When you walk into Commune, there is a sense of the contemporary encased in a bygone era.

Designed with an open, old-street-style concept, wooden doors and window frames salvaged from old houses and shophouses in Selangor and Melaka are reused as part of the retail lot’s structure.

Skylights above illuminate the space naturally, while grilles serve as walls that promote visibility and transparency.

Located at Sunway Velocity Mall in Kuala Lumpur, Commune is a 1,400 sq m retail space that features 13 stores and 43 independent brands representing the fields of art, design, fashion, culture, and music.

Browse through urban pulp fiction books in Bahasa Malaysia, English, and Bahasa Indonesia, or get a dose of nostalgia while flipping through vinyl records, some featuring music dating back to the 1930s.

Admire handcrafted furniture and home accessories, or pick up some eco-friendly skincare products before sitting down with a nutmeg soda or single origin speciality coffee, paired with some Peranakan or Japanese food.

But don’t we have enough malls in the Klang Valley, you ask? Well, Commune, it turns out, is more than a shopping venue. It is an incubator for aspiring lifestyle entrepreneurs, providing them with an environment in which they can showcase their talents.

“The idea of Commune is to create a community of different artisans and young entrepreneurs. It also provides a platform for up-and-coming designers and artisans to showcase their products and get market feedback,” says curator Danny Ho, 32, at a recent interview in the space. (He’s a curator rather than a manager or something else more mundane, because what is allowed into this space is carefully chosen.)

Commune curators Matthew Ong (left) and Danny Ho.

In addition, Commune also serves as an avenue for artists to share knowledge, expertise, and resources.

“We try to cultivate a spirit of co-operation here between retailers, to share resources and create something larger. Hence, we incorporated a common space called the Event Foyer at the heart of Commune,” adds co-curator Matthew Ong, 34.

“We also encourage retailers to give back to the community by giving talks that benefit the public. What we hope to do is to educate customers about the brands’ origins and their corporate social responsibility and sustainability aspects, which are all important to understand the brands better,” says Ong.

Some past events held at the foyer since the mall opened in December 2016 include a Chinese opera, independent film screenings, curated flea markets and speciality bazaars, and workshops and public talks on health and beauty.

Commune also features two “secret” rooms called the Odd Rooms, which are available for the artists and designers to hold private workshops.

An outdoor section is also underway, which will accommodate handicraft, woodcraft, and garden-based products and activities.

Ong says, as a way of giving back to the community, Commune also works with single mothers and people with disabilities in the Klang Valley, helping them to learn marketable crafts or participate in workshops.

Buskers and street artistes are also welcomed to use the space (for free) on the weekends.

“We feel that there are many talented artists who don’t have the space to showcase their talent, so we want to offer them this platform to do so,” says Ong.

“Commune’s ultimate purpose is to see more brands develop here. I want to prove to Malaysians that only when we are united can we be successful in the art and design world,” says Ho.