.

Mr Colin Chen, 30, creative director of The General Company, says that pop-ups are a cost-effective way to get designers' products into customers' hands, given how steep shop rentals are here.

"Brands are realising that they can do a lot more when they come together, pooling resources and bringing more people to the store," he says. His company helps local labels such as his own bag and accessories brand fabrix to promote themselves.

It has an ongoing collaboration with The Tuckshop, which opened in Guillemard Road in August. It serves fusion finger food such as sauteed tiger prawn with fried mantou and locally brewed Archipelago draught beers in a hip indie bar-meets-kopi tiam setting.

The bar also serves as an informal gallery for local crafts products such as screen prints, notebooks and tote bags. Patrons can buy what they like by scanning a QR code located at the back of the bar's menu, which brings them to The General Company's website. They make purchases via their smartphones and can have the items delivered directly to their homes.

Mr Chen says: "People want to experience a wide variety of things when they go into a restaurant or store, so you see F&B working closely with brands in other industries, in an exchange of resources and contacts."

Mr Andrew Tan, 36, owner of Atomi furniture and design boutique in Mandarin Gallery, agrees and believes such collaborative stores are the future of retail.

Atomi x Bar + Cafe sees him working with Liberty Coffee, Patisserie G and wine suppliers Artisan Cellars. The pop-up store, which opened on the second floor of Isetan on Friday last week, will run till next Thursday.

The items for sale, such as minimalist linen and cotton clothing, streamlined chairs and fine enamel crockery, are supplied by Atomi, while coffee, wine, cakes and pastries are supplied by its partners. Prices are $6.80 for coffee and $10 to $15 for a pack of cookies, while wines range from $12 to $15 a glass and $60 to $95 a bottle.

Though the pop-up store is running for only two weeks, Mr Tan views it as an opportunity to test permanent retail options.

"I think retail has to continuously reinvent itself. It is not just about the product anymore. You have to grab all the senses with the scent of coffee, the feel of the merchandise, the taste of a cup of coffee or a glass of champagne, while enjoying a pastry. It enhances the retail experience," he says.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 1, 2013

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