DISINI Discovers – Mash-Up
For six years, local fashion collective Mash-Up have been spreading their gospel of funky, quirky kitsch. Never ones to stay below the radar, the trio—made up of Daniela Monasterios Tan, Shaf Amis’aabudin, and Nathanael Ng—are almost immediately recognisable for their loud (and proud) designs that have incorporated everything from a shark to Cubism, and now, a pineapple, for the pavilion they designed for DISINI. Moving from fashion to art/architecture is something that seems to come almost naturally to Dani, Shaf, and Nat, as they refer to each other, and with three heads and hearts working together on everything they do, the future seems as bright and pastel-hued as their creation.
1/ We understand that the three of you studied together in LASALLE College of the Arts, but how did each of you end up studying fashion?
Shaf (S): My dad has a baju kurung (traditional Malay outfit) store and that was my first introduction to fashion. From there, I knew that I wanted to work with fabric.
Nat (N): I think I was 17 when I saw my first fashion illustration. That marked my introduction to fashion. I was always into art but I didn’t know that fashion could be a job.
Dani (D): I wanted to be a film maker. I went into LASALLE and did my foundation year—I realised, then, that I wanted to tell stories through fashion instead.
2/ Mash-Up’s style is ultra quirky, colourful, and almost anything-goes. What inspired that look, and what are you currently inspired by?
D: The label was founded in 2012 and the first collection was a spin off from my graduate collection. We’ve always been inspired by youth culture, internet tribes, and ethnic cultures. It’s always been about mixing things up. We were very inspired by musicians like MIA—she was born in Sri Lanka but studied video design in Central St Martin’s. She then became an electronic artist and her style was this mish-mash of ’80’s’ new rave and it was very ‘in’ then in the underground scene. I was also inspired by native American totem poles—that very graphic way of communicating things still stays in our collections.
N: We like to tell stories by mixing elements that seem like they don't belong together. There’re always some pop culture reference. We’re also inspired by the Surrealist art movement.
5/ Each of you have different roles in Mash-Up. When it comes to creating a collection, though, how do the three of you decide upon what you create? How do you resolve any conflicts?
S: We always start by brainstorming together, because three brains are better than one. It takes the three of us to point ourselves in the right direction.
D: Shaf does a lot of production and takes care of the details. He goes to the factories and brings the designs together. Nat does a lot of the design work and looks at the silhouette. I do a lot of writing and conceptualisation. I was away in London for two years doing my Masters and then I joined LASALLE as a lecturer so I’m trying to juggle everything. The nice thing about working with friends and having your brand is that you move through different stages in life together. We do have conflicts though; we just say it out, and hurt each other’s feelings.
S: We all are Libras!
N: Yeah, we can be quite indecisive sometimes.
8/ Can you tell us about the process behind creating the pavilion?
D: From the sketch to what it has become, we were working with really good producers. It took about two to three months just for the design alone. We had to get a lot of safety clearance from the BCA.
N: We worked very closely with the tech team. They’d look at our designs and tell us that maybe this fabric or that material would work better. It was actually much crazier but we toned it down. The building took about a month—we all went to Pekan Nanas once—after which it was brought to Singapore. It was like putting Lego pieces together.
S: It was really fun. The heavy machinery did most of the work, we just made sure that the plotting was right. The first time we saw the sculpture, we were like, (gasps) “So massive!”
9/ What do you hope people will feel when they see the pavilion?
N: Warm and excited.
D: We really hope that a lot of cool things will happen in the pavilion, and that people will propose performances, or for a music festival or party to happen in there. It doesn’t have to be things that are abstract or hard to understand. It’ll be so fun to just hang out.
11/ What drives you to continue doing what you do, day in and out?
S: I just like what I do so it doesn't ever feel like ‘Ugh’.
N: For me, it’s because I want to make sure that the next generation will feel comfortable just dressing up. I feel like Singaporeans are always very scared. And I don’t really see anyone in the media that’s like me, so I hope I can influence people in that way.
D: I think you will only find out what you’re supposed to do when you keep doing something. Once I realise that something’s not the thing to do, then I stop doing it.
14/ As designers, how would you measure success?
S: Nenas Estate is one. Also, one time during Chinese New Year, during our collaboration with Uniqlo, I saw this whole family wearing Mash-Up. I was very happy.
D: When Willar Mateo from Salad Day came to Singapore (we flew him in from the Philippines for a show we did at Funan) he was so happy. It’s that kind of thing that I find a success—when you’re making somebody else’s world a bit better. You don’t have to eradicate poverty but at least you’re helping people and giving joy through your designs.
15/ First memory of fashion/design:
S: I modelled for my dad when I was seven. I was like the annoying child that would say, “I wanna wear all these, I wanna wear all that!”
N: When my dad put a canvas in front of me and my brothers, and left us there with paint. (laughs) I was five or six.
D: In Bolivia my sister and I used to put panty hose on our heads and wrap towels around ourselves and dress up. I think that’s my earliest memory.
3/ Has the direction/style of your designs changed since you started? Do you feel like it’s still evolving?
D: A little bit, but there’s always that element of fun and colour. That’s just because fashion always follows society. I think the only thing that we always agree on is that we will never use chiffon.
N: Aiyah, you’ll never know, lah! We kind of design how graphic designers do, and often think of ways to vandalise the clothes.
D: I also think it’s very exciting to have opportunities to work outside of fashion, like with DISINI, and to work with experts from another field. We’re always trying out new things.
S: We always try to evolve our range of products. This year we have skateboards and sequinned bags.
4/ With the indefinite closure of Singapore Fashion Week, what are your thoughts on the state of the fashion industry in Singapore right now?
D: I don’t know if we’re so much in the fashion industry as we used to be before. The internet allows us to have a non-geographical audience—we get a lot of followers on Instagram from different countries who like our style. We’re still in multi-label stores like Super Space but we’re not like a standard fashion label.
S: I think that the government is trying to help by having a mall that helps local designers. But I think we need a platform outside. Consumers get bored in malls and they just want to have a good experience.
D: I think fashion is going to change—there’s an urge to not consume so much. It’s about venturing out into things which are more experience- rather than product-based, not cheap but worth value.
6/ Nenas Estate is the name of the pavilion you’ve designed—can you talk us through the inspiration behind that?
D: Nenas is a Malay and Spanish word for ‘pineapple’. I’m actually half Latin-American so that’s very funny to me. Pineapples are something that the Chinese believe is for prosperity, but just like anything in Singapore, nothing really originated from here. Pineapples are not even native to this region at all; they came from the Americas. That story of things not from here, taken as something cultural, is very interesting to us. Also, the place where this structure was built in Malaysia is called Pekan Nanas, where pineapples used to be grown. ‘Estate’ refers to the housing estates in Singapore —you’ll see the plastic bag motifs on the pavilion and this was inspired by things in the heartlands.
S: It’s like a small town.
N: We wanted to bring the heartlands to Gillman Barracks but part of the brief was inspired by the surrounding 4km2 area. We were reacting to Sentosa, how it’s very kitschy and ‘fake’ but we wanted to add a feeling of nostalgia and belonging to that ‘fake-ness’. That’s why we used all these underwater motifs like the giant fish and octopus, but over the HDB flats and the diver hanging out his clothes to dry.
D: Even though we feel old, we’re not that old—we remember a good old Singapore, and it’s this idea of kitsch nostalgia. The pineapple itself was inspired by a playground in Tampines which no longer exists. Millennials love looking at things through a pastel lens so that’s one of the reasons why we used these colours. But it’s also a very signature colour palette for Mash-Up.
7/ Was this your first time designing an event space/outdoor amphitheatre like this? How different/ similar was it to designing a fashion collection?
D: We had a shop at Parco a few years ago and we also DIY-ed the insides. Everything we do has always been very DIY, but the execution is impeccable here, so I guess that’s the difference with this project. I think in general, fashion and art have always had a relationship. It’s really cool how the different creative industries are joining together.
10/ So you’ve done fashion collections, collaborated with many different brands, designed accessories, created an outdoor pavilion—what’s next?
S: We’ll have to make sure that whatever we do sells, and to develop more products to reach out to more places.
N: This opens doors to more opportunities or collaborations.
D: I think the idea of experiences has always been something we’re very interested in, like the Bash Up parties we held. We’ve already cut down on our collections—they’re much smaller, so we only make things that people will want to buy instead of making things just for the sake of it.
12/ Something most people don’t know about you:
N: That I dance. I can also play the piano.
D: I spent the first 10 years of my life in Bolivia.
N: When she first flew in, she was very scared of escalators. They don’t have that in Bolivia.
D: We have one in La Paz.
S: I love kids. N: Like, obsessed okay!
S: I teach them so I love them. I teach visual arts and fashion in Secondary and Primary school.
13/ What’s a dream project you’d love to undertake?
D: We’ve always wanted to have our own space.
N: Like a studio with everything. Our house on the third floor, the office on the second floor, and a shop on the first floor.
S: Like a retail space, a workshop, and club at night. (laughs)
D: A library, a movie theatre. We’d be a collective with more people—we’ll have film makers, animators. Like (Andy) Warhol’s factory.
S: We’ll do as much as we can.