In a time when consumers are ditching homogeneous brick-and-mortars for the convenience, variety, and excitement of e-commerce, stores of a certain kind aren’t just surviving, they are thriving. They are the general stores with spaces that are more than multi-hyphenates: they boast original concepts, a focused point of view, and one-of-a-kind experiences that keep people - like us - coming back.

In part four of this seven-part series, the spotlight’s on Naiise, the design temple for locally designed products.

 

 

When you are at Naiise’s flagship at The Cathay (#B1-08), you can see - and feel - founder Dennis Tay’s passion for design: to encourage people to enjoy it on an everyday basis; to show how good design can better lives; and to generate interest in and support for the local design scene.

“I have always loved design,” says Tay, 32. “A lot of Naiise is about getting people to appreciate design and to be educated on what it is.”

 

 

From stationery to handmade accessories, The Cathay store offers over 700 local brands (that’s more than half of Naiise’s whooping 1,300 stockists). Instead of overwhelming you, his vision and cause are contagious.

Tay feels strongly about bridging the gap between local designers and consumers. It was what drove him to launch Naiise in 2013 as an online store with a one-man team and just five suppliers.

 

 

Even now, with 260 times more brands, Naiise continues to add at least 18 new ones every week and 720 new products a month, ranging from fashion to lifestyle, and even books by local authors.

 

 

The Cathay location was picked because of its proximity to schools. “As a country, Singapore, we didn’t really grow up appreciating design. Being located near design and tertiary schools enables us to expose students to the interesting things our local designers create, and hopefully show them why they should support local makers and local artisans. It is only then that the local market will grow.”

 

 

Naiise is going overseas, with one store each planned for Malaysia and London this year. The former is to help to build a design-loving community and allow Malaysian designers to tap into larger consumer markets; and the latter is because London is Naiise’s second-largest international online customer.

 

 

Art Direction: Penny Seow

Photography: Darren Chang & Vernon Wong

 

This story was first published in the July 2017 issue of Her World magazine.