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Kedai KL, Mahsa Avenue – An Artisanal Marketplace for Homegrown Creatives

If you’re looking for a place to hangout over the weekend that isn’t a crowded, cookie-cutter mall, drop by at Kedai KL, a cool hidden gem tucked within Mahsa Avenue in Petaling Jaya. A project by Mahsa Group (which owns and runs Mahsa University nearby), the artisanal market was launched in late 2019 as a space to “bring local entrepreneurs, artists, makers and designers together under one roof”, whilst also giving visitors a curated retail and lifestyle experience.

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Please watch my video and subscribe. I spent six hours making this. D:
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Kedai is located at Block B, and spans two floors, on levels two and three. Inspired by the concept of a street market, the spacious centre court (called The Lorong, or ‘alleyway’) hosts cosy beanbags and low tables and chairs that are perfect for lounging. On weekends, the space is used for pop-up booths, bazaars and activities.

There are about 60 shops at Kedai, mostly featuring homegrown products and businesses; you can find a hodgepodge of products and services here, from shoe shops to stores selling accessories and clothing, chic cafes, a tattoo parlour, a creative workshop space, a digital art gallery, and more. The shops are all really tiny by the way, measuring between 220 to 440 square feet.

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Window display at Mossybola Kokedoma, which sells decorative indoor plants

Social media has changed many aspects of our lives, including how and why we travel – and the last couple of years have seen a rise in “Instagram destinations” – places that are designed to be aesthetically pleasing for the Gram (because Malaysians are obsessed with taking photos). Kedai is one such place: you’ll be hard-pressed to find an ugly corner. The folks at Kedai know this too, and they actively encourage visitors to take lots and lots of photos.

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One of the shops that I found really interesting was Lampu.kl, because it was essentially a showroom with no staff. The shop sells customized neon lights, and there are a couple of setups within where visitors are encouraged to take selfies with. Next to the neon signs are QR codes that you can scan for more info on the pieces, as well as the price. Of course, you can find their social media handles on the posters around the room. Maybe this is the future of shopping.

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Shops are laid out in a rectangular grid, which makes the space easy to navigate. The corridors on the top floor are rather narrow, though. Fine if there aren’t too many people, but it might be difficult to maneuver through when crowded.
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A pink staircase and elevated walkway connects the two floors, and there are dozens of fairy lights hanging from the ceiling. Definite Insta fodder. Unfortunately, I did not have an Instagram boyfriend on hand during my visit.

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You’ll find lots of Japanese-themed decor outside Kai Tattoo House, including a Japanese woodblock print of two cats at the entrance.
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Reka is an artist space that regularly hosts creative workshops.
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At the far end on the 3rd floor is a Digital Art Gallery. The space showcases new media art from promising new media artists in the region. There was an audio visual exhibition going on called Guli, so I popped in for a peek. Entry was RM8. The show was basically a collaboration between local multimedia artist GrassHopper, who made the visuals, and musicians Iwan and Gan, who created the accompanying soundtracks.

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All that walking made me thirsty, so I got takeaway from Degree. They specialise in Dalgona drinks. Prices are very reasonable – my Dalgona milk was only RM7.90.

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Dalgona Milk – fresh milk with dalgona toffee. The toffee has the crumbly texture of honeycomb candy; you stir it into the milk and it melts, creating a sweet and refreshing beverage.
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I was actually surprised that the place was relatively empty during my visit, especially since it was a weekend. My guess would be that not many people know of the place yet; it opened late 2019, then there was the whole pandemic and movement restrictions throughout most of 2020.

KEDAI.KL is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10AM – 6PM. You can park within Mahsa Avenue for RM5, but do note that parking spots are limited.

KEDAI KL

Block B, Level 2 & 3, MAHSA Avenue Jalan Universiti, Off, Jalan Ilmu, 59100 Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 10AM – 6PM (*I made a mistake in my vid, it’s 10AM, not 11).

https://www.mahsaavenue.com/kedai/index.html

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Loka Made: A Homegrown Creative Promoting Malaysia Through Art

It’s not easy to turn your passion into a business, whilst also spreading a positive message in the process. Meet the folks from homegrown creative Loka Made, as they highlight the beauty of Malaysia and its people, one inspiring artwork at a time.

When Chong Fei Giap and Audrey Chew first thought of  publishing an artbook back in 2015, they never intended to create a brand. At the time, they ran a studio called Running Snail, which did mostly corporate illustration projects for blue chip companies like Petronas, specializing in artwork with local elements.

Fei Giap had been working on a series of illustrations on the side since 2011, which were inspired by a visit to his father’s hometown in Kuala Pilah, a small town in Negeri Sembilan. The unique artwork combined a Japanese anime art style with scenes of rustic Malaysian landscapes, local architecture and fantasy elements – and it quickly caught the eye of local art enthusiasts and corporate brands. With the support of fans, the pair decided to expand on their passion project by publishing an artbook. 

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“Our initial idea was just to publish the artbook. We were young and crazy; we poured all our savings into it!” Audrey says, adding that they spent about RM40,000 on the project. Since they already had a lot of material and concepts in hand, it felt like a waste not to expand on them, so the duo decided to go the whole hog and create a few more products to sell. Their first merchandise was a series of quirky Malaysian-themed pop-up post cards. 

To launch the book and their new items, Audrey and Fei Giap had the support of Kinokuniya Bookstore. The retail giant was not only willing to put the artbook on their shelves, but also provided them with window display space and a place for them to do the book launch. The rest, as they say, is history.  

Today, Loka Made makes art books, pop-up postcards, notebooks, puzzles and other souvenirs inspired by everyday Malaysian life and culture. The designs are often whimsical and nostalgic, and feature everything from scenes of small-town sundry shops and heritage buildings, to iconic Malaysian landmarks and traditional dishes, sometimes interspersed with fantasy elements.

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The Loka Made team with Audrey (third from left) and Fei Giap (fourth from left). Photo courtesy of Loka Made.

In the brand’s early days, Audrey played a more hands-on role in helping with the illustrations, but has since moved on to a more managerial role. She oversees a team of four artists and one designer, and handles the sales and marketing side of things while Fei Giap spearheads the brand’s creative direction. Although Loka Made has a retail arm, a significant portion of their business involves creating artwork for corporate clients. 

Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day – and despite its current success, Loka Made was no different. Audrey shares that in the early days, it was very challenging, not only because they were a small indie studio, but also because there were no other companies that had a similar concept of making Malaysian-themed artwork and products for sale. Coming from art backgrounds, the pair had to adapt and learn things quickly on the job. For example, Audrey shares that they actually went door-to-door in order to introduce their products.

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Illo courtesy of Loka Made.

 “We’d go to tourist spots in Penang and Melaka, and pass out samples of our work to shops. Although there was some interest, not many businesses called us back,” Audrey recalls. (This was before the boom of the domestic travel in recent years, which has seen a heightened appreciation for local products and art.) She adds that this was partly the reason why they started Loka Made – to promote what the country has to offer, whether it’s amazing culture, food or scenery.

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The pair’s persistence seems to have paid off. Today, you can find LokaMade products in many local independent bookstores and art stores such as Stickeriffic and Salt X Paper, as well as bigger chains like Kinokuniya and Popular. Aside from their studio-cum-physical store in USJ9 Subang, they also have a shop in Central Market Kuala Lumpur. Items are also available online at lokamade.com. 

The products are affordably priced, with postcards going for as low as RM2 per piece, while the pop-up pieces range between RM10 to RM20. “If we’re going to educate the public as part of our vision, it has to be accessible to everyone.” Audrey says.

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Illustration courtesy of Loka Made.

Just a look at any one of their pieces and it’s easy to see why their designs have captured the hearts of many. They are all painstakingly detailed; and while the fantasy elements are the products of creativity and imagination, a lot of research is also poured into creating each artwork. “We have a catalogue of photos that is this thick,” Audrey spaces her hands apart to illustrate. “They’re sorted according to different themes, time periods.. so for example, if our artist needs to draw a scene from 1960s Malaysia, they’ll have to refer to that catalogue. It helps us to accurately portray the local architecture and subjects in our artwork,” she explains. The team also works with local historians and professors by conducting interviews, like with an upcoming project involving the different Malaysian Chinese clans.

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Tapir Man. Courtesy of Loka Made

To keep things fresh, Loka Made has their own in-house projects each year. Fans who have been following their releases might be familiar with the Tapir Man – a cute character based on the Malaysian tapir, which was conceptualised during Malaysia’s Movement Control Order back in March. There’s also the “Ride MY Wave” series which includes T-shirts, bags, notebooks and customisable Touch N Go cards. The illustration features fantasy elements. The Malayan tiger, our national animal, captains the ‘ship’ that everyone is sailing on and there are people of all races on the boat. You will also spot iconic landmarks such as the Stadthuys in Melaka, and Malaysian wildlife like the orangutan and hornbill. The theme was created in response to the current pandemic, serving as a reminder to fellow Malaysians to stay strong. 

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Cute cat-themed postcards. Courtesy of Loka Made.

“2020 has been full of ups and downs, and we’re hoping to weather this storm together. In the artwork, you will see lots of details which we think people will enjoy looking out for,” Audrey points out. 

Audrey is hopeful for the future, despite the uncertain economic outlook right now. “We had a lot of plans before the pandemic, but we’re still grateful for how the business is doing. But on the bright side, more people are travelling locally – which is what we’ve been promoting as a brand all along. Malaysia has so much to offer. It would be great if more people can see this,” she says.

Support your local business and order online from Loka Made at https://www.lokamade.com/

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My personal haul from their shop. 😛

Note: I did this story for the November issue of Fireflyz, the inflight magazine for Firefly Airlines. This article features a few tweaks and some additional info I wasn’t able to fit in to the story.

Note 2: A big thank you to Audrey for her time and patience in answering all my questions. I truly enjoyed doing the interview 🙂

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Manhattan Fish Market, D Pulze Cyberjaya

Update: This branch is permanently closed.

Fish N Chips (and garlic mayo fries!) were my soul (food) mates when I was studying in the UK. It’s hard to find one that can match the big, juicy fillets from Devonshire Chippy – the tiny snack shop along Devonshire Street back in Sheffield.

Back in Malaysia, the alternatives are often restaurants that serve expensive versions, like Manhattan Fish Market (MFM) or Fish & Co. While the quality isn’t bad in some places, it’s hard to find a consistent taste because they have so many franchise outlets.

I’ve always thought F&C was better than MFM, but I recently decided to give it another try when I dropped by Cyberjaya’s shopping mall, D’Pulze, for lunch.

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It has been ages since I visited any MFM Outlet. They used to have these drab, dull-looking menus, but they’ve revamped it to a bright ocean blue with nice photos. They have new items to boot!

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Love the interior, which is classy yet cosy. Black and grey walls and cabinets with light beige wooden furniture = perfect combo. I’d decorate my living room like this. They also have glass windows with a view of the city outside. Lots of natural sunlight (which is why my photos look good) and even an outdoor patio for those who want to smoke/soak up some sun.

The waiters were mostly foreign students and very nice and friendly. Good service.

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Iced coffee. Just poured the milk in 🙂

The drink was okay, but tasted like generic coffee. Not too bitter or sweet.

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My regular fish N Chips (RM18.90), which came on a bed of fries and served with a slice of lemon for drizzling, mayo and salad. The light version (RM12.90)  only comes with one piece of battered fish fillet.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find the quality here to be not bad at all. It’s one of the better fish n chips I have had. The fish was well done, juicy and crispy on the outside without being too oily. The fries were slightly too thick cut for my liking but well seasoned and they taste like actual potatoes (so many restaurants have weird fries that taste super processed…)

Definitely one of the better MFM’s that I’ve tried. 🙂

Manhattan Fish Market 

Level 2, D’Pulze Shopping Center,

Lingkaran Cyberjaya Barat, Cyberjaya

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I’ve been on a dry book hoarding spell for months, so it was time… indulged myself to a new notebook and two fiction books.