Digital stores offering clothing and such are by now nothing new. As e-shops and sales conducted via social media go, newcomer One Orchard Store isn’t setting itself apart. They’re just joining the crowd
Resilience is an admirable quality in the business of fashion. Failure is not. Nor succumbing to it. One form of a venture may not have succeeded, but you can try again with another. This can be said of the Textile and Fashion Federation’s (TaFF) latest retail endeavour, the new e-commerce platform One Orchard Store (OOS), set up to promote, as TaFF does, local designs. In the wake of an economy-ravaging pandemic, this enterprise is more urgently needed than ever.
Some observers thought OOS is the online imprint of Design Orchard, last known to be operated by the vagabond retailer Naiise. It is not. Design Orchard has its own website with an inactive “shop”. Rather, this could be considered TaFF’s return to retailing or the provision of a retail platform for fledgling and established brands. A post-Zhuang, if you will.
Few remember Zhuang (庄, or farmstead, or the banker in gambling, such as mahjong), a TaFF initiative to put local brands with minimum or no retail exposure in a pleasing physical space. Their first in 2016 was a pop-up at Tangs. That was followed by a store in swanky The Shoppes at Marina Bay in 2017. Zhuang quietly shuttered a year or so after their mall debut, due to lack of brand and shopper interest, and what was thought to be a diffident effort.
It is not known why the nearly 40-year-old TaFF chose to close Zhuang rather than take it online, which could have been a more viable platform, and in line with what many others retailers were already exploring to do back then. Formed in 1981 as a trade alliance of sort to augment the profile and visibility of its members and to propel them overseas, TaFF has since taken the role to not only guide local labels in their search for markets elsewhere, but also create channels with which to help them reach an audience within our shores or further afield.
Zhuang @ The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in 2017
Published just twelves days ago, One Orchard Store is “based on the idea of discovery”, according to its webpage, and it “curates contemporary designers in Singapore and introduces innovative businesses.” Nearly two weeks after going online, OOS looks like it’s still in browser testing stage. Curation is cursory and innovative businesses have yet to appear. Perhaps the mask-making workshop Mask4SG counts?
And what can be discovered? It depends on what is considered a discovery. If finding a product is the mission, perhaps. If it’s gaining insight, perhaps not. OOS encourages discovery by scrolling from the top feature banner down to the last. And clicking on tiled pictures between. The interface borders on the bland and the attempt to reach out to the viewer, on the passive, leaving behind energy levels of the pages that make Love Bonito’s look positively frenetic.
Opting for a flat design typical of websites such as Fairprice and Courts, OSS is built around click and get, less song and dance. No GIFs (or animation) are seen, no videos, no soundtrack (an opportunity to expose local music?). Engagement is perfunctory. At the moment, only shipping to local addresses are available, despite OSS saying that it “seeks to showcase and facilitate exposure of the locally based designers locally, regionally and globally.”
Three core categories of products are offered: women’s wear/accessories, kid’s wear, and lifestyle, which, despite a sub-head ‘home’, comprises only of products in ‘fragrance’. The women’s clothing section has a surprisingly large sub-section with a list of 14, but not all open up to something to see or buy—activewear, denim, and suits have nothing in them, while knitwear has one item. In shoes, there is only one brand, in beauty, none. It might be possible that OOS, like Zhuang before it, is disadvantaged by a lack of brand support.
Some of the labels available at OOS: (clockwise from top left) GINLEE Studio, Ying the Label, hher, Silvia Teh, Shirt Number White, Minor Miracles, ANS.EIN
Among the old and new fashion names that populate OOS, Zhuang alums such as influencer Beatrice Tan’s Frontrow by Klarra, the streetwear collective Mash-Up, and Gilda Su’s Rêvasseur are not included. But one name is: Ying the Label. A favourite of the political elite and a darling of TaFF since the days of Zhuang, Ying the Label—now without a designer collab—seems to enjoy favourable visibility, with the top feature banner in a photograph of the brand’s art-infused outfit shot like it was a design student’s work, destined for a graduation catalogue.
OOS is, visually, a sum of photographs pulled from the brands themselves, but not put through the rigors of editing. In fact, even the products appear to lack some measure of merchandising. Perhaps brands can choose what they want to sell in OOS. It is possible that OOS had been in a state where having stock is better than not. It is difficult to reconcile the astonishing difference between Anna Rainn’s ’90s secretary aesthetics and newbie Silvia Teh’s borderline edgy looks.
E-commerce platforms, like their brick-and-mortar counterparts, are better served if there is a component in its set-up that can effect experience. OOS’s potential is impeded by a genuine lack of content. Scrolling mindlessly down a page might be explorative to some, but it is, for many others, a reason to kill the page. And, strangely, despite all the discovering encouraged, facilitated by over-working the index finger, there is not even a single back-to-top button. Despite its shortcomings, OOS is still appealing to some, such as influencer Andrea Chong, whose website DC Edit calls it “brilliant… responsive digital marketplace.”
To land on OOS, it is imperative that one does not search One Orchard (an understandable action), which would link one to YMCA @ One Orchard! The full One Orchard Store is required. The name choice is, in fact, rather odd, considering that OOS is a digital-native business and need not be associated with a known shopping street or a specific destination, such as a fruit farm, unlike, say, the e-shop of Dover Street Market, which was originally situated on Dover Street, a short, 330-metre thoroughfare in Mayfair, London. If place name is crucial, why not—for strong local flavour—One Ang Mo Kio Store?
Screen grabs: One Orchard Store. Photo: Zhao Xiangji