Photo credit: Naiise
Some of us have magnets from every country we’ve visited plastered on our refrigerators, while others have quirky knick-knacks lying around in their rooms. If you are always on the lookout to buy something uniquely local on your holiday, Naiise (pronounced as ‘nice’) is the place to find original, well-designed products from clothes and accessories to stationery and home décor. We bring you the story of how one man turned the local design scene around with his vision and undying passion — from the man himself!
By local designers, for local designers
Dennis Tay, a business graduate, launched Naiise in 2013 with a vision to help Singapore’s local designers earn a living with their crafts. He used to run a creative agency and worked with tons of talented designers, who were also award winners locally and globally. But when asked why they chose to work on mundane branding and marketing projects instead of making a career out of what they can create, their answers left Dennis dumbfounded, but inspired.
“Most of the time, designers will either tell me that they don’t know how to run a business, or that they don’t think there’s a market for what they can create. So they stop creating altogether,” recalls the founder.
Spurred by a passion to help local designers get recognition for their talents, Dennis created Naiise. But it’s also his attitude towards design that keeps the business going.
“There’s a lot of social impact when it comes to design, and that’s why I love it! A lifespan of an Eames chair, for example, far outweighs that of a chair from IKEA. It’s well made, you save more money in the long run because it’s durable, and it’s ergonomically better for your body and health. This is the beauty of design that I have always been drawn to.”
It wasn’t always all smiles and sunshine
When Dennis first started Naiise, he was managing the business single-handedly. While it was tough, his efforts did not go to waste as he quickly saw a spurt of growth in his company.
“I was doing things like marketing on Instagram, uploading products from day to night, making deliveries on my own and managing customer orders at the same time. But by the third year, we had a staff strength of about 80 to 90 people and seven stores in Singapore!”
Since 2017, Naiise has also expanded into overseas markets like London and Malaysia — each with a different set of products that are uniquely local.
What’s in store for you?
Despite all the challenges, Naiise has grown to become a well-loved name in Singapore, and you’ll find out why when you step into their stores. Beyond the array of stationeries and décor, you’ll find tons of locally-inspired designs such as traditional tin mugs with a modern twist, and flash cards in Singapore’s colloquial language, Singlish.
“It has always been in our interest to represent local designers, but we have never dictated what they should create; we just provide the platform. When we expanded into London and Malaysia, our team was also given a mandate to work with the local community of designers to provide a uniquely local experience for all visitors.”
If you’re looking for cool items to bring home, Naiise also offers an array of sweet and savoury snacks, postcards, and practical gifts like organic scrubs and accessories. The options are truly endless, and according to Dennis:
“It’s like a kid walking into Toys’R’Us, Naiise is a place for people to discover! We have extremely different stuff, from home furnishing to food products, so it’s really for the consumers to get lost in these physical spaces as they interact with and experience every product for themselves.”
That’s not all for the established brand
While Naiise has grown leaps and bounds since it was founded in 2013, its journey has barely started. In 2019, they will be opening their first concept store at Jewel Changi Airport, called Naiise Iconic, where you’ll find several interactive in-store activities and a café to boot. As if shopping at Naiise isn’t already engaging enough, this concept store will be a whole new lifestyle experience to behold!
Early next year, they will also be unveiling their latest collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB): Design Orchard.
“It’s going to be a 9000sqft retail showcase located right at the junction of Orchard Road and Cairnhill Road. Housing more than 60 brands selling all kinds of products, Design Orchard is like a one-stop shop and Naiise will manage the whole of the first floor. It’s the first of its kind and a huge project! To help local designers grow their brands, we’ll even have mentorship programmes, where established brands will mentor new and emerging ones, on top of monthly themed events, workshops and showcases!”
These are but the first steps of a brand-new journey for Naiise — one laden with innovation and discovery. So, the next time you’re in Singapore and want to get a present or souvenir for your loved ones, you know where to get quirky, interesting and locally designed goodies. Make a trip to Naiise to immerse yourself in all the artsy vibes, browse to your heart’s content and pick out a thing or two for yourself too!
Read about the journey of other local brands and its founders here and here.
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