Growing up under the same roof for brothers Arnold and Arthur Loh is a summation of the commonly heard dismissive proverb: boys will be boys. There were plenty of harmless bullying between the brothers of three years’ difference, including the exertion of seniority on the older sibling’s part — childish antics of a brotherly relationship, as the two embraced their masculinity.
“When I was around 7, and Arthur was 4, our mom would instruct us to clean up after dinner before leaving the house,” Arnold recalls. “I would pull up a stool by the kitchen sink for Arthur, and coerced him into doing the dishes, including my fair share, while I kicked back and watched TV in the living room.”
“I remember watching TV while Arnold was away in school, having a grand time, but the moment he came home, he would snatch the remote control and switch the channel, finalising his authority over me with a smack on the side of my head,” Arthur adds to the walk down memory lane.
Much like how everyone would go through changes during puberty, the tables turned as well for the Loh brothers when the changes happened — not only for them individually, but their relationship as well. When Arnold came back from his high school studies in the United States, he realised that things were not the same anymore.
“Often I had to take it from Arnold when we were kids because I was the skinnier and weaker one, but during high school, I took up martial arts, and I grew taller and stronger than him,” Arthur says. “Things would get rather messy whenever Arnold tried to pull the same sh*t he did four years back. I would get him in an arm lock, or chase him around the dining table with a wooden stick, trying to beat him up… Our father had to intervene a lot during that time.”
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Despite the camaraderie (or lack thereof), sibling rivalry did not exist between the brothers with regard to competing to be the better child in the family, as Arnold and Arthur grew up to be the polar opposites of each other.
“Arthur turns out to be the more hands-on one, while I, on the other hand is more about conceptualisation than the legwork, and I think the fact that our parents knew we were very different from the start contributed to that upbringing,” Arnold says. “They never pitted us against each other, and they just let us do our thing, and dealt with us individually instead of as a pair.”
In the long run, their different personalities would eventually make them co-partners of the thriving modern lifestyle fashion brand, Pestle and Mortar Clothing, alongside good friend Hugh Koh; much like the dynamic between a pestle and a mortar, you could say.
Its humble beginnings in 2010 has taken on a brick and mortar store in Bangsar Telawi, as well as the multi-label store Major Drop in Mid Valley Megamall and Sunway Pyramid, not to mention, various collaborations that promoted the patriotic spirit towards Malaysia, such as the more recent ones with Royal Selangor, renowned illustrator Paul Bush, and Klang Valley’s current favourite burger joint, myBurgerLab.
“It wasn’t as bad as I expected, to be honest. Everybody kept telling us how we should avoid going into business with family and friends, but as it turns out, the fact that I had Arnold by my side when we started Pestle and Mortar Clothing actually made things easier, due to our different personalities,” Arthur explains.
“Of course, there were a few bumps along the way, and plenty of bickering between us both, but we still make it work at the end of the day,” Arnold chimes in. “We were quite clear of our own roles from the start, Hugh included, and we just have to make sure to stick to them till the end.”
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These days, Arnold and Arthur are less involved in the comings and goings at Pestle and Mortar Clothing, albeit still providing it support in the form of attendance at launch events. Arnold has resumed his day job as a radio DJ on the Hitz Morning Crew, while Arthur keeps his handy hands busy with the Riders Garage in Subang, not to mention, raising his firstborn.
While Arnold and Arthur’s relationship as brothers may not have brought them closer as they got older, (the kind where they would start calling up each other out of the blue, besides Arnold asking Arthur if he’s getting the right bulb for his light fixture), it has at least made them great business partners.
“When I was younger, I hated hanging out or being seen with my brother; I always felt he was just a kid, who would probably say or do something to embarrass me in front of my friends. But at some point, he grew up and we are now on the same level as adults that we can be friends, getting along better not only as brothers,” Arnold divulges.
“Being brothers, it’s a love/hate relationship,” Arthur says good-humouredly. “You can’t always say what you love about each other, but you can go on and on about what you hate about each other.”
Photography by Kimmun / Hopscotch Studio
Videography by Andrew Loh
Art Direction by Joyce Lim
Makeup by Joey Yap, Wanning and Rachel Wong
Hair by Derren Fong / Shawn Cutler