Singapore graphic design studio, ACRE, plough the fields of craft and design to keep their creative passions burning.
They came together to create a platform for creatives as a fun project, but the duo enjoyed working together so much that they started their own creative company as well.
Co-founders of ACRE, Zheng Tian Yu (better known as TY Zheng) and Jason Song, were friends in church when they created Hello Playground in 2010, an online website to showcase the work of talents in the creative scene. While the venture did not take off, the relationship between Jason and TY did. The former was jaded from his time spent as a copywriter in advertising agencies, and was planning to leave the industry to open a café until he met TY and proposed they open a design studio together instead.
“I felt this was the right thing to do as it resurrected my desire to do creative things,” says Jason. “I like his work and I saw the potential for a really talented art director to become his own creative director.”
The decision came less easily for TY, who was then in his fourth year working for local independent branding studio Foreign Policy Design Group. “If he didn’t ask me, I would probably still be there. It took me a long time to consider,” says TY. “He put up a very attractive offer, we clicked, and it was quite simple in that sense.”
Singapore creativity is all around town these days — if you can catch it on time. Pop-up markets have become a popular platform for local designers to display and sell their wares. These ephemeral events allow groups of small independent designers to rent interesting spaces together, as well as present as an attraction larger than themselves.
While trade shows in convention centres have traditionally served this role, the new pop-up style markets present themselves as specially-crafted experiences. They present designers around particular themes or standards, and are usually held in locations outside of typical retail spaces. Creatory showcased over 60 of Singapore’s creative talents in an industrial building in MacPherson two weekends ago, and in February, NÓNG took over the rooftop carpark of People’s Park Complex where organiser Edible Gardens is also building an urban farm.
Reclaiming out-of-the-box locations for creative showcases is not new in this city. Back in 2004, design agency WORK brought the Comme des Garcons Guerilla Store to Singapore, helping the Japanese fashion label open year-long pop-up stores in Chinatown, Arab Street, Bukit Merah and Mount Sophia — none of which were known to be hip districts then. Around the same period, FARM also started regular ROJAK sessions by inviting designers and artists in Singapore to present their work at unconventional spaces such as the old National Stadium and an apartment in Golden Mile Complex. That today’s pop-ups are filled with local designers who are making and selling (not just talking), suggests the industry has grown. And it’s not just online design retailers like Naiise and Haystakt who hold such pop-ups, but there are specialist companies like Public Garden and Shophouse & Co that do so.
Even as pop-ups expand, brick-and-mortar stores that retail local design are not going away anytime soon either. Hong Kong based Kapok opened a store in the National Design Centre last year offering products from designers around the world including Singapore. Home-grown design shops, The Little Dröm Store and Supermama also recently refreshed and move into new stores too.
For a country, whose previous prime minister once declared that “Life for Singaporeans is not complete without shopping,” buying local design has never been easier than now.