Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Singapore Shopping: Blackmarket

Two Sundays ago, my interview with Quincy Teofisto and Jasmine Tuan of Blackmarket came out On the Radar, in The Philippine Star. In case you missed it, here it is for your reading pleasure. So inspiring (especially if you've always dreamed of having your own store), and definitely worth your time.

SINGAPORE - Blackmarket, one of Singapore’ s hottest retailers, is a multi-brand store carrying up and coming homegrown labels as well as tightly edited collections from Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines (Manila’ s very own ProudRace is a consistent bestseller). The brainchild of Filipino video artist Quincy Teofisto, and longtime colleague, media designer and confessed shopaholic Jasmine Tuan, Blackmarket is actually an extension of the duo’ s reach and influence in the local media design scene. Not a bad move for two club kids who carved out their niche on the dance floor of Zouk.

The duo named their retail venture Blackmarket, with the premise of rebelling against commercialism.

While the name evokes something underground or bordering on the fringes of legality, there is nothing seedy or shady about their stores, save for the notorious provenance of their first shop’ s location on Victoria Street in Jalan Pisang- a street that was once home to 16th century pirates and drug dens in the 1990s. Simply put, Blackmarket is a hotspot for emerging talent and a showcase for thoughtful trade.

On the Radar speaks with Quincy and Jasmine about their design backgrounds, their runaway success in retailing, plans for the future, and the latest Philippine addition to their roster of regional labels.

Quincy, what brought you to Singapore?

There was an opening for scholarship back in 2001, so I applied and studied video art in Lasalle College of the Arts here in Singapore.

Jasmine, you have your own labels FruFru & Tigerlily. Were you always into fashion? What got you interested in fashion? What course did you take up in university?

Fashion definitely plays a big role in my life. I'm a shopaholic and I've been dressing up since the day I embraced vanity. I travel and shop a lot, hence I understand and value the importance of a complete retail experience and learned how to spot good design based on my personal taste.

I was working with Zouk, Singapore's biggest club for nine years and it exposed me to different creatives, including fashion. I studied Visual Communications, doing graphics and majored in electronic media design. That has no relationship with fashion at all. (laughs)

How did you two meet? How long have you known each other?

Jasmine and I have common interests. She was doing the media design for Zouk, specifically motion graphics, and I am into video art, so our background is somehow similar. We started our first collaboration by playing visuals for clubs, exhibitions and corporate events under the name Achtung! Achtung! We've become prominent in Singapore via Zouk's ReadySet Glo. We’ ve been working together for almost 5 years now.

How did you end up partnering together and putting up your own store? Why did you choose Jalan Pisang as your first location? Why Orchard Central next?

We started a design collective together with our ex-partners. We love the space in Jalan Pisang for its quaint character, it really matches our own characters. We knew that the shop belonged to the area when we first moved in.

We've been looking for a second location since last year since we couldn’ t accommodate the new designers in Jalan Pisang. We wanted to showcase more designers but space constraint was stopping us from getting more stocks. We chose Orchard Central because it is far from the mad crowd in the area. We want to maintain the underground character of Blackmarket.

Did you always see yourselves going into retail?

Initially, we were planning to design tees and thought of setting up an online shop while still keeping our day jobs. But we never really ventured into it. The first thought was how to market our design works so we decided to realize our plans by setting up Blackmarket. We never really anticipated that the retail side of the business would become a full time job.

Your store is an incubator for talented and/or up and coming designers and labels. What advice can you give designers from around the region who would want to have presence in Singapore, in a well-curated store like yours?

Designing is a serious job, the work involves meticulous research and accurate execution. To gain respect from your discipline is to respect your own work first. Always remember that someone is better than yourself, there's no point in trying to overtake someone, just be contented in what you can do, and improve, collaborate, never compete.

You mentioned that the rough-hewn tables, simple racks and overall raw aesthetic of the store is a reflection of your current crop designers. Do you foresee yourselves going towards a polished route in the future?

Of course it's been a dream to reach a certain level, like Colette in Paris or Seven New York someday. We're only 2 years old, it will be conceited if we jump farther than we can offer. We're taking things slowly but aggressively. It will take time but we believe we will get there.

Cecile Van Straten's t-shirt line, Heather Miss Grey with Bleach Catastrophe, will soon be available (the line is now available in Blackmarket-MFO) in your store. What did you like about it?

Cecile is one of the pioneers in edgy and forward design. No one can deny her prominence in the Philippine design industry starting from her Defect days. I must say that she made her mark. It's exciting to know that she's creating something again after a hiatus in the industry. Even though it is a small collection, there's a strong cohesiveness in the theme, the pieces are young yet contemplative in her design.

19 Jalan Pisang
Singapore 199084 (along Victoria Street)

+65 6296 8512
Open from 12pm to 9pm daily

Blackmarket No. 2
#02-10 Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road, Singapore 238896
+65 6634 5201
Open from 12pm to 9pm daily

Background story: When Cecile went to Blackmarket to talk to them about her t-shirt line, Berry and I had the pleasure of tagging along. Cecile introduced us to Quincy and Jasmine, and it was so cool to actually be right there in the same room when this was all happening. Heather Miss Grey in Singapore. Yay!

Knowing Cecile was there to pitch HMG, I decided to wear one of her shirts. To mowdel it, ya know. Here I am wearing Heather Miss Grey's Hitch t-shirt. It's a super soft gray tee with 3/4 sleeves and a longer back. The hidden front pocket where X marks the spot is a nice touch. Love the little details. Definitely not just another regular tee. It's a statement shirt.

My t-shirt: Heather Miss Grey, Jeans: J Brand, Flats: Lanvin, Bag: Alexander Wang Rocco, Cuff: Fenton/Fallon
Berry's shirt: Gingersnaps, Shorts: Ralph Lauren, Sneakers: Converse Chuck Taylors
Berry's stroller: Philippe Starck for Maclaren

(Photos taken by Chuvaness)


A Loopy Life said...

You should also include details such as what stroller you're using. :D

Anonymous said...

How is a commercial establishment "rebelling against commercialism" exactly?

cd_mfo said...

@ A Loopy Life, updated as you've recommended! =)

@ Anonymous, to answer your question in their own words, "...we know it is complicated irony - but we still do it." My take from this is, they don't choose designers who are simply commercial. They want a story behind a collection. They go beyond retailing, they nurture labels.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous: we're not getting any funding to do this, we're are doing it for the belief in the designer's capabilities not its commercial value. we're not gonna sit down like some people talking about changes, we're doing our best to give the designers exposure against established brands. we know it's ironic, but you cant established a new way of thinking without being in the system itself. - Q

Vicky G said...

I LOOOOOVE your shirt! :) Would you know the price range of HMG shirts at Black Market?

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