Paying homage to concept stores like Colette, Dover Street Market and The Store X Berlin, Vernakular has embodied a dual identity within a store, with its walls that emulate a Yin and Yang spirit
Burrowed in the city of Kuala Lumpur resides Telawi Street, known for its influence on the culture and style that has echoed over the last thirty-one years since its culmination. Artbooks, timepieces and goods designed in the locality. Founded amidst the pandemic in October of 2020 by creative entrepreneur Mirzan Meer, a graduate of Central Saint Martins from the University of Arts in London, Vernakular is a bubble twenty minutes away from the city center. It assists in the narration for Telawi’s foothold as a congregation for arts, curation and culture. «Post University, I was involved and working with a jewelry business that was family owned. It focused on designing, manufacturing and retailing commercial luxury jewelry for the masses». Enamored by design, art and technology, he found the architectural ingenuity of designs in plants and insects a force for his affection towards architecture.
Five years down the road, back in Malaysia and working under the helm of the family jewelry firm, Meer founded a company within a company to distribute and sell watches which is when the concept store was instituted. Scouting fledgling labels on a global scale, he came to a halt as local watch sellers were weary of carrying brands that were enshroud to them. It was a hurdle to convince labeled watch boutiques to carry fashion centric brands that catered to a demographic in their twenties. «Having attended watch fares in Belgium and Switzerland, choosing the watches for Vernakular was second-nature to me. Encountering brands that have come and gone over the years, I developed an instinct in determining which would last while factoring in quality and the design of the watches. Watches, I came to appreciate over time. My education and appreciation for design and craft fell in sequence with the watches. My intent to inaugurate the store came from my love for Kuala Lumpur. Design wise, it is rough and tapered. Each part of the store was curated by my team and I to mirror the city. Borrowing form and function from nature, architecture helps group and set order», says Meer. The store is stretched over eighty-two feet and is designed to imitate a gallery. The wall to the left of the store is mounted with shelves for watches in soft-lighting. From the outside, patrons are allured in; a dichotomy in the design of the store starts from the steps on the sidewalk, painted white on the left and concrete on the right. Hidden on the right is a coffee bar called PeepCoffee, with designated seating areas for take-away and stay-in guests. The addition of PeepCoffee to the store was a reaction to Malaysia’s growth of coffee-culture. «I applied in the area four years ago. They had told me that it would take ten years before I got a space. I delved into planning what the store was going to encompass».
The twenty-eight-year-old says: «The word vernacular went around when I was in architecture school. It means to draw influence from tones of culture and dialect and is a phrase used in architectural literature. It was a process to draw homage from designs of buildings, paying attention to what is built today to be used for the future. The word reminds me of liberty as there is vernacular to be found in locations like Malaysia». Vernakular was set out with the intention to be against the grain of the landscape of capitalism. Choosing the location for the store, the area has been the talk of the town, cultivating and being the epicenter of nightlife and creativity during the day. Offering the store as a plateau for creativity, Meer states that he foresees the community making use of the space, by sharing, collaborating and growing the industry. Toying with the word vernacular, Meer noted that the letters K and V are appealing to the eyes as they are angular. Creating what is known as a design flex that is consistent with the design and interior of the store whilst paying homage to the city code of Kuala Lumpur, the letters were switched. That was how the space got its name. Paying homage to concept stores like Colette, Dover Street Market and The Store X Berlin, Vernakular has embodied a dual identity within a store, with its walls that emulate a Yin and Yang spirit: «I have not indulged in mass-marketing for Vernakular and in doing so, our guests can choose to interpret what they make of the store. The ambition was to treat the store as a product to market itself. The watches that were handpicked by my team and I can do the job. Alphabetically sorted; the watch side of the store reminds people of themselves, what they can be and how they can choose to collect the timepieces. Watches are an extension to a being and how one carries their time. The duality of the store helps reflect an urgency to maintaining a balance in the human psyche». Choosing mid-ranged but quality pieces to allow integration of watches into Generation Z, «I want to democratize watches for the youth». The brands accommodated in the store under ‘The Watch Library’, a subsection of Vernakular, include Marathon, Corniche, Olivia Burton and Bravur.He drew design styles from architect Tadao Ando and John Lautner. One half of the store is designed as a community space with iron pipes as handles, ceilings of height, cement floors and plywood furniture: «I designed it with minimalism in mind. The open space releases a sense of clarity». Social design and sustainability were a topic of discussion: «Using and sourcing materials from the locality and taking advantage of firms to aid in bringing the designs to life was upheld by me. I had to make choices to reduce carbon emissions and pollution for the future of the space». The other half of the store is painted white from floor to ceiling, resembling a gallery. The lot chosen by him, was a specific lot on the street that was the only prime location suitable for Vernakular. The area was founded in the Nineties and with the intention of preserving the building’s authenticity, he worked around mapping the store based on its structural integrity. In carrying local and international publications, the concept store is able to educate and provide a space for those who intend to expand their knowledge. Titles chosen for the section emulate customers’ travel, fashion and literature regimes.
A belief in using roasteries made in Malaysia for the coffee bar, bringing on board bakeries for baked goods and employing his aunt to sell home-made granola bars. He says: «The gravel was sourced from within a distant location; I wanted it to reproduce the city and its train tracks». A peek into the future, «I do not see a need to carry smartwatches in the store as it is not for the long run. Technology is evolving». The store subsists as a brand and a concept store «The value for us would be the honesty and transparency of the process in founding the store. While we understand that we are a business and require a flow of income, we focus on how we can serve and be useful to society before we factor in profits. It could be considered as a business-centric altruism». Meer shares the foresight of erasing international and local borders, with the possibility for businesses and individuals to take the support of Vernakular to grow. Procuring a team of workers before the lockdown began in March, ‹‹sustaining my team financially was an hurdle. There was a period of stagnancy and we were running a deficit. We had to keep our design team driven during the lockdown. The site was limited to a handful of individuals». With the restrictions set in place, finishing touches were compromised like the greenery, collaborations and titles for the book section. With a lockdown looming, Meer intends on working with brands and creatives from around the globe, setting up an online journal and conducting workshops and booths where designers, artists, and writers can come together. Meer intends on opening concept and fashion stores over Kuala Lumpur.
33, Jalan Telawi 3
Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur