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Uniquely Singapore

Magnet.

Or even more predictable: an "I-heart-somewhere" t-shirt.

Last-minute souvenir shopping has become a tedious chore that gets in the way of enjoying a trip.

But Singapore is spawning a new breed of creative designers and entrepreneurs, who are turning to their own backyard for inspiration and producing designed products that are uniquely Singapore.

Here's our list of what's hot.

Gallery & Co.

Photo by Gallery & Co.

Even before it was fully opened, this funky shop was lauded by British newspaper The Guardian as one of the best museum stores in the world.

Attached to the new and much-vaunted National Gallery Singapore, the 8,800-square-foot space is a partnership between the museum and the local design collective & Co. -- which includes Singapore's industry heavyweight Foreign Policy Design Group.

Great finds include umbrellas inspired by the Gallery's architecture (it occupies two of the city's most historic buildings -- the former Supreme Court and City Hall), stationery by Olivia Lee and a soft toy, Merlion, by Supermama (which has its own shop you can read about further down).

There's also a cafe by the local bakery Plain Vanilla, said to sell the best cupcakes in town.

 

Supermama

Photo by Supermama

Supermama's owner Edwin Low has an ambitious mission: to collect, curate and craft objects that signify Singapore's long history.

It was born out of a one-year sabbatical Low and his partner Meiling Lee took from their last jobs to spend more time with their young family.

That was four years ago and their business is still going from strength to strength.

Today Supermama -- the name is a tribute to Lee for her support in Low's vision -- is an oasis of creativity and tranquility inside the Singapore Art Museum.

It's collaborated with more than 100 Singaporean creative industry players to date.

The products highlight the city's heritage and culture, designed with love and good old-fashioned patriotism.

"It's been an experience, especially in the first year," says Low. "We weren't known -- we had no branding, it was all very much word of mouth."

"But here we're representing ourselves and helping to carve out a new market for Singaporeans. We're proud to be part of that innovation and change."

The store also sells handpicked products from around the world.

And in early 2016, Supermama's opened up a new space on Beach Road.

Supermama has multiple locations including one at Singapore Art Museum (71 Bras Basah Road, #01-04) and Liang Court (177 River Valley Road, #02-36)

IN GOOD COMPANY and Plain Vanilla

Photo by Lisabelle Tay

Known for its feminine yet quirky tailoring, IN GOOD COMPANY (IGC) is shaping up to be an iconic Asian fashion brand for women.

IGC recently opened its first standalone flagship store in retail complex ION Orchard.

The flagship store comprises a boutique and a cafe in partnership with, again, Plain Vanilla.

Part of the founding quad are designers Sven Tan and Kane Tan (no relation) who describe their clothing as "making sense to Singaporean women."

Rather than launching seasonal collections like other brands around the world, they create capsule collections, catering to the sweltering Singapore and Southeast Asian climate.

The two Tans say many walk-in customers are surprised when they find out IGC's a homegrown brand.

"From our clothes to the cakes to the furniture (designed by Nathan Yong of Grafunkt) to the selection of novels and poems (by publisher Math Paper Press) -- they all just happen to be local creative businesses that we admire," they say.

Also worth noting are the artistic contributions of Kuanth, a Singaporean illustrator who's contributed to IGC's branding and design.

His latest novelty items in store are the coffee cup sleeves featuring a botanical batik design.

IN GOOD COMPANY, ION Orchard #B1-06, 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801.

Its collection is also available at Tangs Orchard, Kapok Singapore at National Design Centre and Mporium.

BooksActually

Photo by BooksActually

"A bookstore that everyone can come home to."

That's how co-founder Kenny Leck describes BooksActually, an independent retailer that focuses on literature of Singapore.

Located in the inner city suburb of Tiong Bahru, it boasts Singapore's largest collection of local literary works, including some out of print titles.

Leck and his partner Renee Ting (whom he met at BooksActually) have a hardcore following of book lovers.

"Having celebrated our 10th year in business, I say that we're continuing to run this place in the mindset that we started with, which is a love for literature," says Leck.

The duo have discovered hidden gems in the community and helped local writers gain more recognition.

They also publish magazines like the quarterly journal Ceriph, under their Math Paper Press brand.

The smell, the atmosphere and the fact that books aren't ruined by having price tags plastered over their covers, all contribute to the hospitable vibe which lure its customers to return again and again.

Deep inside the shop houses a treasure trove of Singaporean crafts.

SPUR Hauswerks and PACT

Photo by SPUR Hauswerks

Self-described as a "multi-category emporium," SPUR Hauswerks was spawned from a pop up store in 2011 and re-launched in 2014.

It now occupies 7,500 square feet of space in the Orchard Central shopping mall.

Founded by Indri Tulusan and Aiden Hopfner, SPUR Hauswerks is a seriously cool store selling unique homeware and accessories.

While they're known for their interior design products, the pair also stock great products for kids including outfits from Made Little and stackable crayons by Baby Color.

SPUR Hauswerks's founders are big advocates for independent designers with a special interest in Asian and Singaporean design.

Their conviction: to establish Singapore as a place where fresh design originates, to bring together local designers and give them a place to showcase their products.

Noteworthy ones includes goods by Melvin Ong and Olivia Lee, as well as artistic scarves from Ondina Montgomery.

SPUR Hauswerks and PACT, #02-22 Orchard Central; +65 9627 7885