“These days all you have to do is ask, that is the power of social media,” says Hugh Koh, co-founder and creative director of street wear brand Pestle & Mortar. “The accessibility to start a new brand is a lot easier, there are so many market spaces.”

When Pestle & Mortar first started eight years ago, 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.

“A lot of the time we had to search for manufacturers,” he says. “Now, they approach you. These days you just ask a question on Linkedin or Facebook and you get a reply.”

Case in point, when Hugh recently tried to source for a first generation Proton Saga for a photoshoot. He posed the question on Facebook and within minutes got a couple of leads.

“Technology is the future,” he says. “If you don’t embrace it, you are going to be left behind. It is adapt or die.”

Outfit by FENDI

The landscape has definitely changed over the past eight years. When Pestle & Mortar first started, it was 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,” he explains.

Back then, the challenge was to get the Pestle & Mortar name out there. Now, having already established that, it is about ensuring that the brand remains on top.

“Now it is a longevity game,” he says. “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.”

Hugh Koh was our Men of the Year in 2013 for the Style category

“We are trying to change the mindset of our customers, out of the usual transaction that takes place,” he says. “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 that means staying true to the essence of the brand, which has always been about celebrating the heritage of Malaysia.

“This has always been the driving force of the brand,” he states. “We have ventured into other things but at the end of the day, it is about gravitating back to that main thing.”


Photography by Kahmun Ho
Styling by Ibnu Aswan
Grooming by Joey Yap, Mavis Ow + Wanning

written by.

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