Lifestyle pop-up in Little India

PHOTO: Lifestyle pop-up in Little India

SINGAPORE - A new cafe, gallery and retail space is set to join the growing number of hip establishments in Little India - but you have only six months to check it out.

Temporium, so named for its temporary status, is a pop-up store that will open at 72 and 74 Dunlop Street on Saturday. It will close on March 8.

Backed by about 30 well-known dining and creative brands here, such as restaurant group Wild Rocket, bookstore BooksActually and accessories label Stone For Gold, the venture is the brainchild of home-grown creative agency Tofu. The two-year-old outfit is helmed by creative director Michelle Au and business director Jenny Widjaja, 40.

Ms Au, 36, says: "I've always wanted to do a pop-up store that highlights good local design, be it fashion or craftsmaking, but I never had the space."

The pop-up store has been on the cards for a while, but plans were put on the backburner because of high rents. But Tofu struck gold when boutique property developer Breezeway Development agreed to let them use the 4,000 sq ft space rent-free.

The two shophouses were previously leased out to a massage parlour and also served as quarters for construction workers.

Breezeway Development's director Vivienne Soon, whose cousin is married to Ms Au, agreed to let them use the space while the developer waits for the Urban Redevelopment Authority to approve permits to build a roof terrace for both units.

Breezeway owns a total of nine shophouses on the same street, including tenants such as a barber shop, an eatery and a tattoo shop.

Ms Soon, 40, says: "It's always a struggle to get good tenants with good concepts. I've always wanted to tie up with young artists who can bring some excitement to the street.

"Of course, it's not altogether altruistic. If the pop-up store does well, who knows... the brands that are coming together may see the potential of the area and take up the space once Temporium moves out."

She estimates that both shophouses can bring in about $20,000 each month in rental.

Tofu has put in more than $30,000 to spruce up the Dunlop Street shophouses, including installing lights and shelving for the retail store.

Ms Au approached local brands with a proposal and nearly all agreed to have their goods sold at the pop-up. Tofu gets a 20 per cent cut from their takings while the cafe operates on its own.

Mr Larry Lam of menswear fashion label Sundays, who bought the idea right away, says: "It's rare in Singapore to have a space to showcase my products without paying so much. It's also because Tofu is putting in so much of its own time and money into Temporium.

This shows it is really serious about the project." Temporium brings together an eclectic mix of at least 32 home-grown brands, including women's brand Stolen as well as Kitchen Label, an independent record label and publisher.

A gallery-cum-exhibition space will be set aside for grooming workshops as well as sessions for niche crafts such as pottery and leatherworking. These are open to the public, and will be conducted by invited designers, some of whom may not have shown their works at the store.

Mr Leon Foo, 31, who owns Chye Seng Huat Hardware coffeeshop a few streets away in Tyrwhitt Road, and chef-owner Willin Low of the Wild Rocket Group have also joined forces to set up a 25-seat cafe called Compl(e)ments Of. Its cups and bowls were handmade over the past four weeks by ceramics collective Weekend Worker.

The menu will feature just a few items each time and will change every few weeks. "We've kept it simple, much like a food truck," says chef Low, 41.

Prices, which have not been firmed up, are expected to range from about $6 to $8 for coffee and petit fours, while main courses will not cost more than $20.

Chef Low says that the cafe will start serving a salmon red rice donburi first, followed later by a soft shell chilli crab served in a squid ink burger.

On why he agreed to the project, he says: "Leon and I have been wanting to work on something together for a long time, and this is a six-month trial to see what happens."

Stolen's founder and designer Elyn Wong, 36, is not worried that construction works and the lack of parking in the area might put people off as the Little India enclave has become a trendy haven in recent years.

The buzz created by Zsofi Tapas Bar, boutique hotel Wanderlust and its popular French restaurant Cocotte has drawn other eateries to set up shop there. These include Broadcast HQ in Rowell Road and Morsels in Mayo Street.

Backpacker hostels, such as Prince Of Wales in Dunlop Street and Bunc Hostel in Upper Weld Road, also draw tourists to the area.

Ms Wong will be selling six of her designs in various colours, priced from $149 to $329. "I think the area will appeal to more than just the indie arts types. It won't take long for word to spread that there's a well-curated store to visit."

Besides selling her clothes, Ms Wong also hopes that being stocked with other Singapore designers might spin off other collaborations.

Even before the Dunlop Street store opens, Ms Au is already planning two other pop-up outfits, which she hopes to open in different locations over the next two years.

"We want to keep things fresh, organic and interesting," she says. "New spaces give us the freedom to experiment with the layout. So the next two properties may also be called Temporium, but the retail concepts and arrangements will be different."

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