Zalora is more than just a couture merchant jacked up on HTML.

It was Friday. The 13th.

When it isn’t being a painfully prolonged horror movie franchise, Friday the 13th plays at the back of our heads as a superstition hailed from a time of witches, where black cats were believed to be malevolent omens and cat racism was apparently still rampant. This day, of all days, was believed to bring bad luck. But Friday, the 13th of September, 2013, was different.

It was not the kind that Rebecca Black would sing about – that in itself was good luck. I decided on my seat the moment I got into the cab – it was the back seat, at the right. My destination was a car showroom at the other end of Singapore from Pasir Ris. I was going to attend an event that had not much to do with cars, but more to do with two very popular names in early 21st century fashion.

The cab turned out from a subdued Alexandra Road, into the bright lights of the MINI Habitat along Leng Kee Road.

Event entrance, early evening
The building was pretty large for something called a MINI Habitat.

At first glance, the average passer-by would notice that it was a Zalora event.

Zalora. The online retailer has always been at the forefront of technology and fashion, combining both adroitly for a very consumer-friendly platform that stylishly links buyer to brand. It is to online fashion retail what dubstep is to laser-shooting robot velociraptors and followers of the Holy Ch-ch-ch-ch-church (WAB WAB) of The Drop – it is a facilitator, a rallying icon for fashion end users.

In the local context, what Zalora is doing is unprecedented. Here, Zalora is more than just a couture merchant jacked up on HTML. Here, Zalora is equal parts label bureau, equal parts brand emissary.

At the MINI Habitat, Zalora bares its soul in teaming up with River Island. Yes, most of us knew River Island as “that brand lah, the one more atas than Topman” until the London-based high street label’s hush-hush exit from the Singaporean market in late 2012. Indeed, the closure of their ION Orchard store was so subdued, I thought it was a figment of my imagination. Every time I pass by that new Mango store in ION, I think to myself, “Am I on the wrong floor?”

River Island was merely redefining itself in the tech-savvy Singaporean market, preferring the digital bedrock of Zalora to a physical flagship. This means greater outreach to markets such as Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur without needing a palpable presence in these reaches of South-East Asia.

But here’s where Zalora’s spirit shines through – its launch of River Island’s A/W 2013 collection at the not-so-mini MINI Habitat was a celebration of state-of-the-art tech, fashion, and community. The last one is the important bit – I was a guest at the event surrounded by the young personalities of the local fashion retail scene, such as former URBAN writer Rohai, STYLE:Men fashion guru Ben Chin, bloggers such as Dawn Yang and Wenhui (lovethekisses), as well as celebrities such as Rich Herrera and Anita Kapoor. I met friends, and I left making new friends. Zalora’s penchant for creating very relevant, dynamic communities stems from well-lubricated, high-energy events such as this.

I arrived in typical Suffian Hakim style – a few heartbeats after fashionably late. The early birds got to test-drive a MINI, but I was in time for host Bobby Tonelli to kickstart the night.

Bobby Tonelli kickstarting the night

I wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying because I was too busy taking this picture:

Suffian, Rohai & Alghani
Me, Rohai and Alghani. And dat scarf.

All in all, it was a fantastic party. More importantly, this marks my return as a River Island consumer. The Mango store at ION has become a reminder that things change, but like Friday the 13th, River Island is an element of English culture that Asia cannot help but adopt, by virtue of sheer awesomeness. And jeans that cater to people who don’t have chopsticks for legs.

Unlike Friday the 13th, however, River Island has moved with the times. Hell, they’ve even used Augmented Reality walls – I have no idea what in fuck those are –

Guests shopping on the Augmented Reality Wall 2
These guys do, apparently.

– but they were pretty freakin’ awesome. It was, by far, the most unique event experience I’ve had in a while.

To redefine your island life as you deem fit, visit the Zalora X River Island page at http://www.zalora.sg/river-island-singapore/
Check out the pictures from the events below, courtesy of Zalora Singapore:
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