A Quiet Corner

Away from the caffeine-induced buzz, at the opposite end of a coffee shop, a single rack beckons with beautifully tactile garb

This might be the first café that sells clothes not far from the coffee. Gather, by the people behind Punch and (the now-closed) Ronin, is the kind of café that attracts what has been invariably described as hipsters. These might be culinary trendies but, based on a quick site survey, it is hard to ascertain if they are sartorial ones. Yet, Gather, opened in February this year, saw it opportune enough in its premises (and indeed in this area [not that it has no precedent; think: the old Surrender]) to set up a fashion retail corner—literally—that looks like a set to underscore its trendy positioning than actually selling some lovely clothes.

And lovely is The Hinoki, the Japanese label that takes the sole rack about the length of a man’s arm. Easily mistaken as someone’s open wardrobe (or laundry room?), the space has only a dozen styles to sell. But this is no indication of any limitation. It appears at first look that the line comprises a tight edit of only womenswear. When we asked the staff if that is the case, she told us that “it’s unisex”. That’s interesting. When we first encountered The Hinoki in Tokyo’s Ebisu neighbourhood a few years ago, in a charming general store called Rectohall, we saw menswear. Still, the pieces at Gather are androgynous enough for both sexes, except the dresses. But we are living in the era of Harry Styles, aren’t we?

The Hinoki (possibly named after the Japanese cypress), is another stellar example of Japanese fashion pivoted on the less-is-more aesthetic, manipulating shapes and playing up the inherent textures of fabrics derived from old, local mills. Organic cotton, linen, and wool, all naturally dyed, are lovingly fashioned into relatable clothes. There is a clear understanding of how fabric choices and garment shapes could be elements of designs. If guys are to select the pieces here at Gather, they’d need to be small-built. To be sure, the pieces are not body-conscious, but not so voluminous that they might appeal to those girls who buy their T-shirts from a store’s men’s department because those for women are “too small and too short.”

This is simplicity and sophistication you’ll more likely find in the pages of Monocle than on the backs of local women. Still, the proprietor of Gather must know there are enough customers to risk stocking such a label. If you are a fan of 45R (without the indigo, but sadly the store here has shuttered) or Muji Labo, this is the brand to look at. The Hinoki has another plus up its beautifully proportioned sleeves: eco-cred. It says that their design and product development approaches are “an effort to stay in tune with nature and support a sustainable local community.” Kudos to Gather for supporting that motivation. And if you’re wondering, the coffee is really good.

Gather is at the Raffles Arcade, #01-12. Photo: Galerie Gombak