Kith, Sentosa Cove. All images courtesy of Hjgher.
Kith, located on the heart districts of Singapore in Park Mall, Sentosa Cove, Millenia Walk and Robertson Quay, is a cafe where coffee meets food meets people.
It launched its first outlet in 2011 that sits by the Singapore River, along Robertson Quay. Its interior and branding was designed by Singapore based Hjgher.
In a landscape that is so fast-paced and constantly evolving, where the locale’s past-time is either food, shopping or movies, how do you start a shop that can stand out? A shop that is at stage—creating ambience and to give pleasure and to sell.
Perhaps it was a budget constraints or a conscious effort to be organic as possible or a marketing strategy to make things modular and hand-done to further compliment the cafe’s ethos. An ambience has been created with 10,000 blocks of plywood, trimmed, then hand layered block by block and affixed with an absolute precision.
These, not just make them stand out from the market where usually it’s either the nostalgic, or the old-school decor or the white-washed walls, exposed hanging bulbs, dark wooden tables. Set with dried flowers. If not, communal table with industrial chairs or stools. The choice of the interior became value-adding; became a marketing tool on its own where it made its way into websites like RetailDesignBlog or Dezeen that bags million of viewership and winning design awards. This proves to be crucial as a business plan as you don’t just rely on reviews and word-to-word mouth for a start-up that doesn’t have a media buy budget.
Kith, Robertson Quay.
The visual identity and its first logo came in an classic tartan pattern that symbolises the fabric of community that comes together for a common purpose—matched with a yellow colour palette that is most luminous and captures most attention and seen from far. A colour optimism, enlightenment, happiness sunshine matched with a cool grey that when used together looks light, easy and warm for the eyes. Perhaps it was done to bring in the lifestyle in fashion into cafe, with that familiar tartan that we can see on clothing or it was chosen so that the printed paper cups can make its way to the Instagram world.
A rebranding exercise, by GNU, was called last year in 2015. The new logo appears to have a shape which resembles a sun or a octagon. The typeface and yellow palette retained but the colour of the sans serif has been changed to black where the contrast might be more.
Branding of Kith by Hjgher.
New logo of Kith by GNU.
In a cafe business where it probably can self-sustain without making much marketing and promotions, where should the plan lies now? Expand and franchise? Or is it better to start a new business like the owner of Creamier has in Sunday Folks? Or will the cafe culture just die down like bubble tea and frozen yoghurt in years to come?
I first come across the word ‘cafe’ almost a decade back and my understanding was that it’s usually fronted in places in Paris, Melbourne or Taipei, where the lifestyle is a more laid back, and have a place where you stop for food, drinks and a chat. No atas restaurant setting and non pretentious. Simple decor, functional interior. And to quote an article on Wikipedia: “A cultural standpoint, coffeehouses largely serve as centers of social interaction: the coffeehouse provides patrons with a place to congregate, talk, read, write, entertain one another, or pass the time, whether individually or in small groups.”
Few years later, we started to see more and more cafes that it became a culture. Was the cafes of today spun off from thematic restaurants or bar though? Back in the earlier days, you could find bars with waitresses dressed up as nurses and serve alcohol in injection tubes or servers as cosplay maids. If you are lucky, you could be sitting at a toilet bowl to dine or a walls of dungeon or jail cell. Did this experiential experience influence the cafe culture of today? One where customers eat with their eyes, a cafe isn’t just about getting the right look anymore or serving the best coffee. Or creating the best experience.
Starting a cafe or F&B business, used to be just a job where one loves cooking, eating and coffee. Not sure what is it now. Even KFC and Soup Spoon are refurnishing and trying to position themselves to fit in. And sad to say, to me, cafe isn’t a cool thing anymore.