Reason To Shop: StyleLoft3

SL3 Debut 1

Perforated poly-blend blouse with lantern sleeves and bell-shaped, banded miniskirt

Indie retailers with allure are so few and far between on Orchard Road that expecting one to appear is like hoping to find an Assouline book in the newsstand of 7-Eleven. So when one shows, you’d want to get closer, as you would when sighting a rare bird, to see its plumage in all its glory. StyleLoft3 opened last Wednesday in Mandarin Gallery, and it has already attracted the attention of the stylish set—a rare feat, considering that it’s not exactly situated in fashion’s holy land. It’s hard for Orchard Road landlords to attract retailers with a strong sense of place, let alone those with a strong sense of style. StyleLoft3’s addition into Mandarin Gallery’s mixed bag of boutiques augurs well for its standing as a shopping arcade with a difference, even if a reluctant difference.

First, the bad news: StyleLoft3 is a pop-up store. Its existence, by definition, is short-term—in this case, just six months. But, temporary does not mean under-provided. The store is not defined by its tenancy duration, and it’s certainly not deterred by its impermanence. In fact, it recognises that fashion is, by nature, transient, and its merchandise reflects the disposition of the spending crowd: we want it now! Fashion consumption cycle is so short these days that slow-to-act on the part of the retailer is a death knell of business viability. Here’s the good news: StyleLoft3 curates (appropriate description even if we dislike the word) its selection from the point of view of both merchandiser and consumer. The buyer is store buyer and buying public. And what he selects has appeal: that simple.

SL3 shopfrontStyleLoft3 is the brainchild of three friends (hence the prime number in the name of the shop): makeup artist to the stars Yuan Sng, ex-model and director of communication with a private investment firm Sherry Lim, and long-time resident from Indonesia Debora Kusnandar. The trio’s work dynamic is not unlike a pop group’s, with Mr Sng as band leader, and the réalisateur of the store’s clear direction and to-the-point merchandising. Mr Sng scours Seoul for his stash. His taste is so specific and informed and cross-cultural that it does not unravel the merchandise’s Korean roots. In fact, the products here are unlike anything in those ragtag shops that purport to source from Seoul. Mr Sng—indefatigable, according to those who have gone on buying trips with him—understands trends and knows how they can be distilled to serve a discerning, fashion-hungry clientele.

“Seoul has the most amazing things, but also not so amazing things. You have to open your eyes to what’s nice,” he told SOTD recently with palpable fervour. “On the whole, the finishing and quality are very good. Trends and looks are spot-on.” With a love for jewellery, Mr Sng uncovers some of Seoul’s best. “The jewellers there really care about details and finishing. Most of the pieces we carry are hand-made.” His partner Ms Lim added enthusiastically, “They’re costume jewellery set as fine jewellery.” It is this eye for invisible, but special qualities that distinguishes the store, rather than the prices, which, it has to be said, are certainly attractive and sharp—a boon to many a pocket.

SL3 Debut 2

Sporty outer of poly netting over shell top and gathered skirt of poly shantung

StyleLoft3 is not a hipster store, but an elegant counterpoint to hipness. Cool is not what it’s about, yet it captures the mood of the moment. The clothes salute shape and form, the accessories, craftsmanship and exquisiteness. You won’t find anything explicitly girlish or tacky—fashion’s current obsessions. You won’t find paragons of originality—not fashion’s present preoccupation. What you will uncover are products for women with certain comportment, those who subsist on surefooted style without looking to their daughter’s Instagram for inspiration.

The interior of StyleLoft3 is a spirited amalgam of vintage furnishing and retail fixture castoffs, but you’d never guess since they’re mixed with flair, as might a talented chef with a plated salad. Unfortunate is the duration of its stay here, this throve of trinkets and trifles, wardrobe of wondrous.

StyleLoft3 is at 03-28, Mandarin Gallery, Orchard Road.  Model: Serena Adsit. Styling: Vik Lim. Makeup & hair: Yuan Sng. Photo: Jim Sim.