Shopping malls are stitched into the fabric of this city. But in the last few years, an alternative shopping trend has emerged: the market. Almost every weekend promises a bazaar in Klang Valley, hawking new or pre-loved clothes, local foods or arts and crafts. Often selling handmade, artisan products, these markets allow the shopper to traverse rows of stalls with a myriad of things that beg to be admired.
Fashion bazaars are perhaps the most prominent among the markets: Bijou Bazaar and Chic Pop were two of the earliest in the trend, starting back in 2008 and 2009 respectively and leading the way for markets that focus on clothes. Bazaar Ohh Bazaar (BOB) is a more recent example. These fashion markets often offer specialised, quirky or vintage clothes and accessories for young people looking for an alternative to shopping mall mass-fashion.
The venues are spread across the city: the square at Publika, Hello Deer by Wondermilk in Damansara Utama, The Red Bungalow near KLCC to name a few. Art For Grabs, which mixes a market set-up with book launches, lectures and even performance art, takes place at the Annexe Gallery in Central Market. Meanwhile, Jaya One hosts [email protected], which started in 2011 and sees its eleventh edition later this month.
With more than 100 vendors, [email protected] is one of the biggest regular bazaars in the Klang Valley. Sprawling across the mixed development area, the diversity of stalls pulls in a great variety of folks from fashionistas to whole families on a weekend outing.
During my last visit to [email protected], one booth that caught my eye was Things For Whenever. A splash of colourful items and interesting paper products arrayed the table, accompanied by a very cheery owner. Browsing through her quirky and vintage-inspired notebooks, stationary, journals, books, magazines, I noticed some seemed familiar. The vendor immediately explained she had been supplying shops such as Outdated and Kaleidoscope in Publika with her products, which she sources.
Most vendors are there to showcase a sample of their products, promising more items at their online or permanent shops.
While markets are traditionally a place of commerce, this new breed of bazaars offers something slightly different. Most vendors are there to showcase a sample of their products, promising more items and variety at their online stores or even permanent shops. “Although we already have a great following and a storefront, we really enjoy being at bazaars. This is where we started building our market and we keep coming back here because it is fun,” Arthur Loh of Pestle & Mortar explains to me.
Aishah Sinclair of Bhumi Batik agrees. “I make most of my profits from selling my clothes online and I am very comfortable with the online store. But I love joining bazaars.” She smiles and gestures to the crowd. “It’s much more fun to meet with your customers in a bazaar once in a while.”
Markets also focus attention on the crafters who are enthusiastic about sharing their handmade wares. Baconroll Handmade is a business by a husband and wife duo who up-cycle and use recyclable materials to create items such as chairs, table lamps and even accessories. What started as a weekend hobby for the two of them became a small business. “Bazaars are the best place to let people sample our products, touch and feel them rather than just see the photos online.”
Once you’re tired of browsing, [email protected] also presents an overwhelming choice of food on their Lorong Makan. During my visit, I saw at least three stalls sold artisan ice cream. There was also home-brewed coffee, freshly made juices, desserts and cakes and even an authentic Texan-styled BBQ. Some of these stalls are owned by restaurants that use the opportunity as a marketing and sampling platform while the others are set up by people with a totally different day-job. Nevertheless, a stroll down this street of delicacies is surely a fun way to fill up the belly.
Art Row becomes even more vibrant when Fuyoh Art Bazaar (or F.A.B.) takes place.
Another regular market is Fuyoh Art Bazaar, held in Publika every last Sunday of the month. It promises a great mix of artists, crafters and hobbyists who converge along the Art Row part of the shopping mall. On a normal day, Art Row is already a favourite of mine, holding six pop-up stores of local start-up businesses and artist galleries that change quarterly. These stores become even more vibrant when Fuyoh Art Bazaar (or F.A.B.) takes place.
Some of the vendors even give craft demonstrations – I stopped to watch Clay Loo Chee Yee teaching people to make vases at his stall. The Saponifist also caught my eye with her interesting costume and drawn on curly moustache. She shares her booth with her husband, Wicked Plants. Their stall is divided between homemade soaps and terrariums and pots full of carnivorous plants. The table was gorgeously designed and really fit the art vibe of the bazaar.
Alongside artists and businesses, some market stalls are also set up in aid of charity. Forget-me-not at Fuyoh Art Bazaar sells crocheted items made of homemade “yarn” of cut out scrap t-shirts from factories, with profits going to support Myanmar refugees. Ahkoon, a stall I’ve seen at [email protected], donates proceeds from the sale of their rice bags to underprivileged Cambodians.
These markets are a little different from the pasars that are a more common sight in Malaysia. For one thing, there are no knock-off designer handbags in sight. Instead the focus is on independent businesses and unique wares. Prices of items may vary from really cheap accessories to expensive bespoke products and original art. But the bigger appeal of these bazaars is really these stories you get to hear and exchange with the people behind the booths. Perhaps what really sells at markets are not the products, but the personalities.
Art For Grabs, 28 & 29 September 2013 at The Annexe Gallery, Central Market, Jalan Hang Kasturi, 50050 KL.
Bazaar Ohh Bazaar, 28 & 29 September 2013 at NZ Curry House, Wangsa Maju.
Fuyoh Art Bazaar, 28 & 29 September 2013 at Art Row, Publika, Jalan Dutamas 1, 50480 KL.
[email protected], 5 October 2013 at Jaya One, Jalan Universiti, 46200 PJ.