“It is the belief we have in youth — no matter how little or big their talent — that differentiates us”, Ruth Quek, Project Strategist of 77th Street said as she introduced City News to local band Helvem, which performed for the Small Medium Enterprise (SME) Fiesta at the Singapore Expo.
Quek and founder Elim Chew of 77th Street first came to know the band when its members visited a 77th Street outlet. They hooked them up with the organizers of the SME Fiesta and set up a performing slot for them.
|PHOTOS: Xaiver Tan|
It is this passion in youth that has driven 77th Street in all its 21 years of growth. Having started in 1988, in an outlet the size of a cubicle, the streetwear retailer has grown to 14 outlets in Singapore, plus a sprawling 400,000 sq ft mall in China.
But 77th street has not forgotten its roots — it found its success popularizing streetwear among the youth, and it has stayed faithful to those who have followed the brand all these years. “Many of our customers have grown up together with us, so as a brand, we mature as well”, says Ms Quek.
Indeed, 77th street has followed trends closely. It started out carrying skate and surf brands Billabong and Dr Martens back in the 1980s. When hip-hop fever struck, it carried urban street wear labels such as JNCO and FUBU. Today, apart from carrying numerous international brands, 77th Street designs and produces its own house brands.
Chew’s first businesses were a cafe and a hairdressing salon, then she hit upon youth fashion retail and never looked back.
Since then, besides growing the business, Chew has backed up her passion for youth by becoming a driving force in various community campaigns.
77th Street has become a vehicle to invest in young people, through initiatives such as The Young Entrepreneur Mastery (TYEM), which helps develop young entrepreneurs. 77th Street has also invested in the ITE 77th Street Inc. Retail Training Centre, which prepares ITE students for jobs in the retail sector.
77th Street is not content to rest on its success in Singapore. It aims to bring its passion in youth overseas — the mall in China is just the beginning. 77th street has a huge dream for its future. “We hope to have a youth hub in every city,” Ms Quek reveals, envisioning similar youth-oriented malls all over the world.