Homegrown brand Zouk, synonymous with the club and music scene regionally and internationally, has a new kid in town to compete with: itself.
The brand’s sister club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, recently closed its existing premise and rolled out a no-holds-barred relaunch in a new location, making Zouk KL the biggest extension of the brand – and one that has no current competitor in Asia, in terms of sheer scale.
The ‘superclub’ is now in Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur’s new lifestyle precinct TREC. In making the move to the new premise, the club has dropped the biggest payload of the iconic brand, both literally and figuratively. Zouk KL now sits at home in a behemoth, standing at an impressive 106,000 sq ft. Of this, 60,000 sq ft of built-in space houses the different rooms, standing at twice the size of the previous complex. At a cost of almost SGD$13 million, the new space was built over a three-year period.
This comes on the back of already-laudable success with its previous location in Jalan Ampang. In a global poll, British cult magazine DJ Mag placed Zouk KL in the 38th spot on its coveted Top 100 Clubs list. The ranking puts Zouk in the top 40 for the first time since the brand made its début on the list in 2011.
Breaking new ground
The face of Zouk KL is founder Cher Ng. He has long ties to the brand, having started out as a resident deejay in the flagship Singapore club over two decades ago. Ng says the timing was ripe for the bold move, and reveals the relaunch was conceptualised with KL club-goers in mind. This was as initial attempts to follow the successful model of its predecessor in Singapore did not land with clientele in Malaysia.
“Zouk Singapore conceptualised its rooms by the different genres of music. However, when we tried to do the same for Zouk KL during its inception years, it didn’t quite work to our expectations. I literally had to throw out what I had learned and localise our strategy. So during the 2008 renovation (at the first premise in KL), I redesigned the spaces based on demographics first. The music was chosen to suit the target audience thereafter. In the same way, the new Zouk KL is an original creation, built from ground zero.”
Designer Phillips Connor planned the complex from the inside-out, creating unique areas for each club and then enveloping the individual spaces in a dramatic outer shell detailed by stark and sloping lines. Within the impressive structure, the club comprises 11 rooms that feature intimate to mid-scale venues, which include Zouk signature staples such as Phuture and Velvet Underground. Cher says the journey from inception to execution for the relaunch has been an “epic” one, revealing it is the proudest moment in his career with Zouk.
“Building something like this can be perceived as over-ambition, to the point of impossibility in the eyes of those unfamiliar with the project. But there was no turning back the moment we said ‘Let’s go ahead with it.’ What we have put together is a symbol of the future, and that underlines the pioneering spirit that Zouk is known for.”
Of originality and origins
Brand founder Lincoln Cheng, who spearheaded the almost-meteoric rise of Zouk Singapore since it opened in 1991, is also a founder in the Zouk KL venture. Over recent years, Zouk Singapore has had to grapple with lease issues for its current location. The original (and current) premise in the Robertson Quay area is largely residential and likely to be slated for further redevelopment on this front.
As a result, Cheng made the decision to move to a new site in Clarke Quay next year, and to continue to build the brand’s presence from there. The decision was much awaited by fans of Zouk Singapore, as the on-site premise and the brand have been closely-tied for many years. The question of whether Singapore can continue to support and foster the renowned brands it develops was also on the radar.
Retaining Zouk Singapore’s identity remains Cheng’s focus. Potential options were mooted, before settling on the venue in Clarke Quay.
“There are so many memories of Jiak Kim and Zouk over the past 24 years. It has practically become my home. Initially I was disappointed that both the Old Kallang Airport and the Flyer as venue options did not work out. After much in-depth consideration and consultations, they proved to be financially not viable for us to build up a standalone club. However, my vision for Zouk has remained steadfast all these years: to bring people together through music. It is always about the unique Zouk experience and the quality that our loyal clubbers have identified Zouk with.”
Beyond local shores
On the expansion of Zouk’s brand overseas, Carrie Kwik, executive director, Arts, Entertainment and Integrated Resorts, Singapore Tourism Board, said: “It is heartening that our local talents and brands are flying the Singapore flag strong beyond our shores, while at the same time continuing to play a pivotal role in the growth of Singapore’s entertainment and nightlife scene. Zouk is one such nightlife establishment and it has gained resonance with local and international audiences.”
At the official launch in Kuala Lumpur, crowds snaked around the block, shoulder-to-shoulder, for hours on end in order to gain entry into the club. But beyond this showing-out, the real success of the brand remains its capacity to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to good music. Zouk’s winning strategy over the years has been to remain on top of the ever-evolving tastes of music fans. Now, as an entity, it may be growing and evolving; but as a collective, it still possesses the same roots. So don’t call it a comeback – it’s been here for years.