Mashizan Masjum was always interested in going into the shoe business but it was a sign in Florence - which read "Follow my heart" - that spurred him to finally start up his own luxury shoe label, Mashizan.
"I just put my dream on the back burner, as I was enjoying my work in the broadcast industry. But that sign became the genesis of Mashizan," says the 42-year-old, who still holds a day job as Head of Content at production company InFocus Asia.
Mashizan's first collection of high heels, which has a focus on subtle sophistication, come in boxes shaped like an old-fashioned encyclopaedia. Prices begin at $858 for the Simona-Simona pointed-toe pumps and go up to $1,200 for the La Sarima, a suede number studded with subtle Swarovski ornaments.
He says: "I wanted to create a more exclusive brand - as it has a bespoke element and is more manageable. Instead of making 15,000 pairs of shoes, I'd rather make just 900 and pay greater attention to their details."
And he does - one of the shoe models, the Sayumi ($1,028), has a little brass pendant, shaped in his brand's "M" logo, dangling from its sole. It is handcrafted in Italy.
All of Mashizan's shoes are made in Sa.Ba. Shoes in Italy, the same factory which makes shoes for luxury brands Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Furla. He chooses to use the softest, best quality leather, as comfort and wearability are paramount.
This quest for excellence is seen in his broadcast industry career as well - the Singaporean lived in New York for six years, from 2005 to 2011, as he wanted to be where the best production companies were.
"I had to be bold and confident, as the TV market there is very competitive," he says. It took him six months to land his first job writing, directing and producing a two-hour special on volcanoes for the US History Channel, titled Inside The Volcano.
The singleton also took a sabbatical two years ago to study at art school Accademia Riaci in Florence, Italy. One of his teachers was master shoe maker Angelo Imperatrice.
Masjum said: "What I learnt from him was the attention to detail that goes into shoe making - for example, he used soft glue for the insole or to glue two pieces of leather together, and a tougher glue for the shoe's actual sole."
He also studied under veteran shoe designer Ilaria Papucci, who worked at the House of Ferragamo for 16 years.
Mashizan's shoes will be available at Bene Rialto in New York this week, a marketplace dedicated to the work of emerging designers and artists. He is having a launch party in New York on Wednesday, and the shoes will be carried in Tangs Orchard and mashizan.com by the end of this month.
Masjum explains that he chose to design women's shoes, specifically evening luxurywear - as they remind him of exquisite works of art. That said, he has plans to release a limited-edition men's collection in the future.
His experience in storytelling - writing, directing and producing shows for reputable companies like National Geographic and the US History Channel - carries over to his shoe designing work as well. Each of the six high-heel designs in his catalogue has a story.
The Simona-Simona, for example, was inspired by two Italian women, both named Simona, whom he met in Rome two years ago. They requested for a simple pump with a twist for their impending nuptials, so he made high heels of iridescent patent leather, whose colours change under the sun.
Two other shoes are named after his sisters, who are 48 and 50, and work in nursing. His father, 81, is retired, and his mother and one of his sisters have died. He has a brother who works in logistics.
Asked if he would go full-time into his shoe business and its future direction, he says: "I still love my day job, and how I get to marry the strengths of both. For now, we will keep the quiet sophistication and bespoke elements characteristic of our brand. "
7 THINGS IN HIS BAG
1. Mashizan shoe
I am my own salesman, so I bring my designs with me. This one - patent leather with pony hair - is in spring colours, and showcase a mix of materials.
2. The Basic pencil case and Mont Blanc pen
I bring pens and pencils in this case to jot down ideas when inspiration strikes. It feels so good to write with a Mont Blanc pen too, though most people type nowadays.
3. Emporio Armani sunglasses
I never go anywhere without these, especially in sunny Italy. I bought them in New York, while I was living there.
4. Shoe catalogue
This is always with me, as it is small and light. I can speak to people about our shoes when opportunities arise.
5. Smythson name card holder
6. Keychain and 8GB thumbdrive
As I am on the road a lot, I keep this on hand to save documents and pictures.
7. Apex sketchbook
I use it to note down things which inspire me - like the curves of domes or chandeliers - and use these ideas when I am designing.
This article was first published on April 10, 2015.
Get a copy of Urban, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.