Claire Chahil, TheAC
Imagine a boutique designed with Singapore’s tropical climate and lifestyle in mind. Meet TheAC. Find out how its founder CLAIRE CHAHIL is going beyond curating independent, local designers for this new retail space.
Located in the heart of Singapore’s historic enclave of Joo Chiat in a traditional Peranakan shophouse, The Attaby Collective (TheAC) is not your average multi-label boutique. It is a retail incubator featuring a curated selection of independent designers and brands.
What started as a pop up in 2016, this new retail space is now the permanent home of 11 fashion, home, kids, accessories, activewear and art brands. The space showcases familiar names like Elverd Designs, Eysse & I through to new arrivals like InZone5, Big Blue Company and Elements Concept. Each curated brand is independent with a focus on responsible and fair production practices. Their shared passion for what they do and design shines through in the fun and tropical-inspired setting.
We sat down with the founder Claire Chahil, who is also the owner and designer of Attaby, to hear all about the idea behindTheAC, her stand on retail in Singapore and what’s in store during challenging retail times in Singapore.
I wanted a disruptive retail model that would offer the opportunity for emerging brands to grow their following, be housed in a permanent retail space but without the usual consignment model pitfalls.
Image: Founder, Claire Chahil
As the fashion designer of Attaby, what triggered you open TheAc?
With over 10 years experience in fashion and retail, I wanted a disruptive retail model that would offer the opportunity for emerging brands to grow their following, be housed in a permanent retail space but without the usual consignment model pitfalls. Attaby sits within the collective as an in-house fashion label.
What has been the biggest challenge with being a creative in business?
I’ve always debunked the myth that creative practitioners are not natural business people. On the contrary, running a business is about finding solutions and putting ideas into practice every day, which is the remit of a designer. The biggest challenges in this context can become your biggest opportunities.
What’s next in store for you?
I’m planning on two levels at the moment. I have immediate plans to foster the existing group of brands and the current space because I absolutely love the energising feedback from our customers. I also have a secondary plan for the future of TheAC that is on a much larger scale, which is all in the strategy stage at the moment.
In your opinion, what’s the current state of the retail industry in Singapore?
Retail can often be volatile and we can certainly see huge challenges both here and on an international level for many reasons. The traditional business models are being revised and TheAC is proud to be part of this disruption. Singapore has gone through a rapid Internationalisation project but now people are looking for a little more specialisation and something that is not so mass market. Our brand leaders are always actively engaged with our core customers and this is what leads us to success.
How do you think the situation will change in the future?
Many people talk about the death of traditional shops but I think people will always want to experience shopping as a leisure activity and feel the product before they buy. So the challenge is to make the traditional shop a desirable and inspirational place to visit. In this sense, the TheAC is not simply a shop. We are a boutique, a brand discovery centre and social space where we host events.
What advice would you share with aspiring store owners?
Firstly make sure you like your shop as you’ll be spending a lot of time there! You need to be proud of what you create to give it positive energy. With my business hat on I’d say do your research on what exactly you will offer in the marketplace and try to gather a following before you take the plunge.
Many people talk about the death of traditional shops but I think people will always want to experience shopping as a leisure activity and feel the product before they buy. So the challenge is to make the traditional shop a desirable and inspirational place to visit.
How would you describe Singapore Style?
I think Singapore is a mix of city chic and beach resort – after all, it is a banking centre with a corporate edge yet is also a tropical island where flip flops (or thongs/slippers) and kaftans can be day wear. One thing I love is that you can dress in anything from a traditional sari to a pencil skirt and blouse or shorts and a t-shirt and people are perfectly accepting of this. Once I even found myself in full white tie dress eating noodles at a roadside hawker with hardly an eyebrow raised. I love that mix.
How has style changed in Singapore in the last few years?
There is a real confidence in local designers that has developed over the 6 years I’ve been here, which has changed the style landscape. More options exist at all levels of the market so people can dress according to their style aesthetic more easily. It’s an exciting time to be part of the Singapore fashion scene.
What’s the best time to visit Singapore?
Anytime is a good time to visit Singapore!