The daily objects of Singapore life are given novel play by creative and enterprising minds. By Yimin Huang
The exclamations of delight from the older generation are as telling as the curious looks of the millennial generation when they come across some of the products in THE FARM STORE. Here, the collective memory of the smaller things in Singapore’s culture are given new shape and purpose.
THE FARM STORE sells Singapore-themed souvenirs, but not the kind that you may be expecting. From durian and gem biscuit cushions to kueh tutu (flour cake) erasers and the bak chang (rice dumpling) five stones, it’s the unconventional reinterpretation of local favourites that piques the curiosity of the visitor.
In 2009, when the National Museum of Singapore required some souvenirs created around the theme of heritage food moulds for their exhibition, Farm, an organisation that has worked on community projects since 2005, was approached to handle the task. It delivered mooncake paperweights, kueh tutu erasers and rebranded old-school games. The team soon realised the concept had wide appeal and in 2013, it launched THE FARM STORE, led by Selwyn Low and Torrance Goh.
Mabel Low used to be a student of Selwyn’s at the Singapore Polytechnic. “When I interned for the store, I already knew this was something I was going to be very passionate about,” says Mabel, who is now responsible for the store.
The concept has since grown into an enterprise that has collaborated with the National Museum of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum, among others. This platform also offers local artists an avenue to promote their works. Apart from collaborating with more than 100 artists, designers and local brands, THE FARM STORE also sells products through both the online platform and pop-ups, which do well to promote the brand and products.
Today, the store does not only sell food themed products, but also products related to the Singapore lifestyle in general. From old Singapore bus stops to Singlish terms like “cheem” and “kiasu”, its products strike an intimate chord with the local way of life.
“We are interested in local makers who could share their stories in their designs. With the understanding that it will be hard for individual local artists or designers to push their brands out due to the lack of logistics or financial support, we hope to lend a helping hand,” Mabel explains.
“We have moved on to both design and retail merchandise with local themes. We want to celebrate local identity, as we believe that through souvenirs we could view and understand ourselves better.”
Mabel wants THE FARM STORE to continue improving by listening to what the customers and community have to say about its products. She envisages locals bringing their foreign friends around to try the food and then buying souvenirs. “In this way, it cements their experiences here,” she adds.
The products are currently sold online — thefarmstore.sg — but the public is welcomed at their Waterloo Street office, which also has a little showroom where purchases can be made.