Brunei’s first online miniatures store Kitsu Models is planning to open a physical shop in Kiulap by the end of this year that will host a community and crafts space for hobbyists to convene.
Founder of Kitsu Models Yapp Giem Eing launched their online store last October, envisioning it as a one-stop shop for miniature modelling – a relatively niche pursuit that sees hobbyists build and modify items or landscapes as smaller scale models.
Kitsu Models stocks over 300 different items from leading international brands in miniature model crafts, including paint and brushes from Vallejo, model landscape replica materials from Woodland Scenics, and precision craft blades and cutters from Olfa.
The website also has full miniature kits from Marvel and Star Wars, which can also be played as tabletop games. Yapp said the physical shop will stock more model kits and equipment that are unique to Brunei and is counting on the shared crafts space to bring modelling to a wider audience.
“We had targeted to open the store earlier this year but had to delay our plans due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Yapp, a former police officer turned certified financial planner.
“We are not looking to replicate what’s already being sold in Brunei; the vast majority of the items on our website and in our store are unique to us (amongst Brunei sellers), and competitively priced – we guarantee that we can give a better price than if you shop online (internationally) and ship (to Brunei).”
Kitsu sources its materials from regional distributors and where possible directly from manufacturers. Yapp explained that the scale model hobby is best understood in three parts; buying model or model kits – which sometimes can be played as games – individual parts or items to build or further customize models, and then the tools used to craft them.
The most popular miniatures that are tabletop games are Warhammer and Dungeons and Dragons, while an example of a scale model that’s seen more as a collectible or toy are robots from the science fiction Japanese media franchise Gundam. Scale models can also come in the form landscape replicas of environments, called diorama.
In Brunei, the Wild Magic store is the leading miniature tabletop gaming space, while the Gundam community operates mostly online. Kitsu Models shop’s shared community space will be more craft focused and hopes to draw miniature modelers from different backgrounds.
Yapp, who recently completed DARe’s startup development programme called Accelerate, ultimately hopes to build a massive diorama that will be a tourist attraction in Brunei.
“Growing up I was always fascinated by miniatures, everything from Warhammer to building Gundam kits, but I left the hobby as I grew older and had other commitments,” he said.
The 32-year-old picked up the hobby again after visiting Japan’s Tobu World Square – a theme park with over a hundred 1:25 scale models of famous buildings.
“I rediscovered my passion after the visit as it really opened my mind to the possibilities of miniatures and dioramas and how they could appeal to the public. We can certainly pull off something similar in Brunei with the right investment.”