Singapore’s Orchard Road is so highly saturated with its many shining shopping complexes, the addition of a new mall rarely gives locals anything to scream about anymore.
But if there’s one reason to embrace the opening of Design Orchard on 25 January 2019, it’s that the mall is a dedicated stage for local brands to shine bright in the spotlight (#supportlocal!).
Jointly revealed by Enterprise Singapore, JTC Singapore, and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on 7 January, Design Orchard will feature an ensemble of only homegrown brands, including new, emerging, and established labels.
These will make up 61 brands housed within the retail space, operated by local retailer Naiise, on level one of the 2.5-storey building.
The second floor and rooftop will be set aside as incubation and event spaces for local fashion designers, under The Bridge Fashion Incubator run by the Textile and Fashion Federation of Singapore (Taff).
Located at the junction of Orchard Road and Cairnhill Road, it may be much smaller than most malls in the heart of town, but signifies a big step in the appreciation and support for local brands.
Local Entrepreneurs Sharing Knowledge With Local Entrepreneurs
On top of just a new shopping destination, the launch of Design Orchard is also paired with a mentorship programme that Naiise will conduct for the emerging entrepreneurs, covering areas like marketing, merchandising, and expansion planning.
Founder of Naiise, Dennis Tay, shares that all brands in the retail showcase which have less than 10 years of experience are automatically included as mentees under the programme.
Design Orchard’s 61 brands have already gone through selection to gain their spot in the retail space. Based on their uniqueness, appeal, and brand stories, they were chosen out of 100 applicants from an open call in November 2017.
Out of these, 11 are new-to-market (0 to 2 years) and 47 are emerging (2 to 10 years) brands, making a total of 58 young companies that will benefit from mentorship.
Dennis explains that the programme, set to run for a year, will begin with a half-day boot camp to get the brands acquainted, identify their areas for development, and match them to suitable mentors.
“Then, we will kick off monthly or bi-monthly mentoring sessions in a flexible format, where brands will set their own goals. There will also be monthly sharing sessions by mentors, where the mentors will share about their experiences and knowledge with the brands,” he says.
Ultimately, the aim of the programme is “to nurture and grow these brands both locally and globally”, which could entail guiding them to internationalise their businesses.
But how far the mentorship brings them depends on each individual brand, as they will be asked to set their own goals that they’ll work to achieve by the end of the programme.
For Elvynd Soh, Creative Director of clothing label QLOTHÈ, he aims to improve in different areas of business besides focusing on his team’s creative endeavours.
“I believe I speak for most of us that as emerging brands, we all work with a rather lean team. [We] wear a lot of different hats at the same time, having to take charge of aspects such as scaling up, internationalisation and logistics,” he says.
Co-founder of social enterprise The Animal Project, Roland Tay, plans to focus on growing his brand’s online presence and creating their own e-commerce platform, beyond just stocking their products with other online marketplaces.
“The mentorship programme could be one avenue for us to learn about implementing our very own brand online portal, social media and digital marketing, and I hope that we would be able to receive guidance on these areas and grow our confidence in the online sphere,” he says.
At the moment, the programme is only available to its current participants, and it’s uncertain if there will be future iterations that aspiring entrepreneurs could sign up for.
“Depending on the reception to the programme, we may consider extending it [beyond the first year] after that,” says Dennis Tay.
Yes, You Can Be A Fashion Designer In Singapore
Under The Bridge Fashion Incubator programme, Design Orchard will also have facilities dedicated to helping local fashion and lifestyle designers pursue their craft.
Its second floor incubator space, called The Cocoon Space, will allow fashion designers to utilise resources, attend seminars, and showcase their work.
According to CEO of Taff, Ho Semun, The Cocoon Space will offer individual and group working spaces, a fabric library, professional sewing equipment, event and showcase spaces, and business functions such as printing, phone booths and web conferencing facilities.
“Beyond the professional facilities and amenities designed for the community, The Cocoon Space will also offer programmes and workshops relevant to the industry,” she says.
Interested designers will have to go through an application and selection process to enter the incubator programme.
However, there will also be a tiered membership programme that the public can apply for if they want to use the workspace.
Taff will reveal more details about membership and booking after the venue’s opening.
Featured Image Credit: The Cathay / Design Orchard