Gilda Su and Samuel Wong Come Together with A Bold Vision for SUPERSPACE | SENATUS



Gilda Su and Samuel Wong Come Together with A Bold Vision for SUPERSPACE

12 November 2014

Text by Kien M. Lee | Photos by Amanda Wong

Two of the most promising designers on the fashion scene in Singapore have come together to open up a multi-label store in the newly opened Orchard Gateway mall in Singapore - a shopping destination that houses several other local designers as well.

Besides stocking their own labels — Gilda Su's REVASSEUR and Samuel Wong's evenodd — the retail boutique named SUPERSPACE is a bold new brick-and-mortar venture by the two "graduates" of the recently-concluded Parco next NEXT project situated at Millenia Walk, together with a third partner, Bobby Luo of The Butter Factory.

We talk to the duo to find out in what ways their retail destination is unique and how they intend to use it as a platform for collaborations with, as well as a springboard for fellow designers.

Congratulations on your new store! How has business been so far?
Samuel Wong (SW): For a new store, we're doing well! It's mostly been our VIPs and followers that have come in so far. Through social media, our customers know about what we sell, and these brands (that we stock).

You can't find most of what we stock anywhere else in Singapore.

Gilda Su (GS): In terms of brand awareness, we're only just starting. We’ve been really lucky because a lot of the media has been very supportive. People are starting to get to know about SUPERSPACE.

So which brands do you stock?
SW: We have a lot of cult labels from overseas, like KTZ, Bernhard Willhelm, Tata Christiane, Rene Gurksov, Chocomoo, KYE and so on. It’s what you see people wearing in foreign street snaps but you can’t never find it in your own country. We also have many Singapore brands as well as Ling Wu, KAMS, YESAH, FeistHeist and MASHUP.

Both of you are still designing for your own respective labels, how does opening a multi-label store fit into your plans?
SW: In general, I have a style for my own brand. Personally I have different styles that I like to wear in my daily life. With this store, I am able to bring them all together.

So both of your brands are part of your own multi-label offerings then.
SW: Our store is "split" into 2 sides. There's the "printed" side and the "monochrome" side. My brand, evenodd, is in the black-and-white/monochrome section.

We'll be adding more after showing our upcoming collection at Men’s Fashion Week in Jakarta. There'll be 35 looks — it’s my biggest collection; I'm showing overseas and representing Singapore as well, so the stress level is high! After this I'll have more for my customers to see, and more to sell.

GS: We (each) had a booth at Parco Next Next before — that was an incubator space supported by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, Textile & Fashion Federation (Singapore), and Parco. It was a really good learning experience for me. But with this store, it's good for my brand, REVASSEUR, to be here on Orchard Road and stocked alongside other emerging, and cult labels from overseas.

Since starting the store and stocking my Spring 2014 collection, it has since sold out and I had to replenish the t-shirts twice. The new collection, "Villains" for the Fall 2014 season is out on the racks now after a successful showing at Seoul Fashion Week, Audi Fashion Week and Blueprint.

Do you see more customers coming from overseas? How does SUPERSPACE compliment your own brand's sales strategy?
SW: Indonesia is a new market for me. I have customers who come all the way from Jakarta to buy our designs. They used to buy at Parco Next Next (located at Millennia Walk) where we were stocked, but stepping out (on our own) with this shop changes the game.

We're in the middle of Orchard Road. Our customers love it. Parco was a stepping stone, a good showroom when we first started out.

GS: When I first started off, I would sell REVASSEUR wholesale to whomever would take us. Having done this for the last 2 years, I’m able to position my brand now in a better way. I now stock in Seoul and Tokyo, which was my goal when I first started my brand. I see more people from overseas following us on social media, which is interesting, and probably because of our overseas shows and press coverage.

SUPERSPACE is basically the next step we had to take with our own brands. I can't deny that the overseas buyers or press also get a bit more impressed when it’s mentioned that I have my own store. It's not about the prestige factor for me, but the fact that I am able to handle all the aspects of owning a brick-and-mortar shop. Besides, at SUPERSPACE, we have customers who come in every single week to see what's new, and this could only be possible because we're located right in town. 

Are you seeing enough interest in your designs and the other designs that SUPERSPACE offers?
GS: It's growing. People — or at least the market we're targeting — are starting to veer away from fast fashion, and looking like everybody else — especially the men in Singapore.

We do see quite a wide demographic of customers here. We also get a lot of inquiries from Singapore and overseas, from emerging designers who want us to stock them.

How would you describe the customers that have come in?
GS: We have a lot of men, more of the men who want something that nobody else has. The items they desire are pricier because they’re handmade or made in very few quantities. The men are willing to spend more on good or unique design whereas the women are looking for a bargain — something cool but much more affordable.

I guess it can't be helped since women have a lot more choice in the market. But also, most Singapore girls are more interested in looking "pretty".

We don't really sell "pretty" here at SUPERSPACE. We sell character, personality, and the unusual.

So how did the idea for SUPERSPACE originally come along?
SW: A year ago, Gilda and I were already looking for a space of our own, as PARCO's incubator program was coming to an end. We heard about a new mall opening on Orchard Road and wanted in. Initially, it was something we wanted to share with our other designer friends from PARCO next NEXT, but it was not an initiative that everyone could afford.

GS: Later, I talked to Bobby about having a store. Bobby had been having his own online shop, NIGHTVISION, for the past 5 years. He stocked many brands that I had loved for years as well. We were all good friends and just decided to do it.

We have different styles but we gel together perfectly. We all love fashion, we love things that are unique, and that's why we can come together to create something different.

It's always been something we wanted to do. SUPERSPACE is like a coming together of our resources. I don’t think that opening our own stores would have been possible so quickly if we had done it ourselves. What we're (each) good at doesn't overlap — our styles don't overlap; what we do in the store doesn't overlap — from management, to operations to logistics.

How has the retail experience been now that you’re running your own store? What advice do you have for someone who’s looking to do the same?
GS: People who want to do retail should be able to stand for a long time, to smile even when the customer is bitchy, asking for discounts. It’s not easy to know how to respond to different kinds of customers. Not everyone has the attitude for it. You also need to be able to handle staffing issues. That’s a whole other ball game!

Having our own store also has its own stresses with all the bills there is to pay.

But when you’re doing retail for your own brand, you get to know your customers quite well. You find out what they like or don't like, where they go party, what they work as, etc. And it helps in the designing process. And you get to experience first hand when customers like something, or don't. It's very rewarding.

So with your multi-label store, you’re able to actively market research.
GS: Yes, I (now) know exactly what sells. We can even tell with different nationalities that they have different traits.

For example, we have tourists or residents living here who are from China who will ask if an item is for men's or women's. The ladies will not look at men's clothing, and the men will not look at women's clothing.

When we explain that many of our pieces are unisex, or that they should throw away the idea that you can’t wear something just because of someone else says so, it’s a new ball game for the customers themselves. 

How are you doing things differently at SUPERSPACE to take it to the next level?
SW: We're going to launch "SUPERFLEA Sundays" and bring in personalities and customers to sell their custom-made or pre-loved but cool items. Through this we hope to give more exposure to our store. 

GS: We are very open to people who want to collaborate, whether they are in the fashion, art, or music. We are currently working with LASALLE in one of their projects, for students to sell their collections here. It’s something I'm quite passionate about — giving back to the industry. We will clear one of the racks here and let students sell their stuff — let them learn. They don't usually teach you about things like pricing (strategy) in school.

They can see if they can sell and who their customer really is. If this takes off, I will approach other schools and open this possibility up to other students or emerging designers as well.


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