Many believe that Haji Lane offers an insight into Singaporean culture through its unique cafes, boutiques and artwork. However, the lane is also a source of criticism; it is often discussed as being overpriced, pretentious and simply overrated. From this, the lane has taken on a number of satirical nicknames, such as “hipster lane” or even “tourist hell”.But what is it about Haji Lane that divides opinion so. I went along to see if I could make some sense of it all.
Overall the items for sale on Haji Lane were repetitive and similar. Each boutique offered essentially the exact same styles of jewelry, pillows and other accessories. Being honest, for such a popular area, famed for its shopping, one would expect a diverse and intriguing variety of items. Haji Lane is relatively small though; it is only a 10-minute walk max. This means that, overall, there are relatively few shops and cafes. The small choice of shops merged with the repetitive items leaves many unsatisfied. The clothes, however, were all diverse, with unique styles that would suit for all crowds of different people. The price reflected the popularity of the area though – sky high.
Nearly all of the items of Haji lane, from clothes to food, were overpriced. Yes, most of them were from independent boutiques, therefore, the price would be expected to be slightly heavier. However having said this, the prices were still too steep for the average customer. The cost of rings ranged from $30-70SGD, which was extremely overpriced; in shops such as Lovisa or H&M a total of 5 rings will cost $10-15SGD.The prices of clothing was however diverse. But some shops, were offering shirts from $2-$10 SGD. This price range was unique in relation to other products, however the quality of the clothing was not good; the items had been used before and had been torn or stained.
Although tourism brings positive impacts to Singapore, such as a boost in the economy, it can also form negative ones. In this case, many agree that Haji Lane lacks true authenticity, and is instead a magnet/trap for the backpacking tourists of Singapore. This explains the costly prices and lack of variety in Haji Lane. When travelling down the lane, there are many hostels, cafes and bars specifically aimed towards the hipster tourists of Singapore, an example of this is “#selfiecoffe” the cafe; it prints your selfie on top of the foam of a coffe. Although these cafes and bars do bring unique and different ideas to Singapore, which haven’t been introduced before, it does affect the ‘vibe’ of the lane as it forms a sense of forced autheniticty. What I mean by this is that it almost feels like a “tourist trap”, the bars and cafes are trying to attract tourists through the popular trends which are common in the tourist industry. It all feels slightly gimmicky I’m afraid.
Singapore is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. However, with the extreme amount of development that Singapore has faced in the past few decades, many believe that there has been a loss of culture and individuality in the city. However, Haji Lane remains as one of the last few places in Singapore with independent, local businesses. It is loved by both residents and tourists alike, and here’s why:
It supports local businesses…
Unlike most major shopping spots like Orchard, Vivo, and Somerset, Haji Lane is home to primarily small, local businesses. With the exception of a few more well-known brands, the shops there are owned by independent retailers with a real passion for what they sell. Haji Lane supports these businesses by offering relatively lower rental rates than in more mainstream shopping centres- while still gaining a huge amount of customers thanks to it’s location in the heart of Bugis.
It is unique and eclectic…
The selection in Haji Lane is like no other in Singapore. Even without stepping foot in one of the stores, it’s easy for one to appreciate the beautifully decorated, diverse store fronts. The eye-catching displays offer a good glimpse as to what is inside. Even though the shophouses all stay true to the old Singaporean style, they are also incredibly unique in their decor. Some are dark and edgy, while others go for a more minimalistic, sophisticated look. Once
inside the store, shop owners can express their individuality even more through the stock they sell, the merchandising, and the ambience achieved through lighting and music. This makes for a unique, pleasurable, and generally fun shopping experience.
The Culture and Diversity…
Haji Lane acts as more than just a place to shop- it serves as a canvas for many local and international artists like Ceno2, JabaOne, and Mistery. Despite Singapore’s strict laws on graffiti and Street Art, Haji Lane is one of the few places in Singapore where these talented street artists can really shine. Despite the day being the best time to see the street art, the nightlife is when Haji Lane’s uniqueness really shines through. One spot in particular, the Blue Jaz Cafe, stands out as the centre of the nightlife. Parties are hosted all through the weekend, and they even host poetry slams and comedy shows in the weekdays.