Kuala Lumpur’s Publika offers an escape from the frenzied malls of the region in favor of supporting local enterprise and special interest shops.
Like the rest of Southeast Asia, Kuala Lumpur’s retail landscape is a sprawl of urban malls, barely recognizable from one another. In 2011, a Malaysian property developer looked to disrupt the market with the advent of Publika in KL’s Solaris Dutamas neighborhood. Rising from the surrounding apartment blocks lies the four-story development: the atrium floods with natural light from glass exteriors and its main thoroughfare ends in a performance area flanked by outdoor dining venues. Though the space may seem commonly utilitarian in form, the selection and curiosities contained within the shops belies its conventional mould. On the ground floor exists several incubation shops in Art Row, given to budding retailers at subsidized rents or free of charge until they can sustain their brick-and-mortar enterprises. Success stories from said shops have spawned stores such as art space-meets-workshop Interpr8 and former pop-up boutique A.L.L.I.E.N, now occupying spaces in Publika. Wander the levels for special interest stores including renewed vintage furniture and home wares at Outdated (another Art Row success story) or whimsical children’s toys in Carousel, both on level three. The mall shies from most big-name retailers, containing no luxury brands and department stores, even bringing well-known local street stalls to its food court versus the offerings of fast food chains. The space also boasts its own arts outlet, MAP KL, that draws homegrown Malaysian and international talents to its two gallery spaces, White Box and Black Box. Come to the village square on Monday evenings for international film viewings under the cloak of KL’s muggy climate and muted starlight. For three Publika shops to start you on a renewed journey of retail discovery, read on.
1 Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; 603/6207-9426; Publika