Starting a fashion revolution
Mash-Up creative director Nathanael Ng tells us how he started an avant-garde clothing brand with his friends.
When we first walked into SUPERSPACE at Orchard Gateway, we immediately spotted Nathanael Ng.
He was hard to miss. Dressed in a graphic tee and bermuda shorts, paired with a printed outer-shirt and a rainbow bucket hat, the 28-year-old creative director and designer was like a walking mannequin for his quirky home-grown label, Mash-Up.
I expected his persona to match his loud dressing style. However, beneath his vibrant and peculiar clothing, I was surprised by his soft-spoken demeanour.
“My friends describe me as eclectic, a little bit weird, and funny. I guess I’m the opposite; loud on the outside and chill on the inside,” said Nathanael, who looks up to unique designers like Italian powerhouse brand Moschino’s creative director, Jeremy Scott.
Nathanael founded Mash-Up, a local streetwear fashion label, with his two friends in 2012. Since its inception, the brand has showcased their collections on multiple runways, including Digital Fashion Week 2014 in Bangkok and 2015 in Singapore.
Most recently, Mash-Up was nominated for the Emerging Designers of the Year award at the Singapore Fashion Awards in November.
For Nathanael, his success with Mash-Up was an unexpected journey on the catwalk.
Nathanael developed his interest in fashion and design since he was a child. His parents loved to immerse him into the arts and music, and he had fond memories of playing on the piano when he was younger.
He was inspired to take up fashion design when he saw his senior sketching fashion illustrations in secondary school.
“I thought to myself, I could do that,” said the easy-going designer, with a laugh.
His parents were also supportive of his dreams to take up fashion design.
“My dad knows the struggles [I face]. Since he has made it, he knows that it is possible to be successful in this line of work,” said Nathanael, whose father is working as an interior designer at his own company.
During his three-year fashion course at LASALLE College of the Arts, he was elated to excel in a course he was interested in.
“In secondary school, I was not excelling in anything, except for English and my CCA. So excelling in things I’m good at really opened my eyes to a whole other world, and that inspired me a lot,” said Nathanael, who used to be in the military band in secondary school.
In LASALLE, he became close friends with two of his course mates, Daniela Monasterios Tan, 29, and Shaf Amis’aabudin, 27, who are now his business partners. During their days at LASALLE, they always thought of working together.
“Shaf and I were very jaded about the [fashion] scene in Singapore because we felt that it was boring. [Creative] people like us existed, but nobody knew about the kind of things we were doing,” said the passionate designer, who graduated from LASALLE with a diploma in fashion in 2009.
“If you find somebody like-minded, you just feel that you should do something together, and we finally did.”
After graduating from LASALLE, the trip joined Parco next NEXT, a platform for local designers to learn more about fashion and how to run a business.
Nathanael recalled: “They made us go for classes, events, and picked designers to showcase on their runways. They also took us to Japan, where we participated in Parco Shibuya, a pop-up [event] for Singaporean designers.”
While working on Parco next NEXT, they also applied for a government grant under SPRING Singapore in 2012, to help them kick-start their label.
To secure the grant, the team had to work on their business proposals and go for intensive meetings with SPRING Singapore.
After five months’ worth of prep work, the trio received the grant and held their first runway show at the Audi Fashion Festival in Ngee Ann City.
Nathanael added excitedly: “It felt like a dream come true. It is very cheesy, but that was how we felt. In fashion school, you feel like you’ve made it if you have your first fashion show.”
Their proudest achievement to date?
When New Tiger Beer’s exclusive discount store, Tiger Trading Co., brought pieces of their collection to New York City in June this year.
“They had a pop-up in Chinatown where they were selling all Asian products. That was really exciting, because our biggest dream was to be in America,” said Nathanael ecstatically.
YOU CAN SEE MASH-UP’S CLOTHES HANGING IN THE STORE AT 1:20.
Nathanael shared that their main challenge now is to push their out-of-the-box couture to Singaporean shoppers.
“Marketing our brand in the industry is quite easy, because we know our brand very well and what we stand for. The real challenge is gaining the acceptance of the masses,” said the designer.
He added: “I won’t stop because I will constantly want to express myself [through fashion]…Once I started, I can’t stop. It’s like a baby; if you don’t feed it, it will die.”
Being a local fashion designer can be gruelling, and the market may be difficult to break through. However, Nathanael is not bothered with such challenges.
“Other people always ask us questions like ‘Do you think Singaporean designers can make it?’ As long as you believe in it and do it organically, you can make it,” said Nathanael, with conviction.