Be Original

It happens to the best of us. You’re at a party and you spot another dude on the dancefloor wearing the exact same T-shirt or pair of sneakers as you. It’s too late to head home and change clothes because the party has already started and you’d miss out on all the fun. So do yourself a favor and get yourself some customized sneakers or accessory before you head out next time. That way, you can stand out from the crowd and make new friends (customized goodies always generate interesting party conversations) while you’re at it. We clue you in on where to get in on the one-off action—from sneakers and jewelry to jeans and even home décor.

Royalefam’s creative director and designer Mark Ong aka SBTG needs no introduction. His customized sneakers have been highly sought after by international artistes and scenesters including James Lavelle, Q-tip and Kobe Bryant, and his 2006 collaboration with Nike on the one-off SBTG SB Dunk project was sold out within an hour. Since then, Ong has been invited to commission designs for other brands including DC shoes and New Balance, and even customizes signboards today. “We accept most jobs if it excites both parties and if it falls within our aesthetic radar and values,” says Ong. “We will not accept a job that we can’t take ownership of as we believe that we have to base our work on truth and honesty. For example, we will not accept a job if the client requests for his pet to be painted on!” he quips. For US$500-750, you can get your hands on a pair of sneakers which take between three days and three weeks to customize; or if you feel like splurging, go for the exclusive 1-of-1 custom orders range featuring more exclusive designs which cost US$700-1,000. Yes, it pays to look this good.

The multimedia art experiment Mojoko, headed by creative director Steve Lawler, whose portfolio includes the cult Colors magazine and international brands like Red Cross, Benetton, Diesel, Nokia, Tiger and Feiyue, specializes in all things customized. From jeans and T-shirts to digital print artworks and even lamps and vases, the company “prides itself on creating unique powerful graphics which blend modern pop culture with historic Asian heritage,” says Lawler. “But our main focus is to recycle used clothing and give it a new lease of life. Our ‘denim renovation’ line, for example, has been a great success so far with people sending jeans or other items to be revitalized with Mojoko’s bold, often quirky prints.” Indeed, it is Mojoko’s eye-catching prints, which meld kitsch Asian pop culture elements with more modern street sensibilities, that make their work such a hit. Highlights from the crew recently include the Mojoko customized vases ($48), Star Wars-inspired lamp ($250) and limited-edition numbered silkscreens ($250)—all which will certainly add a new lease of life to any living space. “I approach most projects with a sense of humor and a desire to create something genuinely new and interesting. People are beginning to demand products which are not simply off the racks, and I’ve had requests to customize suits, artwork, walls, furniture and even life jackets, so there is definitely a growing market for this. People are always looking for something different to reflect their personalities.”

More Than Art to Wear
Relative newcomers More Than Art to Wear are a design collective who will customize everything and anything from sneakers and jeans to T-shirts and caps. “The process of customization starts with a blank canvas; and, in our case, mostly a pair of plain sneakers,” says designer Tan Yuhui. “We communicate closely with our customers to gather specific details such as their feet size, preference for sneakers’ model, theme, design and color. Thereafter we will do up a draft drawing for their approval. Once the customer is pleased with it, the actual design work will commence, which may take between three weeks to a month to complete.” Get your fix of the crew’s hip designs (we especially dig the Nike Air Force 1 “Dynasty Treasure” pair, see picture above) from $250-400, and more generic ranges from $200 which can be ordered from the website.

More Than Diamonds
Jewelry stalwart More Than Diamonds has been around since 1946, but the brand recently took a hipper turn when younger designers Chris Lim and Sara Ooi joined the team, focusing on customized jewelry, particularly wedding rings and specially-cut diamonds available from $280 onwards. “My grandfather started the business and my parents have been running it for more than 20 years,” says Lim. “Even though I pretty much grew up in my parent’s jewelry shop, I was never interested in their business. I started my own graphic design practice, and after a few years, I realized that I could combine my creativity with the family business.” Indeed, it is Lim’s edgier design background which results in some of the rings’ more contemporary designs, such as the Solitaire ring range. “Every person is different, each relationship different,” says Lim. “So why would you want your wedding or engagement rings to look like everybody else’s?”