Touted as Singapore’s most promising youth collective you’ve never heard of, Retro Gate is the newest (and coolest) kid on the streetwear block.
There’s no doubt that streetwear is huge right now. What used to be a niche, underground subculture reserved for skater kids and sneakerheads, has evolved to a burgeoning Hypebeast movement for the masses – and it shows no signs of slowing down. While OG brands like Supreme and Stüssy are still major players in the game, a handful of homegrown labels are quickly making their mark on the local street style scene.
Enter Retro Gate, a Japanese-American inspired vintage streetwear haven that looks straight out of the ’90s. First started out as a passion project between millennial founders Ryo Yamamoto, 26 and Paul Low, 24 – both university students with an ardent passion for street culture – the brand has grown from a humble thrift store into a whopping 3,000 square foot space at Golden Mile Complex.
Evidently, the guys at Retro Gate do things a little differently. More than just a retail space, they also aim to position themselves as a one-of-a-kind collective that celebrates the urban youth culture in Singapore. “We want this space to be one where creative individuals can freely express themselves,” says Ryo. “Our goal is to become Singapore’s largest streetwear cultural hub, and as of now, we’re having a blast pursuing this dream.”
Intrigued by the brand’s creative ethos and authenticity, we chatted with Ryo to find out more about the story behind Retro Gate.
How did you get started on this passion project?
“Being half Japanese, I’ve been a huge fan of vintage streetwear in Tokyo. Paul, on the other hand, developed an interest in streetwear through his love for breakdancing. We’ve always felt that the local streetwear scene had a lot of potential and thus decided to bring vintage streetwear into Singapore.”
What do you think sets Retro Gate apart from the rest?
“We are more than an apparel store. We host various events – such as dance competitions, acoustic sessions and rave nights – that champion various aspects of the streetwear culture, from dance to music and art.”
Did you guys face any creative differences when you first started out?
“Definitely. When we work with other people, there’s bound to be creative differences. But one thing’s for certain is that we both know we have the business’ best interests in mind. As co-founders, we have this philosophy to ‘poke’ as many holes as we can to the other party’s ideas. This does two things: it tests whether the idea is feasible and if the person behind it has a sound grasp on the strategic plan. Ultimately, communication is key which is why I see Paul more like a brother than a colleague.”
What are your thoughts on the streetwear culture in Singapore?
“I think the streetwear culture is picking up, and this is clear from the increase in vintage stores in recent years. To us, that’s amazing because there’s a demand for it. We hope to see more Singaporeans getting involved in the local streetwear scene, because it’s a pretty exciting space to be in.”
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a young entrepreneur?
“That business at the end of the day, is all about the people. It’s about the community you serve, working with people from all walks of life, and understanding why the company exists.”
What’s a piece of advice you’d like to give youths who wish to start their own businesses?
“It’s more important to execute an idea than to keep thinking of one. To quote Walt Disney, ‘The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.’ Because the experience you gain from starting your own business, outweighs anything you learn in the classroom. I think school is important because it teaches you the fundamentals, but when it comes to the execution, that is where the real learning begins.”
Photo credits: Chino Sardea
This article was adapted from our latest issue of Teenage Chapters 2019, where we shine the spotlight on youths who are changing the world – one chapter at a time. Out on newsstands now!
Retro Gate is located at Golden Mile Complex #04-16, Singapore 199588. Check out their page at @retrogateofficial!