The disappearance of Brit cult label River Island last year took many by surprise. For years, it seemed like the brand was holding its fort with a multitude of branches in the main Orchard shopping belt as well as in suburban malls such as Great World City. Slowly, branches closed down without nary a word from the label until its last franchised branch was left standing at Ion Orchard.
A chance visit by Popspoken on August 10, 2012 left the brand’s Ion Orchard branch in a sorry state: almost half of its store had been cleared out, with remaining items going for marked-down prices. A salesperson there revealed the bad news.
Exclusive Information! According to a salesperson, Ion Orchard's RIVER ISLAND is drifting away on 20th August. They'll be back in 2 years ;)
— POPSPOKEN (@popspoken) August 10, 2012
(That location is now occupied by H&M on Basement 2 of ION Orchard.)
Well, turns out River Island returned a year earlier than expected by choosing to go online — this time, with e-tailer Zalora Singapore. Just under 400 products have been specifically picked for the shop-in-shop and are attuned to Asian tastes.
The launch event on September 13 at MINI Showroom was packed with celebs such as Shan Wee, Cheryl Miles, Dawn Yang, Anita Kapoor and The Sam Willows (all wearing River Island, of course) as Brit-flag cupcakes and bubbly ushered in the label’s re-entry into the Singapore market. The event coordinated with the launch of the shop-in-shop on Zalora’s website itself.
River Island marketing director Josie Roscop confirmed suspicions that going online was a safer bet for a company that had been hurt by its brick-and-mortar past in Singapore.
“E-tailers like Zalora are making it easier to reach out to a region of more than 500 million fashion shoppers without costly investment in retail space. We want to deliver the latest trends through the River Island experience and we need a reliable process to facilitate this swiftly. We strongly believe in Zalora’s capability to be that avenue for us, and that’s why we’re back,” explained Roscop.
Zalora Singapore is part of Rocket Internet, a company that had been courting controversy in the entrepreneurship market for its aggressive entry into the South-East Asian market via what some websites termed as a cloning of ideas from various startups and upscaling them for regional plans.
When asked if Zalora will be carrying Rihanna’s 80-piece Fall collection for River Island, a spokesperson said the e-tailer will not be doing so. However, blogposts have surfaced from Zalora’s River Island blog about the collection. The public can still buy the collection from River Island’s website.
A range of shoes, bags, clothes and accessories for both men and women are on stock at the shop-in-shop. The Style Insider tab also allows users to go behind the scenes at the label’s recent photoshoot as well as find out more on River Island’s 60-year history.
Campaign photo: River Island | Event photos: Felix Kichijo/Zalora Singapore