This secret shopper sifts through quirky knick-knacks at a vintage shop in the quaint neighbourhood of Tiong Bahru in search of the perfect birthday gift for a friend.
Flea & Trees has a concept that is about as vague as it can be. "Something is more than it is," it says on its Facebook description page.
I didn't have any clue what it meant, but a visit to the shop on a quiet weekday evening did quell some curiosity.
The shop is heaven for vintage lovers, with a mishmash of collectibles including magazines, furniture, dresses and accessories such as handcrafted necklaces. The items are more suited to women but metrosexual men may uncover a hidden gem as well.
I was told that "everything you see in this shop is for sale" but when I showed interest in a wooden stair shelf, I was told that it was for display purposes only.
Everything you see in this shop is hand-picked by its owners, who prowl the streets here and overseas for their items. Their collection of vintage dresses, for example, are mostly single pieces from Tokyo.
Prices are reasonable, considering that some of the items are one-of-a-kind.
Its newest statement necklaces, which come in bold colours such as emerald and turquoise, range from $30 to $45. Dresses are priced from $60 to $80, and design books are $20 to $100.
There were also pre-loved clothing from brands such as Viktor & Rolf and Warehouse priced from $70 to over $200.
The most expensive item I saw that day was a vintage peach armchair that was priced at $450. When I enquired, the shop assistant admitted she was not sure if the item was sourced locally or overseas.
Location & layout
Flea & Trees is next to a carpark and is just a stone's throw away from the Tiong Bahru market and hawker centre.
It is a small shop but its clean L-shaped layout makes it a breeze to browse.
There was a soft indie tune playing in the background when I visited, which I'm guessing would score some points with hipsters.
The shop assistant greeted me with a merry "hello" when I entered the shop at about 6.15pm.
When I casually mentioned I was looking for a gift, she was quick to ask some questions and I was patiently introduced to necklaces, armlets and rings.
A few vintage dresses caught my eye and I asked if I could try them on to see the fit. The shop assistant was rather taken aback by my request and told me to "slip on" the dresses instead.
It was tricky as I was wearing a dress that day, too. I stood in front of a full-length mirror in the middle of the shop, fumbling with the zips and ribbons.
Seeing that I was not having much success, the shop assistant offered to help.
By then, I was feeling too awkward to continue and proceeded to untangle myself from the mess of a dress I was in.
I would have much preferred to try the dress in the privacy of a fitting room.
If you're willing to pay for an item that can proudly claim to be vintage, then Flea & Trees might be a good place to stop by.
But if you're just looking for something presentable for a friend, you're much better off browsing the more mainstream shops. Some of the dresses have fairly common prints such as plain stripes or polka dots. There are probably a myriad blogshops online carrying similar prints.
However, the polite and patient service is a plus and I would definitely stop by to browse if I were in the area again.
WHAT: Flea & Trees
WHERE: Block 68, Seng Poh Lane, #01-10
WHEN: 6pm to 10pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 10am to 10pm (Saturdays and Sundays)
This article was first published in The New Paper.