Is this the island’s most considerate fashion retailer?
By Low Teck Mee
It’s waiting men! Okay, that’s a bad pun, but that’s exactly what I thought when I saw these fellows seated behind drawn-apart black curtains, engrossed in whatever it was broadcasting from their smartphones. This was not outside the maternity ward of some fancy private hospital; this was inside the two-month-old store of the still-referred-to-as-blogshop fashion brand Love, Bonito. No woman, similarly absorbed or not, was seen.
The amazing thing about Singapore’s favourite womenswear label is their ability and willingness to provide, in their buzzy retail spaces—three to date, winning extras in lieu of smashing clothes. Their third brick-and-mortar, a 6,000-square-feet expanse in Funan Mall, is all sweetie-poo pink with an identity crisis: it could be orange, or a hint of it, but the result is definitely not, as I have been told, saumon. The girlish shade belies the store’s unabashed ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) leanings.
That, according to the fans of the brand, which could be every female on this island that is not pre-pubescent, as, you guessed it, I have been told, is a “wonderland” and a selfie-friendly/encouraging place of “Instagrammable spots”. Whether these really spur shoppers on to spend or “hang” with them is not quite clear. Other “tech” touches include screens on stout podiums and in niches that allow instant access to Love, Bonito’s website (assuming, perhaps, that shoppers have no smartphone or can’t be bothered to use it), an AR Walkway so that girls can, via an app, happily find themselves in a passage of unrealistic flowers or whatever smidgen of cuteness that can be found in the app, and selectable mood lighting in their much-lauded, bookable, bigger-than-my-bathroom fitting rooms.
These are all consistent with Funan Mall’s in-centre, pseudo hi-tech features, but are, in fact, superficial add-ons that, contrary to their marketing message, won’t “value-add” to whatever draws you to the six-floor complex. Have you tried the redundant, slows-you-down, order screens (probably a leasing requisite) at the ridiculously named Kopitiam Foodcourt, KOPItech? It is not certain how charmed the women who go to Love, Bonito are with the digi-all, but the salesgirls were happy to tell curious me that the non-merchandise extras are part of what co-founders Rachel Lim and Viola Tan have been touting to the media (and I was hearing again): “customer experience”.
For a woman’s clothier, that experience omits the guys who may have to accompany a girlfriend/wife/mistress/sister to the store. But, as it turns out, at the rear of the packed-with-merchandise space, a little empty room with windows that allow much natural light in and that reveal the building behind is where all the bored (and boring?) men come to, seated lined up on a bench against the wall. How nice, I thought.
Later, at the Sinpopo Brand take-away and food kiosk, two girls next to me delightfully and audibly share their “experience” at Love, Bonito: “love how thoughtful they are; so nice of them to allocate a space at the back for pregnant women, moms with strollers, and shoppers who come in wheelchair.” Yes, I was too presumptuous.
Photo: Zhao Xiangji