Inspired by pleats and sharp lines

Inspired by pleats and sharp lines
Works by designer Melvin Ong include the Itty Bitty Rocking Chair.

After working for two years with London creative design agency Brand42, designer Melvin Ong was getting comfortable in a job he did not really want.

While it was a good opportunity - he had been involved in projects for CNN and Johnnie Walker - his heart was not quite in it.

Mr Ong, 31, recalls: "I was doing packaging design, which was mainly working with print.

"My work visa was running out and I didn't want to have it renewed and be bonded doing something I wasn't interested in."

Good thing the Central Saint Martins' College of Art & Design graduate, who holds first-class honours for product design, decided to return to Singapore in 2012. He started his own label Desinere, which has become one of the rising stars of the design scene, known for its sophisticated pieces that are often inspired by pleats and sharp lines.

Products include pieces such as the Fraise paper vases and the Ruchette Ambient Lamp, which were inspired by the intricate ruffs of Victorian-era collars.

Mr Ong took his work around the world, showing at Milan Salone Satellite in 2011, before unveiling his debut Desinere collection at Design Tide Tokyo 2012, which included the wooden Itty Bitty Rocking Chair with its thick, fork-like legs.

A year later, he showed at the well-regarded Tortona Design Week in Milan.

In 2013, too, he was part of the team that won the President's Design Award for Design of the Year, for a series of ceramics on Singapore icons. His contribution was a motif modelled after the iconic tembusu tree in the Botanic Gardens.

Last year, he was the only Singaporean to receive French lifestyle fair Maison&Objet Asia's Rising Asian Talent award.

Mr Ong, who is single, hopes his work will be like those of his heroes, the famed American designers behind many furniture classics - Charles and Ray Eames. "Even though they are no longer here, their designs are still relevant today."

Ms Sabrina Long, dean of the School of Art and Design of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, calls him a "designer with the X factor".

Mr Ong got a scholarship to pursue a diploma in interior design, with a major in furniture design at the school in 2005, and now teaches there part-time.

She says: "Even as a student, he came in knowing what he was doing. He was on that level where we were exchanging ideas and sparring with each other. He's got that star quality in designers you don't see often."

This article was first published on July 4, 2015.
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