Singapore…the lion of Asia and the country where I have lived most of my life, and I still call home.
The first time I arrived in Singapore, I was a newlywed. My husband and I ended up living one year at the Hyatt in Orchard Road; his company employer paid for the hotel, which was less expensive than renting an apartment. I was working remotely (as we say now), sending designs and patterns to my boss in Australia via Federal Express. I did not do much design but went to the stores and drew the pieces on the shops on Orchard Road windows. This is what was asked of me; I added or took away some details, made the technical drawing, and made a medium-sized pattern. Do not judge. This is really how a commercial house works and how and why you go to a fashion show.
The second time we ended in Singapore, we were three then, and our son was just ten months old and already walking; we lived in a beautiful three-story Balinese-style bungalow, and I had practically taken the second floor for my clothing design at the time, was very small 21 pieces all sewn by me sold to the woman I met through playgroups and music lessons for my son.
We are four for the third time in Singapore, and the children were in school, so I had more time for myself. Since I had chosen to update my skills while pregnant in jewelry design, I had taken silversmith, beading and wire wrapping, and silver clay techniques for jewelry design. I started a small jewelry line and a 12-piece clothing line. I called it “Hanging Lola” by Ventus Studios. More on that in another post.
A Bit of Singapore From My Experience
There is so much I am grateful for in Singapore; from the first time I arrived in this small country, I felt at home; the clean, safe, developed country opens your arms in a warm, welcoming hug. Bus, taxis, and metro (MRT) crisscross the island. There is no need to drive; walking as a female, even at 3 AM, is safe. This is where you can be in business in 30 minutes if you are a permanent resident. There is so much financial and educational support for entrepreneurs, and salaries are high for professionals. Education levels and medicine are one of the highest in the world. Crime, corruption, and taxes are low. There are four official languages English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil; three main religions and three ethnic groups. How do they do it?
All the freedom, cleanliness, safety, high level of education, medicine, technology, and development comes at the cost of stringent laws and rules. Is the price too high? Well, it all depends on your intentions; breaking the law can get very expensive to live here, or worse, it can get you jail time and deportation for foreigners. There is a reason why before you land, there is a gentle reminder that drugs carry the death penalty.
But Singapore is much more than that; it is clean and safe. Did I mention that before?
My favorite time is after 6 PM when the sun goes down, and the gentle briss comes through the trees and hits my face; I know it is time to relax and enjoy the early evening. Hopefully, by then, I will be at the botanical gardens on a walk surrounded by flowers and birds, sipping a prosecco by the river, or playing a game of tennis with a bunch of friends.
A Bit Of Geography
Singapore sits at the end of the Malayan peninsula in the Straight times. It is an Island state with a surface of 710 square kilometers (210 square miles).
A Bit Of History
The Portuguese arrived in Singapore and established a regional trading port. The island was under Dutch and British control. Singapore became a crown colony in 1867 and experienced rapid economic growth in the 20th century. It was occupied by the Japanese during World War II and was eventually granted self-governance in 1959. Singapore became a republic declaring independence from the United Kindom in 1965.
In the late 20th century, Singapore experienced rapid economic growth fueled by industrialization and investment in education and infrastructure. And has become one of Southeast Asia's most prosperous and developed countries. Singapore continues to be a key trading post in Southeast Asia at the same time; it has become one major tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors annually.
A Bit Of Architecture And Best Sites
The architecture of Singapore is very eclectic, from traditional shophouses, temples, and black and white houses from another era,
to state-of-the-art award-winning designs incorporating nature and new materials to balance comfort, futuristic design, and the environment.
This garden is the home of 1.5 million plants.
Fantastic architecture and the best shows in town; even if you do not go inside, the walk along the esplanade is great for people-watching.
Around the corner from Arab Street, you can find some of the oldest shopping streets in Singapore; new and upcoming designers have stores here. Music, art, and graffiti on the walls give the area a youthful ambiance in a traditional shophouse.
One of the lesser-known parks to tourists, this gem is located on the island's west side, perfect for rollerblading and bike riding.
Fabric Hunting Singapore
There are three significant areas for fabric shopping in Singapore: China Town, Kampong Glam, and Spotlight.
Arab Street is the place to buy Haute Couture fabrics, silks, Japanese cotton, and beautiful Batiks, both Indonesian and Malay. If you do not know what authentic batik looks like, check this article, which details these unique printing processes. It is also the best place to buy glass beads, sequins for embroidery, stumpwork, and gold work patches.
I suggest coming around 10 AM when the stores first open or at 4 PM, closing time is 6- 6:30 PM; the heat in between the times can get so unbearable that it is impossible to take the time to bargain.
This is my favorite shop on Arabe Street, Silks printed or plain, beaded Haute Couture fabrics, bridal, linen, and lace fabric. The selection is simply exquisite.
- Gim Joo Textiles Company
You can find satins, sequenced fabrics, mesh, tulle, and printed fabrics perfect for costumes.
- Digvijay Sequins
The name explains what this little Alibaba cave offers. Sequins, Glass beads, luxurious trimmings. Retail and wholesale prices.
I have been coming to China Town since 1995. This area of Singapore is exciting to explore; you will find food courts, market stalls, and vegetable stands from a bygone era. I buy Liberty cotton here, same as if I was shopping in London, Malaysian batik, cotton for quilts, calico, silks, and very inexpensive fabric for costumes for plays.
This is my favorite shop in Singapore. You can find a lovely selection of Liberty Fabrics, linens, and fantastic printed cotton, wool, linen, and silks perfect for suits and summer dresses.
This is a place worth spending a considerable amount of time in. I like to purchase muslin, calico, interfacings, and waterproof fabrics by the roll for handbags and raincoats—one of the few places in Singapore where you can find mannequins for fabric draping.
Although it is listed as a clothing store where you can have things made to measure, you can buy pieces of Malaysian batik in 5 meters lengths. This type of batik makes lovely blouses, sundresses, scarves, placemats, hair ties, and luxurious linings for handbags.
Other places worth visiting:
Since 1970, it has been a place to buy fabric and sewing supplies at wholesale prices. I buy rulers, sewing gadgets, machines used and new, lace, buttons, zippers, bag-making supplies, embroidery supplies, Swarovski crystals, threads, and an outstanding array of cotton for quilting.
This is my go-to store for sewing supplies located at the ground level of the Textile Center, crafts, and haberdashery, my one-stop place. Online shopping with delivery is available. I can say that over the years, I bought 70% of my sewing supplies here.
- Ho Yu
This store is also at the ground level of the Textile Center building. It is best for buttons, elastics, bra-making supplies, stretchable lace, and interfacings.
- Sungai Industrial
The best prices for trimmings, webbing, and tools for bagmaking. I bought all my bagmaking tools here, including grommets and grommet tools.
Other Places Worth Visiting
I forgot to take a picture of the front of the store. Still, it is located on level 5 and covers various crafts—sewing, fabric painting, jewelry and bookmaking, washi tape, fabric weaving, and dyeing.
I like a Spotlight for European needles and threads, embroidery and knit yarns, jacquard knits, linens, theme fabrics (Halloween and Christmas), and Korean, Japanese, and European fabrics. I usually find great cotton with 5% elastane, perfect for summer dresses and pants.
- Mustafa Center
Mustafa Center is an institution in Singapore; people come from as far as India and Sri Lanka to do their shopping here.
The textile section is located on the bottom floor, and here you can buy beautiful packs of silks or 5 meters. Indian women use them to make kaftan pantsuits and Kurtis. I have to admit I haven't been inside in five years.
Singapore has been, for me, my home away from home. I have lived in Singapore longer than in my own country Panama. I can go anywhere, at any time, and never be afraid of getting robbed or hurt. People are intelligent, polite, and free to pursue economic or artistic endeavors. I owe much of the safety and happiness in my family to this beautiful country, and I hope I can continue to call it my home.
If you decide to come and see it for yourselves, wear loose cotton and linen outfits and comfortable yet attractive shoes. Follow the laws, respect the culture, and you will have a wonderful time.
Do let me know in the comments section if you have been in Singapore, did you buy any fabric and what are your preferred tourist attractions. Until Next time, let keep the world together one stitch at a time.