In Chinatown, in Singapore, near the top of Ann Siang Hill you will find a little piece of Scandinavia tucked away from the busy downtown, albeit just two stories high and comprising a narrow shop selling Nordic designer items. And all this, 10,000 kilometres from northern Europe.
The shop, named Style:Nordic has a brief history thus far, mostly due to the fact that has yet to celebrate its half-year birthday. The Swedish owner however has a longer story to tell and an interesting one as well about the origins of the shop.
“The idea was to bring down bits and pieces, creating a lifestyle concept, of Scandinavian design – to show Asian people how to embrace functionality through design,” says Jonas Ericsson, the owner, founder and one third of the staff in the shop.
Knowing this, the décor and choice of items for sale in the shop seem to make more sense, as the impression when you enter is of walking into a Scandinavian accessories store stocking clothes, furniture and other household items.
The shop is completely unlike the other shops in the neighbourhood. The shelves are not crowded and instead the items are given space to present themselves and to show for instance how a vase can look good, as well as hold flowers. And the idea of using designer items for everyday use is what Jonas is trying to sell to the Singaporeans.
“I want to show them the value that intrinsic design gives to things, and to show that it is about quality – design is more than bright ideas – it is also about using the right materials,” he explains giving examples about the little things that are often overlooked here in Asia.
“I try to show how small things can change a room or space. Maybe you just need to add some fabric and then you have it,” he says pointing towards the wall, which holds a row of fabric samples.
“In Scandinavia, we do it all the time – but when we live abroad we don’t see people doing it quite to the same extent.”
Practicing what he preaches, on the first floor of the shop he has pasted a piece of wallpaper resembling a green forest. This small change on a white background gives the effect of trees providing a relaxed feel to the shop, prompting visitors perhaps to sniff the air for the characteristic smells associated with forest life.
“Yea, everyone likes the forest,” Jonas smiles.
Break to new ideas
Jonas opened the shop in October last year after finishing a four year “break” as he calls it himself, from working.
But before taking the break Jonas had a pretty high profile job for a company whose name will certainly ring a bell with most people.
“I had been working in retail development in Sweden and during my last three working years there, I worked as country manager for Giorgio Armani, and the Emporio Armani concept,” he explains.
How Jonas Ericsson, born in Norrtälje, Stockholm, came to open a shop in Singapore is quite simple.
“I came here and fell in love with the place,” he grins.
“During the working break I studied at Stockholm University and got a Master of Science in Business Administration and Economics,” he explains.
“One semester I had to spend time studying abroad – so I spent it here in Singapore. And I just fell in love with the city. But also I saw the lack of Scandinavian design outlets down here. I couldn’t find anything Scandinavian at all.”
“Hey! I thought – I can do that and that is how I got the idea,” he smiles.
But before moving to Singapore a great deal of consideration was put into the matter.
“Of course I had my reservations and doubts – it was a big step, but it was also an opportunity,” he remembers. But two things settled the matter.
“I think it is fun to run a company and I believe in Scandinavian design,” he insists.
Success depends on how you see it
“The start of the business has been quite good and we have had a lot of people here,” Jonas says, this confirmed by a steady flow of visitors to the shop.
“Some times it is slow and some times it is good – but it is encouraging at least,” he underlines again.
When asked if the shop makes money Jonas gives an ambiguous answer.
“It depends on how you see it. Money is coming in as well as going out,” he smiles and elaborates.
“Maybe after three years or so I want to see how it is going, and so far I am hoping to expand. It is tough to do business in Singapore, but if you have the right stuff and you show them you have it, then you can do well,” Jonas said.
In its short lifespan the shop has developed into a meeting point for Scandinavians in Singapore.
“Scandinavian people here know about it. They can come in here to meet each other or have coffee with me or Monique my assistant.”
But the customers browsing through the shop are not the only business segment Jonas wants to cultivate. He also offers a service to companies giving them pointers on how to improve the ambience of their offices and make them look better in the bargain.
“For companies, I think, it is important to show their heritage – to show their customers where they come from. So I help companies show they are Scandinavian. It can boost them – give them that special touch,” he says adding that the Scandinavian look shouldn’t be over done of course.
Meanwhile, most of the items in his shop are of Swedish origin and the reason for that is quite simple.
“Right now during the start up, I have more Swedish stuff, because I am Swedish myself and it is easier to start out working with the people I know. But my focus is on all of Scandinavia,” he underlines.
Style:Nordic Pte Ltd
39 Ann Siang Road, Singapore 069716
Tel: +65 6423 9114 Fax: +65 6423 9496
Web: www.stylenordic.com Mail: [email protected]