Meet Omnichannel Extraordinaire Loop Garms
Finally, to complete my foray into the world of vintage in time for Chinese New Year -- where we buy new clothes off the rack (including the vintage rack, where old becomes new) -- we talked to a store I’ve been LOOP-y about: the people behind Loop Garms.
LOOP GARMS, a vintage clothing store based in Singapore, is a household name here for anyone in the vintage community. While I ended 2019 by heading to No Two Alike: Vintage Finds for Conscious Minds in Armenian Street, I had the fine opportunity to start off 2020 with FJ Sai and Isaac of Loop Garms!
WE’D SAY THAT THE VINTAGE CLOTHING SCENE IN SINGAPORE IS STILL VERY YOUNG - IT ONLY REALLY TOOK OFF IN THE LAST TWO YEARS.
The vintage scene in Singapore is very intriguing, marrying retro-styles reminiscent of European grandfathers with what’s been preserved of our own local heritage as most vintage stores find homes in shop-houses lining roads such as at Keong Saik Road, Veerasamy and along Haji Lane at Beach Road.
Loop Garms occupies both a shop space and an Instagram page to constantly update LG-patronisers of their stock and sale days. Nowadays, stores that integrate to online platforms may risk losing personal touch as parties involved lose out on frequent, face-to-face interactions that allow personal connections to be forged. Yet, the Loop Garms team literally creates “stories” with their followers, their consumers - by featuring patronisers on Instagram stories. My friends have been featured in these happy snaps and Boomerangs, with sweaters and jacket arms swinging in the air like the shape of the smiles on their faces.
For the last installment of this series, we talk to Loop Garms to uncover the people behind the vintage store that everyone is loopy-happy about!
What prompted you to start Loop Garms?
What truly inspired us to start Loop Garms was a trip that we took to Japan sometime in 2011 or 2012! The vintage clothing scene there was super vibrant and already been booming for many many years, and on certain streets it would just be one vintage shop after another. Popular vintage areas like Shimokitazawa, Koenji, Kichijoji really left a deep impression on us, with its ambience and vibes. We spent a lot of time in a particular one called KINJI USED CLOTHING, just hours of pushing baskets until we got headaches from just shopping. That was an incredible experience, picking out one gem after another amongst all the great things that they had. It was an offhanded comment Isaac said to me (FJ), like, “Hey, we should totally do something like this back home.”
Obviously we couldn’t work on it back then cos (sic) we were young, dumb, and broke (now we’re just dumb and broke). When we returned to Singapore, Isaac had to go for NS (National Service). I went to uni, and then when Isaac was out, he went to uni too. And then we both worked for a bit, until Isaac was ready to start the shop, and I was ready to leave my job… and then we just went ahead and opened Loop Garms in 24 February 2018. It was a long time coming!
I had a friend who travelled to Japan this year, grad trip, and absolutely could not wait to go thrifting along Japanese streets. I feel like a lot of Singaporeans know that other countries have these amazing developed vintage stores and a thriving scene. Here, you guys are a key name to look out for when looking for vintage treasures! So that brings us to the question: What do you think of Singaporeans’ reception towards vintage clothing/vintage styles?
We’d say that the vintage clothing scene in Singapore is still very young - it only really took off in the last two years. Obviously in other countries like the US and Japan, because they’ve been doing vintage for a long time now, the appreciation level is on a totally different level - they’re more open-minded, and more accepting about incorporating vintage clothing into their styles. In fact, it’s something they do naturally, not consciously.
As for Singaporeans, we’re definitely opening up to the vast world of vintage clothing. Slowly, but surely on our way to reaching a level of appreciation for vintage clothing that is independent of what is happening in other countries.
As mentioned beforehand, one exciting dimension of the vintage scene worldwide is seeing the stores release updates, sneak peeks and essentially preserve a culture of clothing rooted in a time before the digital age, on their online social media pages! And you guys often update the beautiful Loopgarms Instagram (to all of our delight)! So I do have to ask: do you think that the platform (physical market, or online shop) makes a difference in the sales you make, or the feedback you receive to clothing sold?
Thank you! Instagram posts and stories is incredibly helpful for us to showcase what we have in-store. We get to show what’s available, what’s been sold, what people are missing out on… and most importantly, we get to share information and stories about pieces that we have in-store. This really helps in creating more interest in a t-shirt that could otherwise slip out of people’s radars - by presenting backstories and information and incorporating fun little trivia and quizzes about the stuff we have in-store, it really does go a long way in helping people understand the value of vintage clothing.
Loop Garms’ Store | Facebook
Did you think that people’s appetite for vintage clothing is just a trend, or more than that - moving towards a culture?
We actually get this question a lot. We’ve never seen vintage clothing as a trend - to us, it’s more like a way of life. In fact, consumers in countries whose vintage clothing culture is more mature - that’s how it is over there. It’s not a trend, it’s a way of life, a means to express oneself - and that means just so happens to be vintage clothing.
And yes, over here in Loop Garms, with our physical store and our general presence in the scene, we are very happy to be able to help build a more vibrant and robust vintage clothing culture in Singapore!
That’s really interesting, and thank you once again for delivering on your vision and words; providing a communal shopping space for people who truly love vintage and wish to express themselves through their styles, creatively! Actually, we know that Loop Garms goes beyond that: You guys have a ‘trade’ policy, too? Is this policy often perused; do Singaporeans usually trade in their quality vintage clothing for other pieces?
Yes, we do have a buy/sell/trade system that allows people to get cash upfront, or store credit, which they can use to offset the prices of items in-store. Singaporeans do this with us quite often, we get inquiries almost every day regarding our buy/sell/trade system!
As we do curate the items that we have in-store, we particularly look out for lots of 80s/90s t-shirts, movie/music/company/sport-related/event tees, and so on. But with that being said, we like to keep an open mind! Singaporeans do have incredible gems hiding in their closets (and some in their parents’), you can be surprised!
Lastly, friends from all over Singapore cite Loop Garms as the must-go place for vintage clothing, and to get a good introduction and sense of quality thrifting. I recently went to a vintage market and as you guys said, the scene is truly developing here as there are other business passionate about and focused on vintage clothing! What do you think differentiates yourself from other vintage stores?
Having a storefront allows for us to do one of the things we love the most - and that is, connecting with customers on a personal level, and creating conversations with the very people who come through our store. We’d say we are very people-centric, and that could be what sets us apart from other names in Singapore. Also, we are always looking for ways to present the value of vintage clothing to the people in Singapore - and we like to do that via conversations, and of course, via our informative and engaging Instagram content.
PEOPLE CAN FORGET WHAT YOU HAVE IN STORE, BUT [...] THEY’LL NEVER FORGET THE WAY YOU MAKE THEM FEEL.
We always say this… anybody can have a product, set up a store, and dub themselves a vintage clothing store. The thing is, people can forget what you have in-store, but what they’ll never forget is the way you make them feel. So we want to make sure everybody who comes through will have a good time, in a space that’s non-judgemental, allowing them to explore and experiment with their personal styles in ways they thought was never possible.