Singapore's enormous, glittering shopping malls in and around Orchard Street are wall-to-wall major-brand retailers, the stuff of a shopaholic's dream. For those seeking something more intimate, the indie boutiques on Haji Lane are far from the roaming mall rats.
Lining a narrow, backstreet of the tranquil Kampong Glam area—otherwise known as the Arab district—beautiful boutiques showcase rising Singaporean designers, as well as other designers from Asia and beyond. Don't miss stores on the second floors of the charming shophouses; look out for mysterious flights of stairs through doorways at street level because you might just find find a new little world at the top of them.
United Label (at 69 Haji Lane) carries Vijitra, a womenswear brand by a Thai designer living in Singapore, as well as a selection of adorable stationery culled from around Asia. Near the entryway a staircase leads to a floor stocked with clothes from different labels. There are a few racks of items that have been majorly discounted, while others are dedicated to items like delicate, screen-printed tees.
At one end of Haji Lane is Soon Lee (no. 73), which stocks a mix of chic womenswear, accessories and lifestyle items from Hong Kong, Korea and even the Philippines. The boutique's size (basically two shophouses combined into one) gives way to a large selection for browsing.
When it comes to clothing, most of Haji caters to women but Whiteroom (no. 37) co-owner Arthur Chua designs the in-house menswear label Drifters for modern men who aren't afraid to experiment a little. The cut-and-sew label sells its own collections of elegantly re-imagined dress shirts and well-tailored practical pants alongside accessories that include vintage Ray-Bans, Giles & Brother and more. Rustic dark wood floors give the store an appropriately woodsmen-like sense of exclusivity.
Another store geared for men, Know It Nothing (no. 51) offers a selection of cut-and-sew basics as well as ready-to-wear pieces under its Sifr brand. The retailer also stocks Makr, fragrances by Miller et Bertaux and other imported lifestyle goods. Its window display doubles as a continuously revolving art project, where different artists are invited to interpret or present their concepts.
The vintage-inspired accessories at the tiny shophouse Hadasity are the type that inspire (and define) entire outfits. Designer Hadassah Lau scours antique markets and shops on her world travels for brooches and other pieces to create the one-of-a-kind bracelets, rings and necklaces.
Balancing out the shopping element, a few cafes and rest stops provide a place for breaks. A Thousand Tales (no. 55) is an all-in-one art gallery, cafe, bar, restaurant and furniture complex. While the menu next door at Bar Stories (no. 57A) sells drinks like mojitos and caipirinhas, visitors are invited to ask the bartender to make something special for them. The Scandinavian-inspired furniture is used as seating for patrons, who can buy it right there if they like it enough.
Pluck (no. 31/33) focuses more on housewares, but the cafe inside offers a revolving selection of homemade ice cream in a variety of flavors. The standouts are the Asian-inspired flavors, such as green tea with red beans or cashew-infused yogurt. There are also flavors made with alcohol, like the refreshing lychee martini.