Melissa Low and Affendy Ali Dally, who in their day jobs work with the local government to support, fund and grow the Malaysian creative industry, may just have hit a millennial gold mine with Riuh, a free, monthly weekend market in Kuala Lumpur funded by the government that gathers artisans, designers and performers. Held at brightened-up historical spaces, Riuh (pronounced “ri-yoh” and meaning “loud” or “noisy” in Malay) bazaars have eye-catching, ’gram-friendly themes like “Safari in the City” and “Back to the ’90s”. Each edition sees a curation of vendors and a rotating roster of live performing acts.
This leveled-up flea market concept may not be new — Bangkok has Artbox and Singapore has Public Garden; both are large-scale pop-ups that resemble what Melissa and Affendy have been going for with Riuh — but a space in Kuala Lumpur for Malaysians to appreciate locally made goods, from the country’s up-and-coming designers, is quite a new addition to the local retail landscape. “Working with entrepreneurs through an investment arm of the government, we realized that people were running into the same obstacle — they couldn’t find a captive audience,” says Melissa. Just 10 years ago, young creatives were easily overshadowed by international brands with flagship stores. “Riuh bridges the gap between creatives and the community,” Melissa adds. “The market nurtures a symbiotic relationship, wherein the community is exposed to local creativity and in turn, creatives can approach their audiences from outside their offices and studios.”
And that they’ve done. Melissa and Affendy count social media as their best mode of marketing and with that, Riuh has outgrown its original venue, a refurbished ’60s printing press. Visitor numbersin Kuala Lumpur have shot up from 6,500 people at the first market in August 2017 to 18,000 people in September 2018.
This month, Riuh will take place at 2 Hang Kasturi, a rejuvenated early 20th-century building, and the pair will take with them one of their anchor vendors, Mom’s BBQ. “Prior to Riuh, the owners had no experience at all. Now, they’re serving their American-style barbecue from a food truck.”
And success stories like that are what drive Melissa and Affendy. “Looking ahead, we hope that Riuh can play a more prominent role in fostering a thriving cultural and creative ecosystem,” says Melissa.
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Four vendors to look out for at Riuh market
- Happy Dumpy takes its cue from Malaysian cuisine and features kitschy accessories like rice-dumpling-shaped backpacks and curry-puff-shaped pillows. fb.com/happydumpydesign
- Mu Objek specializes in handcrafted home décor and lifestyle products created with a combination of concrete and other raw materials. fb.com/muobjek
- Salang Design draws from everyday life in Malaysia, creating embroidered goods such as patches that feature ais kacang (shaved ice dessert) motifs. fb.com/salangdesign
- Silang by Batiktektura presents Malaysian batik clothing inspired by architectural design elements. fb.com/batiktektura
This article first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Smile magazine.