Hugh Koh on what it means to be a Malaysian today
Back to list

Hugh Koh

CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND CO-FOUNDER OF PESTLE & MORTAR

When Pestle & Mortar first started eight years ago, the challenge was to get the streetwear fashion brand out there. Paired with co-founder Hugh Koh’s limited knowledge in graphic designing, they started off with photo tees, with photos taken by themselves, that debuted at Urbanscapes in 2010. From T-shirts with only five designs, Pestle & Mortar has expanded to over 200 designs that include button down shirts, shorts, headwear, jackets and accessories for both men and women, as well as special collaborative capsules with Royal Selangor and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

 

How has the landscape changed for the local fashion entrepreneur industry?

These days all you have to do is ask, that is the power of social media. The accessibility to start a new brand is a lot easier, there are so many market spaces. When Pestle & Mortar first started, there were only a handful of brands. Now, new labels keep popping up, just one of the ways the fashion/retail scene has changed in just under a decade. We started off as a a traditional brick and mortar business, focused simply on building a brand. Today, it is about keeping the hype up and customers wanting more. We used to do seasonal collections but we have added on a lot more. We aim to do something every other week to make some noise, provide some sort of bait to get our customers excited.

How do the challenges differ between the early days when Pestle & Mortar was making a name for itself, and the present day ensuring that it remains on top?

Now it is a longevity game. That is always going to be challenging and something that we will always be looking at. We have to embrace the times on how people do business and the way we are talking to our customers. That means constantly having to push the brand outside of its comfort zone. It isn’t simply about selling a piece of clothing anymore. We are trying to change the mindset of our customers, out of the usual transaction that takes place. Back then we sold clothing but now it is about a community as well. These days, people can move from loving to hating you just like that. We have to always be on our toes and think of our customers first.

And how does Pestle & Mortar do that?

Staying true to the essence of the brand, which has always been about celebrating the heritage of Malaysia. We may have ventured into other things but at the end of the day, it is about gravitating back to that main thing. That being said, it’s all about being current, independent and comfortable as well. In whatever designs we create, we ensure that it stands by these three qualities.