Made in Singapore: Branded bags with pop art appeal

Cherin Sim puts her spin on the pop-culture favourites she paints on pricey leather goods, turning them into priceless personal pieces for her clients.
Cherin Sim puts her spin on the pop-culture favourites she paints on pricey leather goods, turning them into priceless personal pieces for her clients.ST PHOTO: AILEEN TEO, SAMUEL RUBY
A bag specially painted by Cherin Sim.
A bag specially painted by Cherin Sim. ST PHOTO: AILEEN TEO, SAMUEL RUBY
Cherin Sim finishing up a visual on a client's leather product.
Cherin Sim finishing up a visual on a client's leather product.ST PHOTO: AILEEN TEO, SAMUEL RUBY

SINGAPORE - From Hello Kitty to Astro Boy, she carefully paints bold pop-culture figures on expensive luxury bags.

When marquage artist Cherin Sim started out two years ago, she said people could not accept the idea of painting pop art on branded leather bags.

“Marquage” is a French word that means “marking”, and also refers to the act of personalising an item.

“They asked me, ‘Are you making the bag look cheap?’” said the 31-year-old.

Now, her clients want her to put her own spin on popular figures so that their leather goods stand out.

For instance, she once painted a Hello Kitty-storm trooper hybrid on a Louis Vuitton passport holder.

Ms Sim, who has a Master’s in Art (Fine Art) from Goldsmiths, University of London, worked as a bag designer for two years before creating her own line of bespoke leather goods for clients in 2015, including design and painting.

In 2016, she decided to focus solely on painting on clients’ existing leather bags. Her marquage services start from $800.

Working mostly from a workshop space in King George’s Avenue, she has painted more than 200 bags in the last two years – about five to 10 pieces a month.

 

She takes it upon herself to understand her clients’ personality, likes and dislikes, and works them into the design.

“I don’t do the same thing twice,” she said.

See how she transforms an ordinary leather bag into a pop-art creation in the first episode of Made In Singapore, a new video series which celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of everyday Singaporeans who make handcrafted goods their business.