Fashion capitol

Fashion capitol

The dust has yet to settle and the acrid smell of paint still permeates the corridors - as well as open-concept restaurants that have already begun business.

Capitol Piazza, a new mall located adjacent to the neo-Classical Capitol Theatre, is by and large under construction.

But its sleek promenade façade and unique tenant mix promise a much-needed boost to a retail landscape that has lost its patina through a deluge of cookie cutter malls.

"We have, for years been hearing repeatedly, comments from industry experts and shoppers that Singapore malls are generic and keep the same collection of brands," says Sulian Tan-Wijaya, senior director of retail and lifestyle, Savills Singapore.

"Capitol Piazza's strategy is to feature more new-to-market retail and food and beverage concepts to differentiate themselves from other malls. Even existing players are encouraged to create new concepts unique to the mall."

Although most of the units in the mall's two basement levels, ground floor retail arcade and sheltered pedestrian mall are still hidden behind minimalist hoarding, brands like Italian clothing label Napapijri, French beauty marque Lancome and local fashion designer Max Tan have already opened its doors.

Finnish design house Marimekko, London's famed Four Seasons roast duck restaurant, and historical French cafe Angelina will also unveil its first local flagships within the destination soon.

For most new-to-market shops, the location of the mall away from the bustle of the main Orchard shopping belt is actually a draw - rather than a deterrent.

"We chose Capitol Piazza as we see potential for growth in this vicinity, as compared to the prime Orchard road retail belt, which can be highly mature and saturated," explains Kuribayashi Kenta, director of Japanese salon Branche Hair & Nail who reveals that rental for the unit is two-thirds that of a similar space in Orchard Road.

"Capitol Piazza is a charming fusion of urban and tradition through the iconic Capitol Theatre, and we feel that the mall's concept is very much in line with Branche, where everything here is of the highest quality."

Similarly, the owner of multi-label boutique Manifesto is upbeat about the location and positioning of the new development - despite the fact that its opening has been pushed back due to delays in the construction of the mall.

The store has been generating quite a bit of buzz for its coveted curation of labels like Costume National, Christophe Lemaire and Maison Kitsune.

"Capitol Piazza is definitely one of the most interesting projects in progress in Singapore right now," says Walid Zaazaa, CEO and founder of Manifesto.

"The architecture is very innovative, blending together perfectly Singapore's old colonial features with contemporary design. The retail mix in the mall is also refreshing, as they strive to keep it at a high level: they particularly avoid inviting tenants who already have a saturated presence in Singapore."

The Capitol Piazza outlet is the company's first branch outside of Japan, and was officially opened at the end of March. Connected to the City Hall MRT station, the retail destination will be flanked by a hotel, residence and the restored Capitol Theatre.

"The downtown civic district has a unique heritage appeal with places of interests and is an events hub for music festivals and the F1, serving both locals and tourists - making it an alternative shopping destination to the mall-centric Orchard Road," says John Ng, director and general manager of Sidefame, the retail partner for Marimekko Singapore.

"The brand new retail complex is an integrated development comprising the iconic Capitol Theatre, a six-star hotel The Patina Singapore and ultra-exclusive Eden Residences.

These factors create a different shopping experience apart from other mall developments."

Over the past three years, Marimekko has opened stores in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, making the Asia-Pacific region the second-largest market for the brand. Its store here is set to open in May.

However, the opening of the new development comes at a time when the retail sector is experiencing a slowdown and its players are facing stiff competition: In the Civic District itself, where Capitol Piazza is located, Marina Square and Suntec City have undergone revamps while another mixed development project, South Beach, is targeted for completion in 2016.

"This year, Singapore's retail industry continues to face the challenges of lower spending by China tourists as well as local manpower constraints," says Ms Tan-Wijaya.

"With more international brands opening in suburban malls, local shoppers may not visit Orchard Road as often as they used to.

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