Theatre practitioners Janice Koh, Pam Oei and Petrina Kow are seated wth us at Tanuki Raw at the National Design Centre for lunch. Neither of the three ladies would ever have imagined themselves as businesswomen in the retail sector, but with the roaring success of charity project Pasar Glamour last year, they’ve decided to make a bold return this Mother’s Day weekend with the pre-loved fashion pop-up bazaar. But this is no ordinary run-of-the-mill secondhand shop; each of the items sold here are high quality, high street or designer labels, steamed and pressed to perfection, and all proceeds will be going towards charity.
Pam begins by volunteering Pasar Glamour’s origin story: “It was Emma Yong’s 6th death anniversary last year, and we were thinking of making a big donation to the Emma Yong Fund. One thing about Emma was how she was always a real clothes person, and we looked to our own wardrobes for inspiration. We all discovered we had plenty of clothes we hadn’t worn for at least six months, and decided it all needed to go. We started unloading, our friends started unloading and suddenly realised we had enough for a pop-up shop. We cobbled it all together in just two weeks, and we somehow raised $12,000 last year over the span of two days.”
Last held at local cafe The Fabulous Baker Boy, Pasar Glamour returns bigger and better than ever, this time at the National Design Centre. Most of the items will be going for about 40-50% off their original price, and shoppers will be able to use both cash and Paylah/Paynow for transactions. You can be assured of quality as it goes through chief wardrobe inspector Janice Koh! All clothes are run through a strict inspection, with no stains, no holes and based off if they themselves would buy it!
Says Janice: “The quality has gone up significantly this year, with about 70% designer labels and we’ve even got donations from local designers with some never-before-worn new pieces from past seasons. There are so many wins – it’s a good opportunity for anyone who’s ever wanted to own a local designer at a more affordable price, and it’s a way to raise awareness of these brands while knowing that their money is going to a good cause.”
This year, proceeds will be going to three charities that hold a special place in each of Pasar Glamour’s founders hearts – underprivileged women’s empowerment charity Daughters of Tomorrow, Arc Children’s Centre for children with cancer and other life-threatening conditions, and W!ld Rice’s Gift of Theatre to make theatre more accessible for underprivileged children and young people. Says Petrina: We’re happy to raise funds for charities we believe in, and we’re enablers – rather than these celebrities ending up selling their clothes and accessories on Carousell, they’ll feel good that they’ve contributed to a charitable cause, and also Marie Kondo-ed their wardrobe. Could we right a cheque and give the same amount to charity? Yes, but it’s ultimately all about community building, working with people and using our influence, and really building something.”
Throughout lunch, the three occasionally deviate from the discussion and have makeshift production meetings, discussing press releases, drops and setup. Says Janice: “We actually do this very randomly, and for the most part focus on the collecting. The most important part was finding the one weekend where all three of us were free to do this.”
Pam then leans in and completely seriously, explains what a day at Pasar Glamour would be like: “It’s a hardcore shopping experience, and we encourage all shoppers to come in hip hugging safety shorts and a tank top, because those who benefitted most last year were those who could literally change in front of the racks. This year, we’ll have a mass changing room, so if you’re shy and can’t change in front of other people, then well, that Calvin Klein dress is not going to be yours. Since there’s only one of each piece, it’s first come first serve, no chope-ing. We get new drops coming in each morning and afternoon, so shoppers are encouraged to come back again and again. But don’t tire yourself out – come early and see what’s good, shop a while and get some lunch, and come back ready to dive back in.”
If you head down to Pasar Glamour, you might even get a chance to see some truly unique shopping phenomena – spontaneous applause. Says Pam: “There’s only one size of each item, so when people can fit it’s amazing. Janice donated an evening gown and Daniel Jenkins’ wife came in, and she’s one of those skinny women. She wore that evening gown and all the shoppers started to clap when she came out and went ‘wah! wow!’ and she had no idea when she was going to wear that dress, but bought it immediately.”
Pam continues: “I also had this beautiful goldfish bag made of latex, but it was very nian nian already. We hung it up on a wall and just let anyone take it. Then this guy comes in while his girlfriend is shopping and says ‘eh this one can use to put my beer’. And he just took it and made a donation! There’s really something for everyone.”
Janice explains further: “If someone comes out of the dressing room in a gorgeous evening gown, I might show them a pair of shoes and a clutch to complete the look. It’s definitely not your usual department store or boutique shopping experience, and it’s so special because everyone here loves clothes and want to do some guilt free shopping. Sometimes it’s also about discovering your own clothes through brand new eyes – I was with Aarika Lee and was styling the clothes she donated, and suddenly she went ‘eh can I buy it back? Why am I giving this away, it looks damn good with those shoes!'”
Janice takes a moment to reminisce and adds: “It really is the gift that keeps on giving. I’m going to be donating things from last year’s Pasar Glamour to be resold this year, and it’s amazing how you can continually raise funds from the same piece of clothing year on year. And it’s ok, because all that money still goes to charity! Even the clothes we couldn’t sell last year, we held a Domestic Helpers Day on the Sunday and they got bargain basement prices for leftovers, and whatever non-high end items we couldn’t sell went to the thrift stores and salvation armies.”
Janice continues: “Last year we did this completely on the fly, but this year, we have to be more organised. We could have fit all the clothing into our three cars last year, but this year we need to hire a Gogo truck, not even a van. We’re still very reliant on shares and word of mouth, and we’re trying to build more of a presence beyond the event itself. It’s slowly becoming more of a business, and that’s not a bad thing – we’ve even started using label guns and I’ve learnt how to use the POS system.”
She concludes: “The setting may have changed, but I hope that we’ll still be able to maintain that cosy, homely, community feel. We’re not professional shopkeepers, and the people helping us out are all doing this on a volunteer basis. Ultimately, it’s the personalities involved that keep it fun, after all, it’s not everyday you see the three of us as shopgirl, salesgirl and stylist.”
For fashionistas looking for a great weekend out, shopping for the best deals and hosted by the liveliest of personalities, Pasar Glamour is a must visit this May, as you discover gems throughout this pop-up filled with joy, laughs and plenty of amazing, pre-loved clothes.
Pasar Glamour runs at the National Design Centre from 12th – 13th May. Admission is free. Come dressed in light and comfortable clothing, and bring your own bag. For more information, visit their Facebook page here, and their Instagram here