Local brands welcome return of shopping event Boutique Fairs, Latest Fashion News - The New Paper

Local brands welcome return of shopping event Boutique Fairs

After a two-year hiatus, biannual shopping event Boutique Fairs has returned to the F1 Pit Building.

Taking place from April 22 to 24, the fair brings together more than 160 independent, Singapore-based brands spanning the categories of women's and men's fashion, beauty, accessories, furniture and home decor, toys, food and more.

At the media preview on April 21, there was a palpable sense of excitement as visitors flitted from room to room.

Local brands participating this year are unanimously thrilled about its return.

Ms Toh Ziling, chief operating officer of local skincare brand Re:erth, has missed the event greatly, mostly for its community spirit. This will be her fourth time at Boutique Fairs.

"The best thing about it is simply the infectious energy all around, when customers come to revisit favourite brands and discover new ones to love.

"All the brands put in so much effort to create that actual boutique experience in a temporary space - it's an absolute visual treat that no website design, e-mails or pop-up banners can ever replace," she says.

Home-grown perfumery The Lab Fragrances founder Taylan Torin says the two years without Boutique Fairs was "a very big loss of sales" for his brand, which can be found at multi-label store Design Orchard. It is the Turkish perfumer's fourth time participating at the fair since launching in 2017.

"The loss of Boutique Fairs was a hit for boutique brands like ourselves, because it's a perfect location where the customers trust that the curation is top-notch. And that attracts a very high-quality customer base; the right audience. The sales are phenomenal for us," he adds.

Founded in 2002 by expatriate entrepreneur Charlotte Cain, Boutique Fairs began as a small affair with just 17 expatriate-owned brands. It grew year on year, attracting more local designers and attention, and moving from Fort Canning Centre to its current trademark location at the F1 Pit Building.

It became a beloved calendar highlight for many shoppers and brand owners alike. Numerous small businesses used it as a platform to launch and reach new customers.

Its last in-person event, in November 2019, was its biggest, with more than 300 brands participating.

Print studio Minor Miracles, launched in October 2019, had been all set up for its debut at the March 2020 edition when Covid-19 hit.

Founder and designer Dawn Bey recalls: "We'd bought the set-up, got geared up for it, and then it got postponed, then cancelled."

"Boutique Fairs has been one of the few 'must-attend' shopping events in Singapore, so we are honoured to be part of it. I even came out of long confinement for this," adds the new mum.

"We are constantly trying to gain a wider audience, so the fair exposes us to its audience - the expat community and those who support local."

For textile tycoon Abhishek Poddar, who founded menswear e-commerce platform Mr Square in 2020, the return of Boutique Fairs signals a wider return of physical events, which means more pop-ups and unique set-ups for his streetwear-focused brand.

This year, he has set up a DJ booth in his corner of the fair. "We're very excited to be able to fully display what the concept is about, and finally be able to meet customers face to face. There's no other way for retail to survive," he says.

During the pandemic, the fair explored an online format, but the venture was short-lived and its e-commerce platform eBoutiques closed a couple of months after first launching in September 2020.

Fair founder Mrs Cain is "ecstatic" that the fair is back.

She says: "We were attempting to see if we could adapt and bring Boutique Fairs online, but we soon realised that we took on too much too soon, and that it would take a longer timeframe to get an online business going.

"Boutique Fairs is about dialogue, connections, communications and networking. The physical aspect of this event gives the brands and designers face time with customers, which will help them create a bond within the community and is ultimately what we strive for."

The fair's physical return will not be without some changes. To comply with safe management measures, this year's edition is a ticketed affair with allotted four-hour sessions across the three days.

Tickets are priced at $5 a person and are available online (str.sg/w8x4) or upon entry to fully vaccinated individuals.

Although the number of brands has been halved for safe distancing, Mrs Cain says it is not "a big step back as the space will not be as overly crowded as in the past".

"It will be a more connected event," she adds.


Where: F1 Pit Building, 1 Republic Boulevard

When: April 22 to 23, 10am to 9pm; April 24, 10am to 6pm

Admission: $5 from here