The hassle of looking for parking space at The Row KL on Jalan Doraisamy or walking from the nearest LRT station to get to your destination is totally worth it, as you will be greeted by a hidden gem that is Shades Kuala Lumpur.
Located on the first floor of The Row, which is an amalgamation of twenty-two 1940s pre-war shop houses repurposed to house a group of independent and complementary businesses, Shades KL is welcoming, with a relaxed atmosphere. The stairway leading to the store incorporates an industrial design, making for a very aesthetic entrance. At the front door painted a warm red, a sign with Japanese words catches our attention.
“Pre-pandemic, we hosted customers from all over the world and many of them came from Japan,” explains Joshua Yap, the owner of Shades KL, as he satisfies our curiosity about why he chose to display a Japanese signboard.
Step through the doorway and you will be met with a sea of colourful items to your left. Meanwhile, the other side of the store has several tables that can fit up to 10 customers at a time. “The small-scale café is designed for customers who might be feeling tired from browsing through the store and want to take a breather with a cup of coffee.”
Yap took over the retail business from his uncle, Peter Hoe, and rebranded it as Shades KL just a month before the first lockdown in 2020. “Looking back, it feels like the timing was off, but we are slowly getting back on our feet and sourcing more products.”
Like many businesses, Yap found a way to make sure his business stayed afloat during trying times. He launched a virtual shopping service to accommodate customers around the country who are unable to visit the store.
“There are people who inquire about the home products we post on Instagram but we do not have an online store yet for customers to view the items in detail,” Yap says. “We are waiting to source more products before we launch the website.” A website for its online store is set to be established next year.
Using video call as a medium of communication, Yap walks his customers through products available at the store and advises them on what best suits their needs for house decor. “We will assist them in choosing items and they are usually happy with it.
“If they receive the item and do not like it for whatever reason, they can always return and exchange the product,” he says, adding that customer satisfaction is his top priority.
Yap has advice for those who are thinking of redecorating their home: “First, decide the base colour of the space. For example, you need to know the colour of the sofa before you add accessories like cushions.”
Yap’s plan is for Shades KL to be a one-stop shop for people who want to decorate not just their homes, but also accessorise themselves. “We sell a bit of everything. There are home products and also fashion accessories. When customers come to the store, they can head back with a variety of items.”
Its best-selling products such as cushion covers — there are more than 100 designs to choose from — and ceramic plates are sourced from all over Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia and China. “We then work with the local community to help us sew fabrics that we purchased,” Yap adds.
He works towards serving customers with products that are good quality, unique and affordable, many of which come in limited quantities to ensure their exclusivity. Often, Shades KL welcomes returning customers who would get gifts for loved ones after they have bought treasures for themselves first.
Shades KL also satisfies the hunger pangs of its customers with its well-known homemade quiches and chicken mango salad. “At the moment, we are short-handed, so we are unable to sell them at the café. We accept pre-orders through WhatsApp and will deliver straight to your home,” Yap says.
The inspiration behind the name Shades KL was rather simple. “I looked at the products of different shades and colours and I immediately thought Shades was the best name for the shop. KL is where the shop is located. Who knows, in the future, there might be Shades Penang or something like that,” he laughs.
Longing to meet customers face-to-face after a long, quiet year, Yap beams at the very thought of people being able to go out and enjoy their time outdoors. “We just welcomed kids to the store again the other day. It felt delightful to hear the sound of excitement coming from them as they looked around the shop,” he says.“I am happy to see a slice of Shades KL in my customers’ homes and wardrobes and they can certainly expect more products soon.”
This article first appeared in issue No. 102, Winter 2021 of Haven.