THE HOUSE THAT LEATHER BUILT

by: Catalog

Quietly tucked on the ground level of one of the many HDB blocks at Everton Park is a slice of gentlemanly elegance. onlyBrown, a boutique that was started by self-confessed leather geek Kelvin Cheong, boasts a fine selection of bags, wallets, accessories and more from artisans that hail from the UK, Italy, Japan and even Poland. Join us as we bring you around the quintessentially British space (sans the stuffiness) that calls one of Singapore’s more old school neighbourhoods home.

Prior to starting onlyBrown, what were you doing? 
I was in publishing in my previous life — but it was the boring stuff like producing professional information for lawyers and accountants. A few years later, I decided I wanted to do something for myself.

So that's how onlyBrown started?
Yes. Bringing in footwear from the UK was my initial idea, but that meant a big overhead so I decided to focus on small leather goods first. Today, we’ve expanded to add more brands and products like ties, pocket squares and hats.

Why the focus on leather goods? And how did the name onlyBrown come about?
A few years ago, I sensed there was a gap in the market for quality and more exclusive leather goods. And whenever I would go to malls, everything was black and I asked myself, why not brown? And that’s how the shop’s name started. There’s no fancy story behind it — I just wanted something simple and easy to remember.

Did you always have an idea of how you wanted the shop to look like? Or did it come together naturally?
I’ve always had the look of the shop in my head since day one. I wanted it to be a little more English, but not too stuffy! I used a lot of my vintage furniture to decorate the space and added in other things here and there. I want a bit of a contemporary touch and not look like some 100 year old boutique.

What's a typical day at the shop like?
I’m the only one running onlyBrown. My wife has her own career, but visits once in a while when she has time to spare and helps out. Most of my time here is spent in front of the computer or styling visual merchandise. Oh, I take a lot of photos of the goods for social media too!

What's the most important lesson you've learned from being in the retail business?
An important lesson I’ve learned as an independent retailer is that focus is important. It’s tempting to bring in everything, but we have to be realistic. In my case, I have a leather goods shop so we’re not going to be selling a lot of apparel or CDs or chocolates. I don’t want to mix it up too much that the essence of the store disappears.


Visit onlyBrown at 5 Everton Park, #01-22, Tel: 8809 4935. For more information, visit onlybrown.com

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