Women Now

Meet April Chen, the brains behind Singapore's first and largest creative retail playground, Flashbang

She tells us all about the one-of-a-kind event, which drew in crowds the minute its doors opened 
 

Photo courtesy of Flashbang.

In an age where buying things is as easy as tapping ‘Checkout’ on your mobile screen, standing out and drawing in the crowds to shop isn’t as easy. 

“It’s not just transactions. It’s multi-layered, it’s experience”, says April Chen, who is also the quirky Co-Founder of Studio Ensemble, a brand design agency that crafts meaningful experiences that engage the consumers and communicate the brand’s culture.

In Studio Ensemble, she focuses on spatial design, which basically means she has to design a space to fit the brand’s identity

I admit, when I first found out Flashbang was being held at an open-air carpark, I was a bit hesitant. Just how much different could this flea market be from others? I was wrong - this is no ordinary flea market

 

 

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The design geek (which is what April calls herself) has made it an all-rounded artistic market that truly engages all your senses.  She accomplishes this by understanding what the brand is trying to tell. For Invade, the organisers, it was all about providing smaller or fresh retailers a kick start. It was also important for the space to have some breathing space - a note they took after Artbox.

Her approach to beginning designing is likened to when she goes shopping - April tends to look deeper into the user experience, which is why Flashbang’s concept revolves around it. It was “quite a project that I really can address as a designer because we need to understand human response - what they need, what they want, what they are craving for and that’s freshness.” 

And it’s been such a hit. Here’s why. 

 

 

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It's versatile, able to pull in people of literally all ages, and it's neon-themed - there’s neon signs and photo ops, glow-in-the-dark manicures, face paint and more. There are also glowing edibles that’ll make for a great Instagram post, and also entice the little ones if they come along at night. Old-school arcade games will transport you to the good old days, while retail stores entice you to shop absolutely cash-free - the entire market accepts NETS and GrabPay. 

But it’s not just that. We sat down with April to find out more about the event, and a little more about the designer herself. Read on for more.

 

April Chen, Co-Founder of Studio Ensemble. Photo courtesy of Flashbang.

 

1. What is the concept of Flashbang, and why that concept? Why choose to do retail this way?

Before getting to the concept itself you’ve to understand Flashbang’s agenda - it’s to create third-generation retail, beyond online beyond offline. It (the concept) is something more than that - there’s actually more engagements and interaction at the space, that’s not just selling things, but encouraging creators to have a voice. So the interaction is both ways, from the people who are buying and the people who are selling. It’s not just about transactions.

We’re given a space that is so premium along Orchard road, and it’s Christmas so it’s a recipe to cook up something even nicer. Flashbang has been given an opportunity to come up with a brand to address the retail nowadays, and that's what we did.

 

2. What was the inspiration behind the creative concept?

Invade and I co-created it. So we came up with a lot of brands for the event - something that is glamorous and happening at night, something that is glowing. We were thinking of something that is very transformative, multi-layered, and multi-sensory. The name, Flashbang itself, it gave the sense of an ever-changing explosion.

 

Photo courtesy of Flashbang.

 

3. What makes the event stand out?

It’s quite multi-sensory, so food is one of the features, music is one of it, I think in terms of the park itself, aesthetically, it’s literally carefully designed. It’s quite customised to the needs of the audience. A lot of thought has been put into it. 

There’s a lot of photo opportunities. It’s an event which we created to glow, so it’s not just a market market, it’s an artistic market. Generally, it’s much more artistic than what we’ve seen before.

 

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4. What do you hope to achieve with this concept and what kind of audience are you hoping to draw in? 

To encourage creativity. For the visitors to be inspired that retail is not just retail - it can be integrated with party, with music, it can be a place to enjoy art, to enjoy something that they have never seen before. 

Actually we want to draw in an inclusive audience. One of the keywords we were thinking of was “inclusive”. 

The market transforms from day to night. So from day we encourage families to come here. You’ll see some of the workshops are actually family-friendly and parents will bring their kids. There’s also parent-child packages as well. Then at night, it’ll become something more glamorous, more party-like

 

Photo courtesy of Flashbang.

 

5. What are your likes and hobbies? 

I like everything that involves design. To read how people are pursuing design and understanding design in the future. I’m also interested in the future actually, like how AI is going to transform humans in the future, those kind of things.

I’m quite alert (laughs). I’m quite a design geek. So anything that is involved in design I’ll be very interested, like to understand typography, to understand how a brand grows. In my free time.. I’m such a geek. I love shopping. Actually when I shop I don’t just look for things. As a designer I’ll look deeper, like how the user experience is. It doesn’t just apply online. When I shop I like to explore quality, and what each brand is trying to tell me. Actually to understand brands and how to run businesses is my biggest interest.

I’m also into movies and travelling. I travel a lot so I’ll try to travel every year. My favourite places are Stockholm and Japan, because they're very creative and not only liveable but lovable cities. To me, with the kind of job we are doing, we are always ‘digging’ ourselves a lot. So I need to ‘top-up’ myself every now and then, and I do it through reading and travelling.

 

6. How do you inspire through your work? 

I don’t inspire people through my work, but I inspire them in terms of their attitude towards their job, especially in terms of patience. I always tell my designers that you need to widen your horizons, not just always looking at design. You need to pay some interest into the future, pay some interest into politics even - into businesses, activities, how a business is run, how a country is run. Widening your horizon is important.

 

Flashbang will be open from 3pm-11pm from now until Dec 30.

Admission is free.

Read more about the event here.

 

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