Tsai Ming Hung
FROM TAIWAN TO SINGAPORE. WITH A DOG. PLEASE MEET MR HOWARD. 从台湾到新加坡，来这儿与Mr. Howard见面吧。
Ming Hung is from Taiwan and he has been living in Singapore for a long time, since he was a high school student. He is currently trying to turn his passion for fashion into a full time job. After working for other labels, he recently established his own brand, Mr Howard, and he is really determined to turn it into a successful experience.
We met for a coffee at the Contemporary Art Museum in Singapore, and we discussed present, past and future over a cup of very foamy cappuccino.
What is different about working for an independent designer, as opposed to working for someone else as a designer?
If you’re working for others, you can feel it as a restriction – you need to follow what their brand is like and its direction. I worked for other designers before, but now it’s totally different because I have my own freedom and season after season I can develop my own thoughts. To me, design should have no restriction, because it’s the only place where you can express what you’re feeling and thinking – without boundaries. Mr. Howard is someone that I made up – he is not afraid to show his character, his lifestyle, what he likes and what he does. I would like to be him.
What does the dog in your logo represent?
I have a dog, his name is Peanut. I’m alone here in Singapore, my family being in Taiwan. Peanut keeps me company – I’ve always loved animals, but with him it’s different. He is important to me and he shows me his affection. And Mr Howard has a dog as well. That’s the dog on the logo. I’m currently working on an avant-garde line and the dog will play a major role. You’ll see!
Is there a difference between Chinese and Singaporean people?
My impression is that despite the higher spending power Singaporeans are not so daring, especially when it comes to dressing – there is some kind of social restriction. I guess it’s also because people here are more up-to-date, informed and, in general, better educated. These are all elements that brake personal expression. People might also be a bit colder, and you do feel the difference if you are here by yourself – but the environment is much safer and, moreover, the government itself is quite towards the direction of fashion – which makes a big different for independent designers.
Is your label avant-garde?
Well, I guess it depends on what you mean. To me, being an avant-guard designer means being able to be represented by my own creations – which is pretty unusual nowadays. In Mr Howard’s case, the avant-garde is all in the details – pockets, folding, stitching. Of course it’s challenging – details come at a high price, and consequently make every piece harder to sell. But I’m willing to try even harder if it’s necessary – this is something I should not compromise on.
Do you see yourself running Mr. Howard for a long time?
I think I will try to do it as long as possible. During the years I developed a customers base which is pretty solid and stable: they are very supportive, and they normally buy new pieces as soon a collection is out. My customers come mostly from art and fashion communities – I guess they have the right sensitivity to understand what I’m doing. Moreover, I’m also more and more involved with made-to-measure. It’s not time for me to give up!
Do you enjoy doing made-to-measure?
I enjoy it but sometimes it gets… weird. Well, I need to confess it: it’s something I’m a bit scared of. It’s not easy to understand what a person wants, take the right measurements, especially if you are meeting them for the first time. And I do and sew everything by myself – only ask for help to tailors when I’m stuck. So I feel the pressure and the responsibility – for me the most important thing is that my customers are satisfied. When I deliver a made-to-measure piece it’s like I’m giving away a piece of me!
What’s coming next for you?
I’m working on my second line, and Peanut is going to be the main character. It’s a collection made of T-shirts with different prints. I’m still working on the sketches, but I’m very excited. Also I wouldn’t mind collaborating with a Taiwanese painter. It’s too early to plan everything, but we are both very interested in this project. I’ll make you guys know when it’s happening!
Ming Hung is, like most independent fashion designers I met, a dreamer. At the same time, he has a very sharp attitude and he knows that at the end of the day this passion of his has to be sustainable and profitable to make sense. And it doesn’t matter how hard it’s going to be, he wants to get to the point where his brand his established and known internationally.
A Singaporean by now, he often looks back to his home country, Taiwan – and he is currently working with a Taiwanese designers on a project, still top-secret, which will involve both his roots and the love for his adopted country. Will see where this leads him! It just sounds so exciting so far!
Ming Hung ha lasciato Taiwan quando si e’ trasferito a Singapore all’eta’ di 13 anni. Dopo aver finito il liceo, ha iniziato a lavorare come fashion designer per vari brand locali. Insoddisfatto a causa della mancanza di liberta’, ha fondato Mr Howard, marchio avant-garde di abbigliamento uomo. Da allora la sua vita e’ cambiata e, nonostante le difficoltà e le sfide, Ming Hung e’ determinato a far conoscere il suo lavoro anche all’estero. Buona fortuna!
For the pictures, special thanks t0 Mr Howard.
Translation by Jasmine Wang.