Designer spotlight: Mike Tan (Material Poetry)

Updated: 29 Jun 2012

By Emma Chong

Who he is: Before his venture into the world of design, photography fan Mike Tan was a writer at alternative news portal The Malaysian Insider. ‘But designing has always appealed to me,’ Mike explains, ‘because it takes the creative process that one step further into reality’.

About the line: ‘Material Poetry is inspired by really just using the best materials and pairing them with original Malaysian designs,’ Mike says. The result of this is simple unisex white t-shirts that feature vintage-style photographs of recognisable Malaysiana – kopitiams, marble tables, old lorries parked on quiet town roads. ‘I’m starting with t-shirts because they are simple and relaxed enough to use as a reference point for the photography and calligraphy that our designs are inspired by. A t-shirt also feels like the most Malaysian piece of clothing that most of us have and wear regularly in our climate!

‘The inspiration comes from my hometown of Ipoh, more specifically the Old Town part, which has a romanticism and liveliness that have always captured my imagination. And the cotton we use comes from the Pima variety in Peru and has an almost silky consistency. Using good materials as the canvas really makes you want to justify their use.’

At the moment, Material Poetry is focusing solely on its t-shirts, but Mike has a number of photography projects on the backburner. He’s also working towards accompanying accessories and bags in different materials – think tin and batik. ‘Exciting times!’ Mike laughs.

Where to find it: Online at From RM84.99 onwards.

Tags: Features