Photo credit: DYEHEART

Marrying Peranakan culture with sneakers and a partnership with David Teplitzky

Chloe Chong and Charles Poh from DyeHeart are making waves in the sneaker and streetwear scene with their unconventional creations.

Nigel Chin
Nigel Chin

Published: 17 July 2020, 4:49 PM

What happens when you infuse Nike sneakers with a touch of Peranakan culture? For married couple Charles Poh and Chloe Chong, they got a decent payout along with a really woke overseas fan.

The couple, who both run DyeHeart, an Instagram business specialising in customised tie dye apparels and beaded sneakers, met well-known sneakers collector David Teplitzky by chance in Singapore last year.

Chloe had customised a pair of beaded Vans sneaker for Culture Cartel, a convention for streetwear brands from Singapore and Asia, and it caught David’s attention then. He immediately placed additional orders, offering to pay a four-figure sum to custom a pair of Nike Sacai.

Chloe (left) and Charles (right) showing off the beaded Nike Sacai they customised for David.

“After he received the first two pairs of Vans sneakers, he placed orders for an additional two pairs of a different silhouette, so we chose the nylon Nike Sacai,” shared 32-year-old Chloe.

“I spent about 10 hours a day from Monday to Sunday in May to complete it. The amount of time spent on it literally shows how complex the craft work is. All the beads are hand-beaded using the traditional way of Peranakan beading, at a slanted angle of 45 degrees, so it shimmers when light hits it.

“There are no knots inside the sneaker to ensure comfort for the wearer. Additionally, plenty of time was spent on creating the design and getting colours right,” explained Chloe.

The beaded designs were tested on a crafting board first to prevent any mismatch of colours and patterns.

But how did the idea to make beaded sneakers come about? And how did the couple pick up the skills required?

Charles’ parents are both tailors, while Chloe comes from a Peranakan family.

“That’s where I first got the idea of mixing heritage with streetwear. My beading skills were all taught by my father while I learnt all my sewing and embroidery skills from my mother who is also a very good tailor.

“Charles and I love to be hands-on. Therefore, it was not difficult for us to pick up such skills,” said Chloe, who grew up watching her elders bead Peranakan beaded slippers.

Chloe (middle) grew up in a Peranakan family.

The couple, who both work in the aviation service sector, also started DyeHeart because they had too many T-shirts lying in their wardrobe and “too little time to wear them all”.

“A lot of it, especially the ones in white, turned yellow over time,” said Chloe.

Wanting to give ‘a new life’ to their clothes, they created their first tie-dye tee. They posted about it on their social media accounts, and even wore it out to meet friends and family, who all gave positive feedback.

Charles, 35, eventually started an Instagram account to share their creations.

At the suggestion of a friend, they tried selling a few t-shirts at last year’s Sole Superior, a sneaker and streetwear convention. But sales weren’t all that good.

The little setback did not dampen their enthusiasm, and at the behest of the same friend, Marc Aw, they gave it another try at Culture Cartel – the very same convention where they met David.

“On the first day of the event, sales were so good that we had to go home and dye more tees for the second day. It was a sell-out. The crowd at that event appreciated our work and loved our customisation,” said Chloe.

DyeHeart’s booth at Culture Cartel last year, which proved to be a huge success for Charles and Chloe.

And no one certainly appreciated their work more than David, who has so far gotten four pairs of customised sneakers from DyeHeart. The couple said that David has been impressed with their work, and has placed five more orders.

“According to him, we are working on creating a series together,” Chloe shared.

“To be able to do something that I have not done before and have the final product turned out so amazingly is already fulfilling to me. But what makes it even better is that my work gained recognition and is being appreciated by someone that is in the international fashion industry.”

David Teplitzky also bought T-shirts from DyeHeart and wore it immediately at last year’s Culture Cartel.

With so much promise, one would have been forgiven for assuming that the couple have left their full-time jobs to focus on running DyeHeart as a business. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The couple are still eagerly waiting for the COVID-19 pandemic to end so they can get back to their day jobs.

“Due to COVID-19, we haven’t been working since early March. Lucky for us, we have this project to keep us going and on average, we spend at least 30 hours a week to create our art work, compared to the 10 hours a week previously,” said Chloe.

“But financially, it will be hard to use DyeHeart to keep us going. It is hard to do customisation and produce them in quantity. All of our products are handmade so it takes a lot of time and effort to create them.”

Each pair of beaded sneakers takes about a month to complete.

However, the couple still see DyeHeart as a platform for them to create amazing projects because they love streetwear. They are also dreaming of a day when they can expand and turn their hobby into something that is more sustainable.

“We hope we can open up a small studio and invest in crafting tools and machineries in the future. We are also exploring new ideas like reconstructing sneakers. Our dream is to be able to hold classes for other like-minded sneakers fanatics who are keen in learning customisation,” said Chloe.

“At DyeHeart, we dare to be different. We believe that customisation is the way to go. This is where you pull yourself apart from the norm. We aim to work towards making customisation affordable.”

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