FJ (left) and Isaac (right).

Sai Fengjia (FJ, as she’s commonly known) and Isaac Ang were born in the '90s. Too young to experience the grunge era nor relish in the heyday of X-Men: The Animated Series. But it didn't stop them from indulging in their love for the era or earlier.

They met at polytechnic, studying to be graphic designers. They bonded over their shared love of the past. "We got into streetwear," FJ says. "There were a lot of Supreme, HBA, people were dressing like ASAP Rocky, that sort of thing." Like many people in those days, YouTube was a treasure trove of content and FJ and Isaac were willing patrons of short clips and unboxing videos. "We watched people collecting vintage snapbacks," FJ adds. "Not only were they restoring them, they were also talking about the history behind the caps."

That was the trip over the edge of the rabbit hole and they fell into the world of vintage clothing. They chanced upon videos by Round Two, a secondhand clothing business, and had insights into a behind-the-scenes look into its operation. But what cemented the duo’s aspiration to open up their own vintage clothing shop was from a trip to Shimokitazawa, Tokyo. They enjoyed the hospitality and the local owners’ willingness to share their expertise, regardless of the language barrier. "We saw KINJI (used clothing store) and other secondhand stores," FJ says. "It was everything that you see them sell online but in a physical store. I remember Isaac saying to me, Haha, when we return to Singapore, let’s do something like this."

It may be an off-the-cuff statement but it planted a seed. The plan to open up a physical space was postponed until Isaac finished his National Service and in 2018, they set up Loop Garms in Little India. What started as a passion project, has now grown into something else. It's a living. It's still a familiar terrain but now new landmarks have taken root—there’s a business component attached to it; they have a staff who depend on them for their livelihood. While the local vintage market has grown, Loop Garms manages to remain relevant with a vintage selection that caters to almost every demographic and its marketing outreach.

For the latter, FJ and Isaac upload educational videos on how to spot an authentic vintage piece or bite-sized clips on their social media platforms on what they are wearing. It’s this sort of outreach that puts them in the foreground of public perception.

"We bought items with no intention of flipping it," FJ says. "They were just things that we got from eBay that appealed to us." Comic paraphernalia is more of FJ’s wheelhouse, while anime and manga were Isaac’s. But for the rest, they are usually chosen, more often in unanimity.

Racks on racks at Loop Garms.

It borders on hoarding. Over the years, people were dropping off things at the shop. Things that they were too lazy to sell themselves or just want other people to bask in the items’ nostalgic value. FJ and Isaac try will make space for the goods but it starts to turn into a game of "where-else-can-I-clear-to-display-them"? The Loop Garms shop is a scene of organised chaos. Chocked with ’80s-’90s pop culture items in seeming disarray, items were grouped by some unspoken logic. FJ points to the display case at the front counter, a small anthill of old electronic equipment—mobile phones, pagers, handheld game consoles — many were donated by her family. T-shirts of the moment hang from invisible threads from the ceiling. Action figures loosed from the confines of their boxes, stand posed on a shelf to the side.

FJ reveals that she doesn't have the heart to toss out anything. "If I don’t have the space for it, I'd put them in a box and I'll think about what to do with them the next time."

Loop Garms has a healthy international customer base. It is where a lot of their big-ticket items go to. "Mind you, many of our customers are young and they think that vintage must be old-looking or secondhand; something you must thrift. We try to educate them about this. Having a physical space allows for conversations like this to happen."

So, what do customers usually look for? According to Isaac, the local clientele is more trend-driven. "There was a series of T-shirts called 'American Thunder'. Basically, it had lightning streaks on the front and features some sort of Native American-related print. We carried them and they were sold out in 2018. The following year, we had people DMing us saying that they recall us stocking a couple of American Thunder tees in our store. We were wondering why there was a sudden interest and then realised that Travis Scott wore a couple of them on his tour. People are looking at these again because someone famous wore them."

When Netflix’s The Last Dance aired, interest in Chicago Bulls memorabilia surged. Basketballs with the Chicago Bulls logo or posters of Dennis Rodman would double in price. One would point to the nature of supply and demand but it’s more accurate to point to the cyclical nature of fashion—a fad never falls out of season; it hibernates.

Isaac argues that it doesn’t matter what age you are, who can fault you for having an appreciation of the period? I mean, are we going to go after historians next?

"It's really just nostalgia,” Isaac justifies. “But it's not because it’s cool to like pieces from the '80s and '90s. There was a quality to them."

And there's a bigger reason for this: the stories. FJ and Isaac love the histories that come with the T-shirts. "Like us, there’s a personal connection between the customer and the shirt. There was one guy whom we were chatting with and he noticed a Speed T-shirt we had displayed. He pointed at it and said that his dad and he used to watch Speed.

It does reframe your perception of what FJ and Isaac do. Maybe they are more than collectors or packrats. Rather they are archivists of a past for the next generation.


Isaac: “In the late ’80s, early ’90s, David Lynch created a concert performance called Industrial Symphony No. 1. They created a promo T-shirt that you can only get at the show. We saw a vintage store owner talk about how significant the Industrial Symphony No. 1 T-shirt was to him and we thought about doing a video as well because we have the same shirt. After we posted it, a guy from the States DMed us and offered USD1,000. We declined. We weren’t trying to sell the T-shirt, we just wanted to talk about it and see people’s reactions. Then, we had offers from other people as well and the guy who offered USD1,000 came back with another number: USD2,000. At this point, we’ve no idea if he was joking or not. Obviously, we declined. A couple of months later, he contacted us again. He said that he may not have the most money but no one wants this shirt more than him. And he offered USD3,000. But we refused again. We didn’t want to sell the shirt because the fit is great. We have an XXXL, which would be a modern-day XL; it’s a size that’s very popular because a lot of people can wear it.”


Isaac: “I remember growing up in Australia and my mom allowing me to watch this. I love Natural Born Killers; love Woody Harrelson... Robert Downey Jr’s character was pretty hilarious. I dig the whole vibe of the film. Pity I don’t wear this any more.”


Isaac: “I’ve never been to Lollapalooza but it doesn’t stop me from wearing this. That year, they had a sick line-up of bands that I’m into: Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, but more importantly, we tend to collect things that occur in our birth year—1992. The design of this appeals to us.”

FJ: “Fun fact, the Lollapalooza ’93 tee featured fractal art in its design. It was based on the Windows Media Player visualiser. We have a ‘Fractal Generation’ tee by Roberto Azank, a fractal artist, who made visuals for Macworld and Apple conferences.”


Isaac: “The national Lithuanian basketball team wanted to go to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but they didn’t have the funds. The Grateful Dead saw their plight and wanted to sponsor them. They even got their designer, Greg Speirs, to create their kit, which is why their 1992 basketball team’s uniforms were all tie-dyed in the colours of the Lithuanian flag. This uniform is special because the country just achieved independence from the Soviet Union and now they are at the Olympics. And this is their first-ever uniform featuring Skullman... and they came in third!

FJ: “They’d win another bronze medal in the next Olympics and another bronze in 2000. We only have the ’92 and ’96 shirts. Again, prices for these skyrocketed after Jonah Hill was spotted in the ’92 tee. I like these tees because of the underdog story.”

Photography: Jaya Khidir

I LIKE TAKING the road less travelled. I used to fly to Tokyo a lot but now I want to check out other places. Southeast Asia is an area I’d like to visit more. I’d just flown in from Manila. It’s an amazing city. Great people, very strong energy, a lot of things happening there.

THE SALVAGES is a long-term endeavour. I don’t see it as, okay, we got to get to the next big thing. The Salvages is a brand that will outlast me. I don’t want it to be the coolest, hottest thing right now and then it’s gone the next season, I want it to be evergreen.

THE ’80S was when I grew up and the culture of that time is what I know best.

WHEN I WAS INTRODUCING CRUMPLER in Singapore, I had to bang down doors and hit the bike stores. But no one wanted to stock it. Singapore hasn’t cultivated a messenger bag culture yet. So, I pushed it to the fashion stores; I did a hip-hop party at Zouk to promote Crumpler; I was seeding the bags to friends. Word caught on and next thing you know, it became really big. And when Crumpler became popular, I began on my next journey.

MY FIRST STORE, Ambush, was small and niche. We sold T-shirts and toys from KAWS; cool stuff that friends from New York were making. You can say that we imported [street] culture to Singapore in the 90s.

SURRENDER is my second store and I did it with James [Lavelle] from Mo’ Wax. A good friend with whom I still keep in touch, James and I brought in Japanese brands like Neighborhood, visvim, Undercover. Back then those labels were not available outside of Japan. Maybe Hideout in London but generally, those brands were usually sold in Japan. We were the first store to bring in the Ura-Harajuku culture.

“BE AUTHENTIC to yourself, your tribe will find you.” That’s the best advice Nicolette [Earn’s partner] gave me.

PEOPLE DRAW ENERGY from possessions. You buy a piece of art or clothing and you draw inspiration from it. It feels good that you’ll want to share the experience with other people.

I WAS INTO records, toys, furniture, art, everything, you know. Now, I’m at a point where I prize the experience as well. Covid-19 kinda flipped the switch on my thinking.

YOU NEED to let go of things to be happier.

IT’S IMPORTANT to feel like an outsider. If you stick with your comfort zone, you’ll stagnate. You’ve got to keep moving, you’ve got to be continually inspired by what’s happening around you.

EVERYTHING is a learning process.

I GET A LOT OF JOY from designing a space. All my stores, I designed them. Creating new spaces is basically like creating your own little world.

IN THE ’80S, I was into post-punk and early Hip Hop. From 2004, I would progress to something else, like rock or whatever. Back then, Zouk played a lot of house music and I just didn’t get it. I was into Hip Hop. Fast-forward a decade or two and I’m understanding house music and disco. Turns out after all these years, I simply just enjoy good music.

I’VE MET MY HEROES my heroes and so far they have turned out to be really decent human beings.

LOLA, our West Highland White Terrier is eight and you’d be surprised by her personality. She just brings joy to us every day. Before Lola, I didn’t have much experience in taking care of a dog and I learnt so much from Lola.

DOGS ARE PURE; they love you unconditionally. We should learn how to love and receive love. That’s very important that Lola has taught us how to love.

I’M AFRAID of not doing enough. Unfinished projects, y’know?

I DO GET A LOT OF CREDIT—maybe more than I deserve—from people in the countries that I travelled to. They’d say, oh, your store inspired me to set up my own thing. I’m glad those people resonated with me and what I did.

I’D RATHER BE known as a guy who has done great things, instead of owning them.

WHY DO I NOT SMILE IN PHOTOS? Probably comes naturally to me. Or maybe I look better without smiling.

IF YOU’D ASKED ME pre-COVID if I would open another retail space, I’d be like, nah, I don’t wanna go backwards. But now, I think it’s time and soon.

THESE DAYS, I don’t want to explain about myself too much. People will understand.

Photography: Jaya Khidir
Photography Assistant: Natalie Sienna