Step into Asylum and you instantly notice this is not any other typical store. Chandeliers and red-orangey birds flying in the air greet you as you enter while you get distracted by the bold black motifs on the wall towards your right, an eclectic collection of pretty things notwithstanding, from SGD 7 postcards to SGD 2,200 limited edition Adidas sneakers.
In fact, Asylum is more than just a stylish store, it is also a design studio and gallery all rolled into one. Says founder Chris Lee, 36, “The store is an experiment that has been working quite well. This is an outlet for us to do what we like and what we can’t do in commercial design work.”
Through the Asylum concept, Chris hopes to contribute back to the creative community by bringing the community together in conversations and dialogue, as well as promoting local artists and hopefully, inspiring them to create art pieces.
Asylum started out as a design studio in June 1999 and set up its retail arm in June 2005 under the same roof as the design studio, now located in the basement. To date, there are over 2,000 persons subscribed to its mailing list, looking forward to updates on new stock and events, in addition to curious passersby and tourists who step into the store from time to time.
At the time when I was at Asylum, I had seen more than a few interesting items – part-art and part-quirky keepsakes – for sale on the shelves. Singapore designer Casey Chen’s Dynaglow – lamps made from laundry detergent bottles quickly caught my eye. The bright and cheery lamps are sure to light up the dullest interiors.
Then was German artist Saskia Breitenreicher’s Water from the Fountain of Youth, which is in essence, to people who do not see the humor, just a glass bottle in a pretty box. Fill it up with water (distilled, tap or even the sparkling sort), it’s an irrelevant surprise gift to friends.
I quite had the urge to buy half the items in the store. But after a quick reality check with the wallet, I ended up only buying 1819 SuperMovement’s Majulah Stickapura Series//3 Stickers that I had been looking for a while. This is a set of stickers designed by Singapore artists and designers, where everyone is invited to stick them on public property around the world and take a photograph of the end result.
Next up, Asylum’s crew of 6-9 designers will be kept busy designing CD sleeves for Scandinavian artists, devising branding and identity for the new gifted school for the arts in Singapore as well as launching their very own music label amid everything else.
Asked on what he found most fulfilling from starting up Asylum, Chris believed it to be “the freedom to experiment on any ideas we have. While the design studio is a channel to help project other people’s messages, the store allows us to project our own messages.” Whimsical the messages may be, Asylum has definitely hit the right note with the young and edgy crowd.
Address: 22 Ann Siang Road, Singapore 069702
Tel: +65 6324 8264
Text and photos: Soh Wee Ling