Tim Ross-Watson, 30
Ross-Watson’s hectic schedule as a chef consultant prevented him from interacting with students from CARE, something he regrets and plans on getting around to. But he understands the need for charities like CARE Singapore and its goal to guide and support youths. “I was adopted at birth. I was quite a bad kid growing up, blackmailing teachers and stealing things,” he explained. “My parents are the most loving people I know. They gave me a structure in life, without which, I would have gone down the wrong way.” He spoke to us on his A-Lister experience thus far and his challenge to design and auction off two pairs of shoes in collaboration with local designer Ed Et Al to raise funds for CARE Singapore.
How did the auction go?
It went quite well. I have to admit that the two pairs of shoes didn’t sell for as much as I wanted. That’s the thing about charities in Singapore. People are very sceptical. They need to get to know the organisation and what it’s doing before committing to it.
Were you sceptical going into A-Listers and knowing it had a charity element?
I read up about CARE Singapore and I agree with what they’re doing. I understand how valuable it is to have a strong structure, as well as encouragement, love and compassion, for kids who are growing up. I was adopted at birth. My parents initially were missionaries. They’re the most loving people I know, accepting everyone for who they are. Growing up, I was very lucky to have that structure in my life. My world would have been terrible otherwise. That’s why I figured CARE Singapore was a good charity to work with.
Why did you choose to design shoes for your challenge?
Honestly, when I was first deciding on a challenge, my instinct as a man told me to go for something like boxing training for four weeks and then sell myself up for a fight. My girlfriend said, “Don’t be an idiot.” (laughs) She suggested something more sensible as well as something that I’ve always wanted to do. Before I became a chef, I attended the London College of Fashion. A friend and I set up a brand in the UK designing street wear and urban wear. I also designed wedding dresses and handbags. I’ve always wanted to do menswear and that’s why I chose shoes.
Did you have prior experience making shoes?
A little bit, but nothing serious. I started sewing by hand when I was 14 before progressing to machines. I’ve worked with leather goods before to make bags and accessories. But shoemaking is completely different. It’s such an art. It was fantastic watching the head shoemaker at Ed Et Al. The speed at which he works and the way he does it makes it look so easy but it really isn’t.
What did you learn from the head shoemaker?
We did it in stages. I started by doing the manual work like pulling the leather round. I also fixed up the first sole, which involved nailing, gluing and stitching. I then moved on to painting, which didn’t turn out great. (laughs) We’re actually making two new pairs for the people who won the bids so they can custom it to their size.
Tell us about the design of the shoes.
I originally wanted to do men’s high heels or stilettos. But given that this is for charity, it wasn’t the most appropriate thing to go for. Also, I had four weeks to pull it off so I couldn’t go to extreme with my design. My personal style is a little punky and rocky. I usually wear something that has skulls on it. I’ve been a big fan of Alexander McQueen and skulls since I was 16. So I wanted to incorporate a skull into the design. The shoe’s motif on the front is a skull with a rose. I take the prehistoric notion where people believed skulls were symbols of religious belief. I don’t see them as death but a sign of spiritual life.
What do you want out of A-Listers?
In my case, it’s really about raising awareness of the charities that are based in Singapore. Most people think there is no such thing as poverty in Singapore. It is actually quite severe here. I also think there’s a lack of love in society. That lack of love and compassion draws down to kids. I read a book when I was 18 called The Five Love Languages. It described five different types of people and how they like love being showed to them or how they like to show love to other people. One of the most important things is to make sure that your “love tank” is being filled up. If you’re giving and giving and getting nothing back, it’s so hard to give that compassion. I think it’s great that the people who are working with the kids at CARE have so much compassion to give. It’s really important for the kids.
Tim Ross-Watson, 30