Or, will be before long. In 1996, when it opened, Club 21’s Blackjack was the temple of cool, but it closed 15 years later. They’ll soon return, very soon
Most shoppers these days associate Club 21 (this year marks their golden jubilee) with just that—Club 21, the multi-label store in the Four Seasons Hotel, and the separate units for men and for women. Those more aware would be able to identify other single-brand entities under the Club 21 Group, such as Jil Sander, Comme des Garçons, and the newly refurbished Issey Miyake, all at voco Orchard (the former Hilton Singapore), but still known as The Shopping Gallery. There were, however, other multi-label stores under Singapore’s most recognisable luxury retailer. One that might easily come to mind is Blackjack (in Forum the Shopping Gallery), Club 21’s carefully-considered assemblage of mid-’90s cool, featuring clothes by minimalist brands, such as Helmut Lang and Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair, as well as street/sports-centric labels (still minimal), such as Y3.
To be exact, Blackjack opened in 1996 at HPL House, the headquarters of HPL—Hotel Properties Limited, the conglomerate behind some of the best luxury hotels in the world. It was deemed the most exciting store for youths at the time, a haven for street style that included Japanese labels such as Tsumori Chisato, as well as those from the UK such as Maharishi. It even had an accompanying Blackjack Café (once Scoops, a Häagen-Dazs ice cream parlour). But, Blackjack was possibly too ahead of its time. The Straits Times journalist Jamie Ee (now an editor with The Business Times), once described in the daily that “there’s nothing for the over-20 set in this store.” Blackjack closed two years later due to sluggish footfall, and, perhaps more directly, the economic woes of the time. Although there were initial rumours that they would relocated to Pacific Plaza (then, a swanky mall with Prada in it), they chose the HPL-owned Forum The Shopping Mall, the former Forum Galleria.
Against its placid neighbours, the new Blackjack store stood out for its stylish incongruence and a departure from its initial funkier self. We remember the unusual and somewhat off-beat tangerine-hued rubber flooring and similarly coloured storage units. The space was not massive, yet there was the centrepiece of an ovoid rack, suspended from a stainless-steel vessel secured to the ceiling. Somewhat industrial was the effect, with a whiff of Halloween. Some shoppers sensed a coldness that they said was consistent with Club 21 stores, but came they did for the merchandise mix that spoke with considerable eloquence of the zeitgeist of the time. Blackjack closed in 2011 after an impressive 15-year run in all. Replacing it was the more intimate and, dare we say, edgier Club21b (that, too, recently moved out, and is in two unmarked units at voco Orchard). But Blackjack is poised to return this month. From an accidental peek at the black-and-white space (top) a few days ago, and the updated logotype, we sensed something appealing is afoot.
To be sure, Blackjack was not the first into the hipster market back then. The template was formed by Blue Moon, a retail disrupter conceived unexpectedly by HPL in 1991. Blue Moon was unlike anything under HPL’s kin, the Club 21 Group. It was not situated in the Hilton Shopping Gallery (a HPL property, now voco Orchard) or in a mall, even a HPL-owned shopping centre. Rather, Blue Moon was in HPL House on Cuscaden Road, behind Forum the Shopping Mall. It sat on the first floor (but not quite street level), below Hard Rock Cafe, opened a year earlier, and, interestingly, our island’s first Emporio Armani store. From Orchard Road, you could barely see it. A discrete address, some had said: still on the our island’s only shopping belt then, but away from the main drag.
Blue Moon was a draw because it was the closest we had to street fashion that was not an obvious nod to hip hop. It was closer to what you would have found in London’s Covent Garden (of the ’90s). There were many brands (compelling products, rather than brand names, were the driving force) in the 7,300 sq ft (or 678 sqm)—too many for us to remember now. But what was also unique about Blue Moon was their openness to local labels. One of them was Argentum, the indie jewellery brand, still in operation today. Unfortunately, with the changing tide of fashion, and taste, Blue Moon closed in 1995. The baton to capture youth spend was passed to Blackjack in the same location, but that too shuttered in 1998. Unlike Blackjack, Blue Moon was not considered for resurrection. We are unable to say for now what the new Blackjack will stock, but we expect it to live up to its sterling past.
Updated: 5 December 2022, 18.30. Some dates have been corrected for accuracy.
Blackjack is expected to reopen at level 2, The Shopping Gallery, voco Orchard on 8th December. Photo: Chin Boh Kay
Blue Moon was really fun. Thanks for remembering!
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