Trust us when we say that bringing together Singapore-based Rebecca Ting and Toby Tan (better known as @tobyato) was no mean feat. Both are usually not that easy to pin down, what with their constantly packed schedules. Ting and her multidisciplinary design studio Beyond The Vines seem to always launching exciting projects spanning the realm of fashion, lifestyle and design, while Tan is increasingly gaining prominence as one of Singapore's well-known artists.
The two may exist in different creative fields in Singapore, but what they do have in common—aside from a one-time collaboration initiated by Beyond The Vines—is in the accessibility of their works and designs. As part of the 2021 edition of Esquire Neighbourhood, they spent some time to share what they've learnt thus far and why making good design accessible in Singapore is important for them.
When it comes to menswear, there's one thing that matters most to Singaporean men
T-shirts; you've read that right. Since Beyond The Vines's rebrand in the third quarter of 2020, the brand launched its official menswear line that's just as extensive as its womenswear. But Ting reveals that T-shirts are pretty much the best-seller when it comes to menswear. "I think that we've found a sweet spot with how we do T-shirts," she offers. "I feel like we've nailed it in terms of fabrication and detailing that is enough but not too jarring." Ting goes on to say that she gets it—it's all thanks to our tropical climate.
The Dumpling bag dilemma
Among its more popular designs, Beyond The Vines is known for its Dumpling bag—a nylon creation that's now available in four sizes. With such a strong and persistent demand for a particular design, brands often find it a challenge to move away from the popularity of that one design. For Ting, it's something that she and her team has yet to "fully comprehend" but definitely hasn't stopped the team from continuously researching and developing newer designs especially since there's always a trend with everything. At the heart of it, the designs have to be in line with the Beyond The Vines design philosophy (create boldly, design simply) and of course, best for the consumer to use.
Bridging Singapore's creative community with consumers
"I feel like we're a brand that bridges the creatives to the commerce," Ting expresses. "What is amazing is that the consumers don't feel that we are too creative—that they don't really understand what we're doing or that we're a little bit aloof maybe, or abstract. Yet at the same time, the creatives don't feel like we're too commercial that we try to butcher what creatives do."
It's this balance of accessibility and creativity that Beyond The Vines has managed to continuously introduce figures in Singapore's creative scene as well as Singapore-based brands that many may not be familiar with, to a more mainstream audience. Case in point, it's not-for-sale collaborative project with a host of creatives including Tan as well as its most recent collaboration with coffee tech company Morning.
Making good design and art accessible
For Tan, working with a growing list of international and local fashion brands has allowed what he does to be put in more relatable contexts, especially to those unfamiliar with the creative scene. Fashion was not a medium that he consciously wanted to dabble into but he's realised impact it has. "Brands are a good way for people to access good design and good products," he offers. "That's one reason why I enjoy working on collaborations so much—to make my scope of work and design more accessible." He goes on to say that fashion is an accessible way for people to enjoy art at a "deeper level of appreciation", especially when one buys a garment splashed with a print or a graphic and wears it for everyone else to see.
A greater level of curiosity
"If you listen to a very nice song, the first reaction is, 'Oh shit! That's nice." And then you find out the artist and the singer, and the band, maybe the producer. But that same conversation doesn't happen with murals and street art," expresses Tan, who's been working on murals of late. It's this lack of curiosity that could be frustrating at times because there's a tendency to not care about the person behind such public displays of art in Singapore—something that we should all learn to be more aware about as we progress as a society. Tan goes on to say that this should apply to any work of art that we encounter, be it photos, videos or anything on social media, so that there's a greater appreciation for the arts.
Gadzooks! There are a lot more content to be found at Esquire Neighbourhood 2021.