In this three-part series, we take a look at Tiong Bahru's next-generation offerings and how the estate has evolved from being a pre-war housing estate to one of the most charming and sought-after districts in Singapore. This week, we take a look at how its creative history has attracted some of the most exciting and entrepreneurial talents the island has to offer.

From its colourful history and architecture to the vibrant, modern enclave it is today, Tiong Bahru has always been one of Singapore’s most creative neighbourhoods. Take a walk along its streets and alleys and you’ll discover pre-war buildings with rounded balconies and spiral staircases that were designed to resemble parts of cars, trains, ocean liners and airplanes. Explore further and you may find yourself at the doorstep of a hip bakery or coffee joint, vinyl record store, seasoned tailor, or even a workspace for aspiring and practising artists. 

A tradition of creativity

Ms Elyn Wong, a local designer and owner of clothing label ‘Stolen’, is one of the many creative professionals who have made their home and office in the neighbourhood. “There’s such a creative energy here,” she told Keppellandlive in our new Tiong Bahru Insider video series. “There are so many creative outfits located here… so many craftsmen, including old-school cobblers and seamstresses.”

Visit 58 Seng Poh Road and you’ll find one such veteran. One of the first batches of our iconic Singapore Airlines’ uniforms were crafted by Nelson’s Tailor in the early 1970s. A family establishment, Nelson’s Tailor first set up shop at the Link Hotel along Tiong Bahru Road and has been around since the 1950s.

Over the years, the neighbourhood’s residents have also included pioneers in the Singapore entertainment industry, including Mr Heng Kim Ching, who took on the stage name Wang Sha as part of the legendary comedic duo Wang Sha and Ye Fong. The two were a staple on local television in the 1960s and 1970s with their cross-talk routine. 

Click to watch

Passing the creative torch

A new generation of creative shops has picked up the baton today. Independent bookstore, Books Actually, has located its premises at 9 Yong Siak Street, where it champions authors of all stripes, including local gems. A couple of streets down at 55 Tiong Bahru Road, Curated Records sells a wide range of vinyl records spanning music genres from the 1970s to present.

Drop in at Grey Projects at 6B Kim Tian Road - an art gallery that doubles as a library and workspace for artists. It recently welcomed Taiwanese artist Chen I-Chun and curator Luo Helin as artists-in-residence, as part of an exchange programme supported by the Ministry of Culture in Taiwan.

Originally intended as a temporary pop-up store, Nana and Bird, a multi-label fashion boutique, have also made their home at 1 Yong Siak Street, offering clothes, jewellery, bags and accessories for women and children.

One of a kind

“The architecture, creative energy, all of the stories – pre- and post-war – these things to me are uniquely Tiong Bahru,” said Ms Wong. “They were all formed and forged through the decades, so you can’t really replicate them anywhere else in Singapore.”.