Maison Ikkoku Reinvents Haji Lane Enclave with Cafe, Fashion and Bar
Haji Lane really should get a book documenting its rise and fall as a lifestyle enclave (are you listening, BooksActually?). The once oh-so-hip destination for sheesha & Singapore independent fashion was almost begging at its knees once, you know, the wannabes flooded the area – at the same time too many camwhore pictures of girls standing on the road started popping up on blogs everywhere.
So now that the flock has moved on to greener pastures, it is fitting that the Bugis shophouses have started to undergo Renaissance 2.0: gone are the shops selling blogshop material from Korea & in comes the “Ann Siang Hill” vibe of curated experiences & products you won’t get in town. After all, Bugis is not Orchard Road, fyi.
Maison Ikkoku has come at the right time. In the middle of the Haji Lane enclave’s reinvention, the three-in-one concept is the first to be brought to Kandahar Street – and rightly so. The store combines a contemporary café, a multi-label menswear boutique & a semi-alfresco cocktail bar in a three-storey, 4000 square feet shophouse.
Pretty rad? Wait till you see the interior.
We’ve noticed this shift in Singapore shop interior design of late: raw and polished fixtures, focusing on deconstruction, lightness & modularity. I spoke to retail manager Fahmy Ishak who pointed out the store’s organic geometry, from triangular iron-rod clothes racks to a shabby-chic display tabletop made out of 2 doors joined together. He says they don’t want to be bogged down by “heavy things”.
The first level’s café-bistro scores brownie points just for the tufted benches & exposed brick walls. I’m no food critic, so I cannot comment on the food proper but the menu list does look extensively cosy: think gourmet sandwiches (from $10.90+), weekend breakfasts (from $5.90+) & artisanal coffee (from $3.50+) with beans from Ethiopia & Brazil.
(Yes, latte art included.)
The combination of food & fashion is an intriguing one: “hunger” does know no boundaries, it seems. The second-level menswear boutique comes across like a choppy extension of the café but it still does feel like the same shop. Currently featuring 13 overseas brands, the boutique stocks several new-to-market apparel and accessories, with some exclusive to Maison Ikkoku.
One brand I’m excited to see is Lad Musician, focusing on skinny, sharp silhouettes that exude the modern rockstar vibe. From single-button, skinny-lapel jackets to cropped pants with deep scoop-neck tops, the careless abandon of the brand’s pieces had me enamoured ever since it got stocked at TANG+Co. Baseball jackets are back, but the ones by Deluxe give a much-needed structured Japanese tailoring to the otherwise sloppy collegiate piece.
Eco-awareness is also key in the boutique. Bag label Teddyfish pares the bag down to its bare essentials whilst keeping it exclusive – each bag has a hand-painted bottom either in mango, blue, city grey or the “tie-dye” pattern. Shoe label Twins for Peace donates a pair of shoes for every pair sold. Packaging is 90% recyclable & worker’s rights and fair salaries are respected in their family-owned Portugal factory.
Fahmy said that Maison Ikkoku looks to keep renewing the brand selection depending on a potential brand’s buzz & demand whilst keeping to the Spring & Fall fashion season cycle. There are no plans to bring anymore brands, but they’re looking around, so buzz them if you have a brand you desperately want to see in Singapore! I think they’ll definitely take that into consideration. ;)
The third-level bar is all ready for launch, but Maison Ikkoku is still waiting for their liquor licence to be approved, so we’ll have to wait for November 2011 to experience the full store. I’m a bit worried that this café-fashion-bar concept might lose its novelty after a while, but it is a brave step to rejuvenating the Haji Lane enclave. It is right opposite the Sultan Mosque though, so I hope the owners have talked to the mosque about noise levels and drunken customers.
Prayer calls mixed with drunken chatter: now that’s something to avoid.
Visit their website here.
Maison Ikkoku is located at 20 Kandahar Street. It is owned by Thomas Ong, Janice Ong, Franz Chua & Shanie Teoh.
Thank you to WOMCOMM for inviting us to the media preview!