A purveyor of lifestyle and street labels, STARTHREESIXTY features a dynamic selection of sneakers, apparel, bags and accessories that serves the varied taste of a discerning crowd. This is a group whose style and ideals go hand-in-hand. The multi-label concept store hosts brands such as Asics Tiger, Birkenstock, Converse, Happy Socks, Master-piece, Munsingwear, Obey, Onitsuka Tiger, Patrick, Polo Ralph Lauren Men, Reebok Classic, Saucony Originals and Spingle.
While the first edition of our STARTHREESIXTY series cast the limelight on Onitsuka Tiger and Polo Ralph Lauren, the second edition explored the styles and stories of Spingle and Patrick – Japanese labels that possess a fervent domestic pride. Someone who can closely relate to the Japanese’s attitude towards quality workmanship is Michelle Yu, the craftswoman behind The Gentlemen’s Press – a local letterpress and printing studio founded in 2011.
This week, we invited her for a shopping experience at the STARTHREESIXTY store at Wheelock Place. Sampling a pair of Spingle Move shoes, the affable artist shared her journey in making letterpress her livelihood, her personal style and her thoughts on the work ethics that go behind every single Spingle shoe.
Michelle Yu donning the Spingle SPM 290 in beige/khaki – SGD219
Nevermind the adversities that she has encountered along the way while managing The Gentlemen’s Press, Michelle was determined to win hearts with the finest print works created by letterpress. No gimmicks, just sheer authentic craftsmanship.
Nookmag (N): Hey Michelle! You dove into the art of letterpress back in 2011 and never looked back since. Could you share with us some highs and lows that you’ve been through?
Michelle (M): There are quite a lot of lows. When I just started, I had no idea [on how to run the business]. There were no guidelines for me. So I explored and went through many lows. I didn’t know accounting, marketing or communicating with clients in a proper way. When I started doing letterpress, I had to spend a lot of time practising the craft to master the skills involved and perfect the printing. I was also educating customers on what letterpress is and the price range that came with it. It was quite overwhelming in every aspect.
The highs happened when I started to see results but I had to keep pushing for a few months or even a year or two. Slowly, the results showed when customers returned and they appreciate what I’m doing. They see the quality in the print. That was really comforting and it gave me a reason to push on. After that occurred, I spent more time trying to invent [different methods for the craft]. Letterpress is not just about printing, it’s also about the different kinds of paper, ink and technique we use.
N: What are some reasons for customers to choose letterpress as a printing method they want to use?
M: It’s still a small group of people who chooses it. They like very tactile things. They want something different, that’s why they choose letterpress. Most of them are designers. I think they have different requirements in their work. Let’s say they spend 10 hours doing a design work, they wouldn’t want it to be printed in 10 seconds using a digital printer. They want their work to be treated with respect. Letterpress gives them the amount of time and effort to produce their work on a piece of paper. Their work gets treated differently.
N: How do you try to create awareness for letterpress?
M: I do my part in perfecting my skills and producing good work. By word of mouth, it will slowly spread around. When people see nice things, they will share. I try not to go out and hard sell myself. It doesn’t really work.
N: What’s new at The Gentlemen’s Press and how do you keep things fresh?
M: The newest thing is that I added a new Heidelberg (letterpress machine) ever since I moved out of my old studio. It quickens the speed of printing and makes the process more efficient. It’s more cost-efficient too. I also picked up new printing skills on the new machine. It’s refreshing as I’ve been using the old letterpress machines for the past two years. There are more possibilities and potential with the new Heidelberg.
N: Let’s talk about style! Tell us more about how you like to dress.
M: I like comfortable clothes as I’m constantly moving around the studio, working on the prints. I cannot have a lot of fancy things hanging around because they may get caught in the machine. I usually wear an apron to protect my clothes, though it doesn’t usually work. I try to go as plain as possible, such as tough denim shirt, pants or overalls. I like to wear covered shoes too. When I’m not working, I’d put on more accessories. I’d change my shoes too.
N: What do you think of the range of products and brands at STARTHREESIXTY?
M: I think it has a good range of products. STARTHREESIXTY even carries a few exclusive brands such as Patrick, Spingle and Master-Piece, which can’t be found elsewhere. There is also a wide range of models from each brand. The store easily has most of the essentials I need with its range of apparels, shoes, bags and accessories housed under one roof.
N: Which are your favourite three brands from the store? Why?
M: My most favourite is Onitsuka Tiger. The shoes are very light and portable. I especially like their classic model – it never goes out of style and it’s classy.
My second favourite is Patrick. Their shoes are very nicely crafted, especially the leather range. Despite being made from leather, they are still very light and portable.
The last one has to be Spingle. I like the combination of colours. The shoes are very organic-looking and comfortable to wear during work. There is quite a lot of allowance at the front too.
N: The Spingle shoes that you’re wearing are manufactured using traditional technique in the brand’s domestic factory with skilled craftsmen. Being a creative craftswoman, how can you relate to their work ethics?
M: Spingle strives for perfection in every piece of work and every little bit of detail. They have consistency. I respect the Japanese spirit and their craftsmanship. I always try to achieve consistency. It’s the consistency of perfection. For letterpress, everything is handmade. There might be a slight difference in every card. I have to try my best to maintain that perfection and present it to my client. Every piece cost about a few dollars to produce, so I have to make sure that they are worth the money. The customers are paying for the quality and effort.
Stay tuned for the final edition of our STARTHREESIXTY series where we speak to street and lifestyle photographer Anton aka Mellowedhigh, on his craft and Polo Ralph Lauren shoes.
STARTHREESIXTY stores are located at Wheelock Place #02-07/08, Paragon #03-08, Marina Square #02-179 and Novena Square #01-24. The new stores at Suntec City (North Wing) #01-458/462 and Bugis Junction #02-11A will be opened on 21 October 2015 and 26 November 2015 respectively. For more information, check out STARTHREESIXTY Facebook.