Even years after Haji Lane transformed from a row of shophouses mostly used as warehouse space to the trendy vibe it has today, savvy consumers are still heading there when it comes to shopping for clothes, shoes and accessories.
There are at least 35 fashion stores packed into that little 200m long lane off Arab Street. Among them are pioneers such as Jia which opened in 2006 and Soon Lee which has been operating since 2007. Over the years, more fashion stores have popped up.
Sharon Cher, who opened Soon Lee at 73 Haji Lane in 2007, says: "There were fewer people and stores. Things were slow paced and everyone knew everyone on the street. There are now many more shops and much higher traffic - it's different but in the best way."
Today, walk down that lane and nearly every shophouse is a fashion store. The exceptions are a cool bicycle shop, a hair salon, a furniture store, a few design offices and some F&B outlets.
Haji Lane became a hip hangout for indie shopping when renowned Japanese fashion brand Comme des Garcons opened a temporary store here in 2005.
Cynthia Yeo, owner of Skyroom, opened at 84 Haji Lane in 2006. "I liked the characteristics of the shophouse: old but charming. And there are no rules and restrictions on how I should set up shop unlike in a shopping mall."
The range of apparel on sale at these Haji Lane shops is contemporary and trendy, and more importantly, available only in limited quantities.
Michelle Lim, partner of Hearsay at 59A Haji Lane, which caters to both men and women, says that "the items we sell come in one or two pieces. Customers like that they can find what they want here which is not available elsewhere". The shop has new stocks coming in every month.
Over at Modparade at 68 Haji Lane, its co-founder Fernnice Wong says: "Shopping malls pretty much have the same stores. They are commercially attractive but things will start to get boring, and people want something different. The shops at Haji Lane can offer uniqueness."
Student Gillian Ang, who often shops at Haji Lane, remarks: "There is no worry that I will find another person wearing the same top as I am when I shop here."
Storeowners say they like setting up shop in this offbeat lane, compared to malls, as they can be more creative with the shop decor. Queenie Liang, owner of Chic Fashion at 56A Haji Lane, has the back half of a car as part of her shop's facade. "The creative interiors add to the shopping experience, which makes it more fun to shop here," says Ms Liang.
Indeed, among the racks of clothes, shoppers may stumble upon a puppy or a cat in the shops, belonging to the owners.
Haji Lane is not only popular with locals, but is a hit with tourists too. Stores say that tourists make up almost half their customers. Korean tourist Cho Ye-eun visited Haji Lane after reading about it in a guidebook. "Haji Lane is stated as one of the places worth visiting and my friends recommended me to come here too," she says.
But with more than 30 fashion stores on one lane, is it too many? Many storeowners say no, despite an increase in competition.
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