Mark Ong, or Del Señor Sabotage
It took a winning entry at the Nike Talk Forum for Mark Ong’s career as an artist and for his sneaker customisation business to take off. Highly inspired by militia apparel, punk, skate culture, B-movies, and other Americana emblems, Mark – who’s also known as Mr. Sabotage of the creative team he started with his wife – has imparted his designs onto countless coveted, limited edition sneakers. Some of which can be seen donned on the feet of celebrities such as Kobe Bryant, Q-Tip, and the guys from Linkin Park. His art even extends to commissioned works for retail spaces, art galleries, and even the President of Singapore. JUICE spoke to Mark over email about his ‘Destroy to Create’ collection with Crossover and his career thus far.
How did the collaboration for the ‘Destroy to Create’ collection between Crossover occur?
We have always toyed with the idea of making some exclusive products for Crossover’s online store. After exploring, we decided to make some Vans’ [shoes] as the brand resonates with both Jem and myself the most.
Most of your clientele comes from America, but since your ‘Destroy to Create’ collection with Crossover was sold out, do you see a change in our region’s buying power?
I never doubt our region’s buying ability; it’s a niche exclusive product after all. I think that if we make an honest product that looks badass, there will be desire for it.
Your first exhibition Acoustic Anarchy had a great, prolonged success. Did you envision taking the exhibition internationally?
Yes, I did bring it to Paris actually. However, it’s time to take it off the walls and adapt them into wearable products. Crossover is one of the first retailers to host this transition.
Do you plan to have a second exhibition since the last one was held in 2012?
Perhaps some time down the pipeline when I find a new form of expression. It’s still brewing now, so stay tuned.
We’ve read in interviews that you actively live a curated lifestyle. You also hold workshops to guide people how to customise sneakers. Is this your way of disseminating you philosophy of a curated lifestyle?
The curated lifestyle is a structure for my expressions as a human being. I feel that without a structure, it would be hard to be conscious of your own abilities and hence, things may happen by chance instead of [with your own intention]. The workshops are [for me to share] the skill that gave me to freedom of being a full time artist for the last 13 years.
You’ve spoken about the difficulty you have with collaborating with other artists, because you want to have control over the outcome and achieve a specific goal. Have you had any collaborations or partnerships that were enriching learning experience?
I always believe that artists should be left to do what they do best, without having to compromise or share. It’s just me. I have worked with Methamphibian before, and it was cool because we had synergy and we were creating something new together. However, at times we do compromise; it was a good learning experience. Collaborations are different though, when an artist gets invited to reinterpret or inject their flavour into a product.
Why do you think camo prints continue to be such a staple in streetwear?
Because camouflage is an amazing texture and print.
Though Sue-Anne generally keeps out from your hair in the creative work, what are the benefits of working with your wife?
We had an agreement that I was the Creative Director for Sabotage. [She didn’t have] interest in changing what’s already established. Having her is amazing as she keeps me in check. I can rely on her for an honest opinion. I trust her instincts too.
Have you thought of a future where you didn’t win Nike Talk? How do you think your career would have turned out?
I ask myself that question from time to time, and the answer is that it would be the same. Did you know that I didn’t technically ‘win’? The main organiser didn’t get back with an announcement, but it was very clear from the judges and viewers comments that my entree was the most popular ;).
Among the many projects that you have designed for, which has been your favourite?
Every new project that I do, as I get to express what I am currently into.
Part two of the Destroy to Create collection will be unveiled in May. However, Mark’s artwork can be purchase at Cover by Crossover.