During my recent trip to Singapore, I had a list of “MUST SEE” boutiques and fashion designers compiled from dozens of personal recommendations, suggestions and my own online research. But I only had time to do about half of them. Argh!
On the top of my list was Soon Lee, in Haji Lane.
I was given lots of mixed opinions as people described the shopping at Haji Lane. I got the impression that it was VERY DIFFERENT to the high-end, designer-brand, super-shiny boutiques in Singapore’s Orchard District.
One of the results of mass production and globalisation is the rise of the conventional shopping mall. These shopping experiences are predictable, and pretty much the same, whether you’re in Perth, Singapore or London.
Part of my interest and take on fashion, is to showcase different, unique and local shopping experiences – so I was very curious to take a look at Haji Lane for myself.
Oh how I loved it!
Walking down Haji Lane, you would probably think you arrived at the wrong place for a fashion experience. The lane is long and narrow. There is the occasional piece of rubbish lying around, there are rickshaws (yes, a pedal powered taxi with a charming, old, toothless man!) and rubbish bins are parked next to tiny, two-stroke vans and motorcycles.
Old shop houses run the length of the shopping lane – some shops have vines growing up the building, with aged, oriental murals flaking off the walls. Some have uber modern glass walls, with brushed, stainless steel fittings and amazingly designed wall patterns. The place is crammed with absolutely unique shops and cafes.
Singapore is a sophisticated, developed, modern and a truly global city. But nearby in Arab Street, you can literally see, feel, smell and taste that Singapore has been a cross roads of international trade and cultural exchange for centuries.
I loved all the vibrant colours, deep textures, exotic smells, the mix of old and new, the signs of oriental and global influence. It was incredible.
At Soon Lee, I was welcomed by its co-owner, Sharon Cher. I adore her blog, www.ishopsoonlee.blogspot.com, so I was keen to meet the woman behind the words. I was very fortunate that she was able to afford some time to chat over coffee!
She is one smart woman. Passionate, intelligent, brave, stylish, driven – exactly the kind of person that makes fashion exciting!
She explained the short fashion history of Haji Lane, and the even shorter background of Soon Lee. Soon Lee means “plain sailing” – a wonderfully calming reference, and indeed, both the boutique and Haji Lane is a long way from the rushed pace of Orchard Road’s towering, multilevel shopping centres.
Her shop is wonderful. Eclectic, busy, over-flowing with delicious bits and pieces and designed goodies – clothes, jewellery, accessories, hats, belts, sun glasses, homewares.
56 Haji Lane, Level 2, Singapore.
Open everyday from 2pm-8pm.
You get the feeling that Haji Lane oozes a new kind of quiet, creative confidence in Singapore, still fresh and exciting.
I can’t wait to go back and have a whole afternoon or evening to drift from one boutique to another – which are all within steps of one another. Haji Lane is worth visiting just to experience Arab Street and its surrounds too, and the price of everything seem very affordable.
Most boutiques in Haji Lane only open their doors from around 2.00pm, and are still open till around 9 -10 pm. I’ve been told that the best time to visit is 4pm on a weekday.
Get there by:
Taxi – I had to explain to our taxi driver that Haji Lane is parallel to Arab Street, between North Bridge Road and Beach Road, then he had no problem. I used this google map.
Or take the MRT East-West line train to Bugis station and walk for 10 minutes.