First published on 10 Apr 2008.
It’s no secret that Haji Lane has been hotter than July for more than two years, especially for fashionista hipsters and indie-label whores. And the truth is, it’s not slowing down – new boutiques spring up constantly, established ones regularly clear merch to make room for more, and even suburban mums flock there to get trends in order. That’s why we’ve selected it as the first street in a series of articles on offbeat finds in Singapore’s well-known shopping districts. Amid the limited-edition Nikes, Material Boy and PAM, can you still get a good deal on Haji? We hit the nooks and crannies of this stamp-sized alley to sniff out the quirkiest and most affordable surprise buys.
Thirty-five dollars for a living-room rug? Those kind of prices for decent quality carpets don’t even exist at IKEA, but here they are, smack-dab in the middle of the street at the only carpeting outlet on Haji: Anil Brothers. Also on display is an array of shaggy carpets (starting at $295) and sejadah prayer mats ($14.90-$28). Owner Anilkant has lived in the neighbourhood since the 1950s and can tell you a bit about how the street has changed over the years – pull up a chair and consider it a free history lesson.
It’s like the foyer of a bridge convention at Dulcetfig – sweet granny-style handbags sit tastefully on the display shelves. Though the clutches and purses are a little on the more expensive side, it’s still a small price to pay for rare patterns and styles.
Say what? Yep, floorball equipment. Climb to the attic of Jia’s house-themed space and come face to face with your childhood dream: a ‘locker room’ area and a goal, where you can play floorball, a milder version of floor hockey (instead of a puck, it’s a light plastic ball). The Fat Pipe-brand balls go for a mere $2.50 each and the Fat Pipe floorball sticks range from $50-$180 – but the real deal is that you can practise your swing for as long as you want, for free.
To the dismay of normal-calf-sized women everywhere, the skinny-jean trend is going nowhere. The good news is, there’s no need to spend a fortune on that delicious cherry-red pair. At 2, a stretchy, form-fitting pair from Fantastik Antik goes for $59 and comes in a rainbow of colours, like red (of course), deep purple, forest green, chocolate brown, light grey and off-black. When the legstranglers finally go out of style, you’ll laugh all the way to the bank. And then the Salvation Army.
Technically, vintage jewellery shouldn’t be that expensive – it is second-hand, after all. That’s why the healthy stock of pieces at Suite Stuff suits so well. One-of-a-kind chunky pieces, gold clip-ons, ivory coloured squares and pearl-inspired danglers are only $15-$30. Likewise, COL:LAGE carries the affordable-but-unique Insignia Accessories, a line that combines new materials with consignment pieces. At $9.90-$22.90, these one-offs are a steal.
We usually can’t afford anything at White Room, but that’s okay, because the one thing we really must have are the statement-making, neon-coloured shoelaces ($8). As for the lust-worthy ‘whore haus’ graphic T-shirt ($49)…well, we’ll just have to wait until our piggy bank can take the hit.
In the market for a skimboard? We weren’t either, but we liked that Barong (16 Haji Lane) carries the beach-ready item for a modest $359. Even if you don’t know how to surf, at least you’ll look the part on Sentosa’s shores.
Some things never go out of style – especially the Arabic abaya dresses at Hamzah Lucky Store. The selection here is solid and competitively priced ($20-$60). In addition, the shop stocks Indonesian batik garments at wholesale prices. Textiles Although most of the silk and cloth vendors have visible fronts on the Arab Street corridor, that didn’t stop Silkland Trading from setting up shop in a modest second-storey showroom, which ironically is only accessible via the unremarkably marked Haji Lane back entrance. The prize for persistence is a vast selection of fine silks and linens imported from India. But the real payoff is the wholesale prices – Silkland sells mostly to designers, so a metre of intricately embroidered fine silk for, say, curtains or a chair re-upholstery job goes for around $60.
You’re not a true hipster until you get baptised by buying a vintage T-shirt from House of Japan. But if you’re looking to leave your dirty-haired, carefully dishevelled days behind, scoot across the street to HJ’s second location (78 Haji Lane), which features heaps of cute, well-cut dresses.