Welcome to Time Out Singapore's 52 Weeks of #ExcitingSG – our commitment to showing you the best of what's going on in the city this week. Every Monday, a guest writer who's "in" with the scene shares a recommendation on what to see, eat, do or buy in the city. This week, we chat with Mark Ong (also known as SBTG) who started his journey as a sneaker artist when he won a competition for customised footwear. Over the past decade, he has customised and hand-painted over 3000 pairs of shoes, some of which have landed on the feet of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and Joe Hahn, and rapper Q-tip. Recently, the local artist has teamed up with Asicstiger and Limited Edt to bring sneakerhead a one-of-its-kind collection – the Monsoon Patrol. The collection is exclusively available from December 3 at Limited Edt outlets at 313@somerset, Marina Bay Sands, Queensway, JEM and VivoCity, retailing at $209. Here, Mark tells us more about his designs and the inspirations behind them.
Hi Mark! What gets you excited about Singapore?
Being able to get out and skate on the weekends. Our city is one of the best in the world for skateboarding.
Tell us a bit about what you do.
I’m an artist who is most known for expressing my work on sneakers. I run my company with my wife (Mrs Sabotage) and her assistant Corey. We mainly collaborate with brands to come up with amazing products and also own a clothing brand called SBTG Surplus. Our main aesthetic is a camouflaged skater with a punk soundtrack.
Tell us about your collaboration with Asicstiger. What inspired the design?
Mandeep (from Limited Edt) and I got inspired to conceptualize this particular project through my travels to cities like Tokyo, London and Singapore where we experience rain on a frequent basis. So, I wanted to build a shoe that allows us to walk freely in the rain with no stress about getting our toes soaked. I also wanted people around the world to know more about us, hence I used the word Monsoon which is very suggestive of South East Asia, and Patrol simply means ‘on foot’. I give collaborations quite a lot of thought and I always feel the formula should be two entities coming together to form something greater. With that said, I wanted to not only push boundaries but also bring something more to the table. The nylon tongue cover is there for obvious reasons but its look really stems from skate shoes from the 80s. It’s a removable piece that’s functional and also contributes to the aesthetic of the shoes. I really hope that this add-on would be able to spark positive conversations and memories.
With the likes of Culture Cartel and Sole Superior, sneaker conventions are gaining a lot of recognition in Singapore. What are your thoughts on them?
It’s awesome! We have definitely come a long way with conventions, and the involvement of brands has definitely made things more official and interesting. It has also become a platform for me to activate my collaborations, like my recent SBTG Museum powered by Vechain, which included a shoe with an NFC chip embedded in it that people are able to scan with a phone app to verify its authenticity. Also at Culture Cartel, we launched many of our own projects with Limited Edt and Asicstiger, Helinox, Evil Army Fact and also Alvin from Phunk.
Are you a massive sneakerhead? If so, what are some of your favourite pairs?
I’m really not, ironically. In fact not many know this, but I got into my craft so I could make the shoes that I wanted to wear for myself. As the years go by, I found that I was able to arrive at a skill level where I could satisfy my desires for footwear myself rather than buying them. I do find myself drooling over some pieces at times but would often forget about it a little bit after. I do have a handful of 1985 Air Jordan 1s that would make young sneakerheads go nuts. One of my favourite pairs has to be the Converse x Number(n)ine Asymmetrical Chuck Taylors.
Will you be starting your very own sneaker label any time soon?
I don’t know about that. Perhaps on a very bespoke level that’s non-competitive with the brands but that’s another conversation to be had.
What can we expect next from you?