Speaking of bespoked, a chat with Johnny of Obbi Good Label
Revolver and Voyager is super stoked to be carrying a new range of leather goods from Singapore Artisan Leather brand Obbi Good Label. We've got several styles of wallets and belts from this fine purveyor of all things leather. Johnny (Scasi) Low of OGL was very kind to answer some questions about the inspiration behind what he does and how Obbi Good Label came to be what it is today.
Tell us about your journey: how did you end up producing leather goods? Was it always an interest? Why leather as opposed to some other form of apparel?
In 1998 I was a product specialist, helping an IT company to produce a range of luxury leather related items for use with PDAs (Palm Pilots, Handspring, etc.) My job was to build the brand from scratch, ally with the factories, merchandise the best quality leather and hardware, design the functionality; literally just what I’m doing now, but with someone else's money.
Over the years I have built strong labels and products working for various companies. I traveled frequently from 2003 to 2009, learned a lot about the business trade and met a lot of people. In 2007, I met an ex-colleague who asked me why I didn’t create my own brand and make leather related products again since the brand I built in 1998 had grown into a well known IT label. I heeded his advice and since I’ve always helped other companies to build their brands, why not do it for myself? That’s how Obbi Good Label was born.
In the beginning it was tough. Due to Obbi Good Label being in its early stages, I had to work with minimum quantities, so no suppliers and manufacturers would entertain me, Therefore, instead of relying on others with many years of leather craft skills, I started making leather goods myself, creating very small quantities.
It’s always been my interest to make leather products. There’s no boundaries in making things in leather and leather goods show wonderful patina after use. And this is an old fashion way and the leather lasts.
It is mentioned in your About Us section of your website that music is a big influence in your creative life. What are you listening to these days? What musicians/groups are exciting you?
Yes, music has always been a big part of my life, especially in my era when there was no internet, just good old music from radio, cassette tapes and CD’s. The main influence is the people making music, all different races and walks of life singing a tune, giving me music that has no boundaries.
I’m still stuck in the early 80-90’s era, and have been listening to the same albums. It’s like the “repeat track” mode. Lately, I started listening to Depeche Mode again after I saw their BBC interview.
All musicians and groups excite me, it really depends on the mood. Especially when you are working on a special project and need some elements of certain types of songs... maybe some bossa nova when making the ladies range??
We don’t do hard selling, but we make sure every piece of work we make must be able to age well.
What is the best/craziest story you've heard about an Obbi Good Label wallet? Where have your wallets travelled to?
Well, the most craziest story should be the current wallet tour that started last year. A Long Snake In Lay wallet will be used by 15 participants in the span of one and half years. Every participant will be posting the wallet version of “Where did the snake wallet go?” You can see the stories here: http://www.indigoroots.com/index.php?topic=424.0
The reason why most designers refuse to do bespoke is because of their operations. The ready-to-wear or used collections are normally the types that will provide better sales returns, and in order to meet deadlines and supplying quantities, they have to outsource, which makes it even more difficult in the coordination for bespoke. And when you have to do bespoke by yourself, you have to let go of the daily work and concentrate on that particular project, which is very time consuming.
Customizations is actually part of our skill improvement programs. It’s where we start making things that we have not yet tried, and therefore we take the opportunity to learn and improve our skill. We will not do away with bespoke because it has become part of our processes in the workshop. We love challenges.
We have made everything. Most recently, I was tasked with making a vintage-inspired ladies tote bag from a picture of Drew Barrymore carrying something similar in a movie, but I had no dimensions and no indication of the brand label. Literally there was no single references. But the end result of what I created was satisfying, both for me and the customer.
In the short term, we will be focusing a bit more on the ladies line “The Obbies” and creating more range in the “Brave” series while maintaining our evergreen line.
In the long term, we hope to reach out to all major cities carrying our products, not oversaturation, but developing one key partner in each city.
Our Brave series has had an overwhelming response, we are very happy and content with today’s success, and that has inspired us to work harder.
Johnny Low “Scasi”