By: Susannah Jaffer
Situated in a sweet little shophouse directly opposite Great World City, Unika boutique, founded by long-time expat Nira Dror Shoshani, has a distinctive charm all of its own. LIV chatted with Nira about her love for independent Israeli design and minimalist style.
Why the name Unika?
I chose it because I wanted to express the boutique’s support of unique designers in a very simple way. The word Unika has a Japanese influence, actually, a culture I’m heavily influenced by and absolutely love.
How did you start up your business?
After four years of living in Singapore, I moved to Shanghai, where I met a designer who created really beautiful leather bags – the brand is called Label 88. We became good friends, and when the time came for me to move back here, we agreed I would bring the bags back to sell in Singapore. This is how the idea of starting a company bringing in independent designers came about.
I participated in fairs around the island for three years, almost every month, and after feedback from customers I realised a need to add to the bags with jewellery and other accessories. I then got in contact with designers who I liked back in Israel, to introduce them to the Singapore market – and I haven’t looked back.
The response to the items was so positive that I eventually decided to go for a more stable location with a shop-front – and I’ve been here for two years. I chose this shophouse because it suited the nature of the brands – it would have clashed with the products to go into a mall full of mass fashion. They are quite exclusive and we don’t stock many pieces of each design; plus, this place has a nice neighbourhood feel to it.
I agree – this shophouse is just perfect!
Thank you. Before I opened the shop, my customer base was mainly expats; they love the boutique because they can find the kinds of designs they are used to seeing back home – in Europe, for instance. I was also exposed to a lot of expat shoppers at the fairs. Now, being across the road from Great World City I get a lot of local shoppers coming through too, with the office crowd popping in to browse during their lunch breaks and after work.
Are all the collections sourced in Israel?
By and large, yes – aside from Label 88, which is a Dutch brand, and some shoes I stock, which are from a French label. I actually bought them from a boutique when shopping back home; after I’d purchased my third pair, I thought they definitely needed to be stocked in the boutique! On average, I bring in new accessories every ten days to two weeks. For the clothes that come from Israel, which has four seasons, it’s usually every two months.
By the way, I love your pared-down personal style!
Thank you. I have quite a minimalistic dress sense, and to a certain extent the collections at Unika reflect that. I feel that these are items women like me can choose for everyday wear. One of the driving factors behind my opening the business here was that, after living in Asia for 11 years, I noticed that a lot of what was around me was quite loud, colourful and bright. I found myself craving something more plain and casual; I wanted to strip things back to the essentials.
Do you have any favourite pieces?
Label 88 have very cute sling bags that you can wear across the body or as a clutch – great for days out, concerts and festivals, or when you’re running around with the kids and need your hands to be free. You can even accessorise them with the leather key-rings we stock.
The handmade clog shoes – you can wear them throughout the day and then dress them up for the evening; the mid-heel is comfortable but still gives you height.
Another fab brand is Kisim – its bags were made famous when one of them was featured in the Sex and the City movies. They are very simple, but show beautiful attention to detail.
When it comes to handbags, the trend here a few years ago was to just pick up a well-known international designer, but I’m slowly seeing that change. Through Unika, I’m trying to show that you can get fantastic quality through a unique collection of independent designers – and it’s great to see so many ladies going that route.
This story first appeared in LIV’s April 2015 issue.
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