A retail complex by day and an arts hub by well, all the time.
If there is one thing that holds true in the 21st century, it’s that there is a ‘hipster’ version for everything. Hipster food court? Check. Hipster barber? We’ve got you covered. Hipster shopping mall? Well, say hello to the Zhongshan Building at Kampung Attap, the trendy new shopping destination still on the down low. Also, did I mention they don’t know that they’re being called hipster yet?
Nestled in a quiet street in downtown Kuala Lumpur not far from Chinatown, Zhongshan Building was once a row of 1950s shophouses where a frozen food distributor and various other merchants had taken up residence for years. However, over time the building became abandoned and only recently was given a new lease of life by its current owners with fundings from the urban rejuvenation agency Think City.
Now the entire complex serves as an independent arts hub, housing artists of a variety of trades while at the same time functioning as an almost-comprehensive trade centre. The anchor space of Zhongshan is OUR ArtProjects, a collaborative space dedicated to the art by Liza Ho and Snow Ng, who together have brought together three different lots of shophouses as one whimsical building.
Although heavier on the arts side, Zhongshan Building is still a retail complex like no other. Goods sold range from restored classic paperbacks and punk vinyl records to bespoke suits and even cheesecake that is served burnt, all classic items that could be found in a traditional shopping mall but presented with a twist.
The labyrinth of shops run by artists – whether professional or closeted – will take you on an adventure at every turn. You may even think you’re lost at certain points going up and down the flights of stairs, but if you know what you’re looking for, simply follow the sign boards or pop by a store to ask for directions. Nonetheless, the best way to explore Zhongshan is not by having a specific destination in mind, but simply exploring the nooks and crannies of the ‘hipster mall.’ You may still leave the place with a book or two and a mind full of muses.
This gifting season, let’s look at the retail options available at Zhongshan Building for that quirky friend, that free spirited relative or just for your peace of mind knowing you’re avoiding the mall crowd.
Various bookstores and libraries call Zhongshan home, including Ipoh-born Tintabudi where books of philosophy, literature and arts genres can be found. The choices of books available in the store are carefully curated by owner Nazir, who is passionate about vintage and second-hand books. The bookstore also sells restored rare restored classics upon availability so if you’re an enthusiast check back often. A word of caution, you may fall in love with the store’s music, so here’s the link to their Spotify playlist.
Zhongshan proves to be a great outlet for custom made clothing items, from silk screen options to sharp tailored outfits. Silkscreen printed items are offered by Bogus Merchandise owned by Sahida and Sanan, as well as Oh Hello Cari Siapa, a quirky retail cum workshop brand started by Ibnu and his partner Dianne Tahir. Drop by to get t-shirts, bags and anything else printed with your favourite motives.
For tailored suits, Atelier Fitton is where you need to head to. Led by one of Kuala Lumpur’s best dressed men Joshua Fitton and his business partner Misha Shah, the personalised tailoring service provides a myriad of options when it comes to crafting that perfect suit for any occasion. From the fabric and cut to the small details of the buttons and cufflinks, Atelier Fitton has them all in their catalogues for your picking.
Punarvasu takes it one step further by selling authentic antique Malay wedding dresses so that’s something definitely worth checking out.
Tandang Store is the go-to space for any music-related wants. Started by former band members Alak Idle and Wan Hazril, the music store is a haven of old vinyl records, audio cassettes, books and magazines specialising in the punk and reggae genre. Grungy silkscreen t-shirts are also available, carefully displayed in clear plastic.
One mainstay of shopping complex is a movie theatre and you guessed it, Zhongshan has it too – as it seems to be an important qualifier nowadays. Cinephilia is an art house started by Tan Chui Mui who screens all movies all days of the week without discriminating the production value, budget or language. For example, movies screening this weekend are 1983 Filipino classic The Killing of Satan and Love Exposure, a Japanese comedy-drama release in 2008, which you can find out from the cinema’s Facebook.
If dancing and experimental music is more of your thing, head to Fono, a deejay collective in a cosy corner of Zhongshan. Expect some amazing turntable action from both experienced and novice deejays on different nights, as well as endless streams guest artists. Keep tabs on them via their Instagram.
One of the most charming café-bar you’ll ever stand in, Piu Piu Piu is helmed by barista-bartender Unagi. Order a cuppa or a bottle of beer and marvel at the compact interior – all made from scratch by the man himself. Also be sure to order the aforementioned Burnt Cheese Cake, if there’s any left that is.
The legendary Burnt Cheese Cake!
Some of the many arts on display at various bends of Zhongshan are for sale as well. Ask around if you see anything you like – not only will you be the owner of a great piece of work but you’ll make an artist very happy too!
The anchor tenant OUR ArtProjects will be returning next year to showcase more inspiring exhibitions but in the meantime enjoy some of the other works on display on the walls of the building.
If you’re lucky you might catch some occasional art installations too, so forget about the same-old shopping mall Christmas decorations, drop by Zhongshan for a breath of fresh air and talent everywhere.
This list is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive as there are many more hidden gems in Zhongshan for you to discover. Also, Singaporean design retail brand Naiise is opening in the building real soon!
80, Jalan Rotan
50460 Kuala Lumpur.
*This story has been updated with Think City’s proper role in the development of The Zhongshan Building.
*Movie screening space Cinephilia will be officially moving to a new location come 2018.