Concrete floors and wooden furniture blend in with the surrounding to avoid overpowering the items on display. Items carried are products that are based across East and West Malaysia
Pioneers to the concept store scene in the Greater Kuala Lumpur area, Ilaika’s randomness of assortments has become a shelter for the creative arts and individuals that surround it. Located in Petaling Jaya, Ilaika’s existence is a contrast to the setting that the area is known to possess. Bridging brands, concept items, coffee, the arts and culture of the locality, Ilaika uplifts the brands and people that reside in it. Initiated in November of 2016, the store was fashioned on the corner lot of a row of shop lots. With restaurants, car workshops and a plethora of establishments surrounding it, Ilaika does not present itself to be a concept store. With a trolley cart hanging on the storefront and tube lights inside to resemble a signage that spells ‘One Half x Ilaika’ on the bottom right corner of it, a passerby would be left mystified. One would not expect a store with its identity in the cultural scene to be buried away. With the aid of the denizen youth, their overuse of the internet and adoration for coffee, Ilaika has become a household name for those in search for a brew of espresso, brands from across the globe and an opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded individuals.
Founded by owners Dianne and Dora Ong, the concept store’s inception was an extension of the work they were involved in. The sisters who forged a graphic design firm in 1999 have since opened a chain of establishments under their helm. Using their background as a source for commencing artistic and creative ventures, they opened Momage and Awesome Canteen. While Momage focused on showcasing photography in lightboxes, Awesome Canteen was inaugurated from their time spent cooking with their team members. The curation of Awesome Canteen can be seen across the store. The use of vintage wooden stools from their personal collection, repurposing and upcycling of furniture and cabinets from the space’s former tenants and sourcing of furniture and light switches from Penang, a state up north in West Malaysia. Merging Momage with Awesome Canteen was done with ease, splaying the lightboxes within the store as decoration for the interior. Two of these projects were then succeeded with the opening of AweGallery, which focused on selling artisan goods and hosting events. Having these projects be well-received by the people in the area, they then were presented with a space beside Awesome Canteen, which was a space left vacant. Unable to visualize the space going to waste, they intended on opening it as an extension to Awesome Canteen – enabling a number of patrons to dine-in. The plan shifted; they decided a store would be a well-suited option and with that, the birth of Ilaika ensued. According to the sisters, the idea behind the opening of the store was the selection of trinkets and items that they revered for themselves.
The single-floor store is stretched over ten feet, accommodating sections. On the outside are chairs and tables for guests who intend on dining-in. A green setup exists on the outside through a curation and partnership with plant nursery, Green Bandit. The landscaping, subsisting for décor is available for customers to purchase. Set up in a manner to ensure subtlety, price tags are attached to the pots. Concrete floors and wooden furniture blend in with the surrounding to avoid annihilating the items on display. Lighting remains at a soft-glow of yellow-orange hues, to cater to those who have burrowed themselves here for work. The space was designed to allow the movement of customers and staff members while showcasing the items in a gallery-store like fashion. There are four areas on the inside, on the left, following the entrance, is an area for up-cycled dried plants that can be used as ornamentations from Záhuòháng. The genesis of Záhuòháng came from Joshua Tan, a graphic designer working under the Ong sister’s design firm, when he was decorating the tables of Awesome Canteen. Tan has been given a space within Ilaika and was a part of the team of people involved in bringing the store together. The drying process used to dehydrate the flowers avoid the use of chemicals or coloring to obtain the desired results. The center of the store houses accessories like stationary, leather goods and totes; candles and perfume; skincare items; plates and wooden tableware; botanicals, and art and fashion books and magazines. A number of the items carried in the store are products that are based across East and West Malaysia. Clothing labels like Anaabu, Shuren Projects and personal-care brands like Root Remedies and Lilin + Co have existed before the opening of Ilaika. Anaabu is a fashion label with an international presence that follows sustainability. With the help of the Ong sisters’ friends, there is no shortage of items displayed in the store. Items reflect a modern-aesthetic with nostalgia that lingers in the enamelware and glassware that is sold, invoking a callback to Malaysian’s use of these homeware items.
The makeshift dressing room and bathroom at the back of the store is where racks of clothes lie, prompting customers to try on clothes in between their sips of coffee. On the outside, before the coffee section, resides an area dedicated to fashion and art magazines. Publications like Magazine B, Gentlewoman, Musotrees and Process Magazine sit side-by-side. Curated by the sisters, the collection of titles includes coffee table books, literature on food and interior design. At the back of the store on the right is One Half, a coffee store that was created under the command of Keith Koay and Ng Jia Le. A pair of roasters and baristas with world-class track records. They set up a pop-up for a period of four months next door to Ilaika before they were brought in full-time in 2018. Sourcing beans by remunerating the farmers and roasters with fare wages, One Half serves as a meeting point for coffee connoisseurs and creatives from Kuala Lumpur. Pastries, desserts and sourdoughs that are synonymous with sister café, Dou Dou Bake are a staple and attract customers to keep flocking the space. The coffee store uses the plates that are sold at Ilaika, made from platemakers Bendang Studio and Stonework Ceramics. Using glass straws and designers who manufacture their plates that are within the city helps reduce their carbon footprint. Takeaway cups are fitted with straws, paper bags and takeaway boxes that are recyclable. One Half sells teas, jams, coffee beans and organic-wines that are sourced natively or from abroad. In January 2021, Malaysia headed into a nationwide lockdown. Businesses, including Ilaika have borne repercussions, with the lack of shoppers and having to operate online. They hope to exist online, allowing their customers to purchase items.
No 17, Jalan 20/13