Kuala Lumpur is on a roll with up and coming streetwear brands popping up one after the other. Well renowned for its graphic design T-shirts, colourful pocket tees, and love for all things Malaysian, Pestle and Mortar Clothing was one of the first casual wear lifestyle brands to be established in our beloved city. We dropped by the PMC headquarters in Damansara to have a quick chat with Hugh Koh, head of its design team, to find out what makes Pestle and Mortar tick, and how it has managed to win the hearts of Malaysians everywhere.
Tell us a bit about your background.
First of all, I did high school in Malaysia, but finished form six in Sydney, and from there, I enrolled into university, majoring in architecture. After graduating, I worked in Perth for awhile, then in KL as well. When I was working in KL, that’s when we started Pestle and Mortar … but it started out as more of a hobby, back in 2010, with my other two partners, Arnold and Arthur 너를 만나 다운로드. Arnold had just gotten back from Melbourne and I’d just gotten back from Perth, and just over a mamak session, we were just talking about this whole idea of starting our own clothing line – something that we’d been very interested in since high school, that we never had the chance to do. It was just good timing that some how in 2010, all of us were back.
Was your childhood a particularly creative one?
My dad’s an architect as well, so I think that kinda really influenced me. I’ve always really sucked at math … and science, but I really enjoyed art. That was one of my favourite subjects, and I think as young kids growing up, we were always encouraged to sketch when we went on our family vacations. Wherever we go, we’d just do a little bit of sketching, cause we were encouraged to sketch. I think that kind of helped in terms of making me a much more creative person, and developed me into the person I am today.
How did you take an interest into clothing design?
Growing up, I think everyone goes through different phases in life. For us, we always had a group of friends that was into the same things as we were zlib 다운로드. One month, it’d be graffiti, another month it’d be like, let’s start a band! Another month it’d be skateboarding. So, there would always be a lot of influences, and these are things that we used to read up about and be really interested in. Then, it was music as well, like Blink 182 – at a point in time, they had actually come up with their own clothing line called Famous Stars and Straps. I think that’s what kind of inspired us to do it, back then as high school kids, saying we really wanted to have this.
What would you say is your general aesthetic?
Everyone can want to start their own T-shirt line or clothing label, but I think what really makes a brand stand out is difference. When we first sat down to get to it, we asked ourselves, “Okay, what’s gonna separate us from the other thousands of brands out there?” So we brainstormed about it, and realised the one thing we had in common was that we are Malaysian Chinese boys, born and bred, so why not depict the things we grew up knowing and loving about Kuala Lumpur, our city. From there we brainstormed a little bit more, and came up with this theme, which was called “KL through our eyes”.
Then we agreed that out of three of us I’m pretty much the only one who can draw 초록빛. The other two of them have no knowledge whatsoever in Photoshop, Illustrator or sketching. Nothing at all, because the two brothers came from a mass communication background. But we realised that we could all take photos. Everyone’s a photographer with their smartphones, or with a basic point-and-shoot, you know? So, we said, hey! All of us take decent photos, why not explore that idea of producing photo T-shirts? That’s how we started the brand, and that’s what we’re trying to stay true to: a strong sense of Malaysian identity.
What are your favourite and least favourite things about being a designer and running your own clothing line?
For me, I think there are more pros than cons. No doubt I think designers are very much like writers most of the time – some times they get mental blocks, and it sucks Realtek digital output. But most of the time, I would say that you design what you learn – things that you see, things that you somewhat experience.
So maybe I could be flipping through a magazine and see a picture, and though it may not be a direct copy of that, I could get an idea of inspiration from that picture itself, or maybe when someone tells me something, in my head, I go, Oh! Maybe we can try it this way, or that way. I love my job. I wake up every morning wanting to come to work – I don’t really like weekends. So that’s a real plus point for me, doing work that I love.
If you were to have a celeb muse who would it be and why?
I guess one of the icons that I look up to most is Travis Barker. I really like him, I think he’s really cool. I think he plays amazing music – amazing drums. He’s got a real cool style as well, and is cool in terms of just about everything. Even though he’s out there and he’s fully tatted up and stuff, family is still very important to him, so he has a good mix of values, which I can really relate to 닌텐도.
Where did you get inspiration for your current collection?
Last year, I was in East Malaysia, and I climbed Mount Kinabalu with a cousin of mine, as well as my brother. We did the via ferrata, which is like the highest there. What you do is climb up to the peak and descend using via feratta, which is a really really steep edge of the mountain, and you come down just using ropes. I mean to me, it was an amazing feeling even though it was really really scary – you can’t even see the bottom, plus it’s really cold with the wind constantly blowing! It was a great experience for me, so when we were initially designing our collection for our 2013 Spring, that’s one of the first things I told the guys 예쁘다. At the same point of time though, we’d been paying tribute to a lot of the things from West Malaysia, but noticed that a lot of our customers were coming from East Malaysia, buying our stuff as well.
Of course, the other things we’ve done includes our Kuala Lumpur reverse shirt, which is quite a hit. We’ve printed it in about five different colour ways, and it’s already come out in two sessions, but this time around we wanted to try something different. Instead of just using a different colour print on top of the base colour, we tried something new. We designed ones in tricolour, which came out like a tribal motif of Kuala Lumpur.
Describe your current collection in 3 words:
Vibrant, bold, and new-identity (in reference to new leather products).
Describe the Pestle and Mortar guy:
Very urban, likes to throw on something easy, knows how to have fun. Young. Young at heart 무료 v3 lite! I think, active as well.
What is your creative process – from sketch board to stores?
We currently have three designers working under us. The way that we normally go about it is we’d sit down and come up with the main themes for the season. For example, for our Winter collection last year, we wanted to choose local iconic logos and make it our own, like say, our local Ayam Brand. Then everyone will go to do their research and come back with maybe 20 to 30 different designs each, that they like. After that, we’ll basically go through an elimination process and narrow it down to about 20 or 30 solid ideas. From there, I get the design guys to try it out, because at the end of the day, it may be a good idea in our heads, but it may look different when you actually design it. The next thing is looking at the design and deciding if can it be saved. If it can’t, then it goes out the door, but if it can and we like it, then we keep it 히로인. The next step would be to send it for sampling of course, because sometimes what you see on paper or a computer screen and what you see on cloth can be two different things. So once we get the sample back, I guess that’s where the deciding factor is: are we gonna do it?
How many pieces do you make per design, and why this amount?
At our current stage, we’re looking at around 500 pieces per design. We’ve been very lucky in the sense that people actually support us and buy our stuff, and I think it’s helped as well that we’ve opened our Subang store. It’s a new avenue for people to come and shop, so that has really helped us to increase the numbers to 500. I think one of our targets this year is to get it to a thousand. That would bring down costs for sure, and it gives us the opportunity to go elsewhere to source, but that’s only once we get that 1,000 cue.
Which would you single out as the key piece of your new collection Download Windows 7 Pro?
I personally just like that Mount Kinabalu one, which is just the mountain and it says Pestle and Mortar. To me, that’s kind of an iconic image. For other people though, it might a little bit different. I think in terms of sales wise, what has been doing really well, is of course the Kuala Lumpur reverse tee, without a doubt. Our plain pockets as well.
How’s it going for Pestle and Mortar so far?
It’s been great, we’ve been very lucky. We’re actually doing a charity program this week. The whole reason why we’re doing it is because over the last three years we’ve gotten so much support from our customers and all our friends and family, so we kinda decided that we want to give back to society. We’re having a charity drive in collaboration with World Vision. This will be a month-long event, in which we’ll be selling a Kuala Lumpur reverse tee in the World Vision colour way (in orange and white) at our shop, online, Taylor’s Lakeside and Taylor’s Hartamas Actua Soccer. Reason being we know that a lot of Taylors students have spotted us in the past and a few of them actually approached us saying, we wanna be a part of this, so we brought them on and said by all means.
What does 2013 hold for Pestle and Mortar?
I think one of the bigger plans for this year is to open another shop, in downtown KL. I think that, in terms of really establishing the brand, it would really help, so we’re trying to push for that shop in KL city by end of the year. Another thing we’re planning to do is to move to Australia as well. I’ll be spending a month in Melbourne, next month, just to work out some stuff, and to do research.
We might have a few collaborations too, of course – at the moment we’re doing something with Redd Bullets, which will be launching next month.
Image credit: Yi Peng Yap