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Subtly tucked away on the second level of a shophouse along bustling Arab Street, Obbi Good Label’s store is nothing like subtle. The store is not your conventional retail store – it is part workshop and part showroom; and even has a sofa thrown in the mix to add to the overall cool and laid-back character.

The showroom section showcases a very delicious collection of leatherwork any decent guy would be lemming for; while within the workspace, everything is meticulous. This space is curiously enchanting, curated by tools and unfinished leather products. It brought about a sense of intimacy and shows the dedication and hardwork which goes into each product.

JOHNNY, our protagonist for the day and also one of the two founders, was kind enough to take us through the store on the day of our visit, before settling down for the interview.

So… tell us more about yourself.

JOHNNY: Well… Let’s see. I’m originally a product guy working in the IT industry. Worked in there for 15 years building brands for MNCs. And 10 years ago, I worked for this IT firm making palm casings for Palm Pilots which were pretty popular back in the day. But then one day I had this sudden realization – why work for others when I could do it myself? So I left the industry and started making Blackberry cases independently in 2008. I started off selling my stuff on Etsy but it never really took off because handphone models are ever changing… until I met James again online where he was stationed in France. Then slowly things just took off from there. He helped to market our products out, we started customizing products and… yeah.

What about your younger years? Any interesting stories?

J: *Laughs* this is actually quite funny thinking about it. James and I are actually childhood buddies, and in our 20’s, we actually formed a group of vintage Vespa enthusiasts in Singapore! We were really free back then lah. We rode a lot for passion, and we made regular trips to Thailand trying to recapture as much as possible the vintage flavour of our Vespas.

A day in your life, what occurs?

J: It really is a busy period for us right now. We usually try to work 1 quarter ahead, so it really is a rush to keep to the deadlines. And on top of that, we’re also working on the upcoming ladies’ collection for OGL in May, so yeah. But basically our day-to-day operations consists of the usual backorders, standing by in forums to promote etc, etc.

Busy man! So what do you like to do in your free time?

Spending time with my daughter. I think I can be described as a family man. With every free time I get, I try to devote it to my daughter and family. Because during my 15 years in the IT industry – especially for the last 4 years – I never really had time for her and my family… I flew day in day out between countries like US, Germany, Japan etc, etc; which is why I try to make up for lost time by giving all my free time to them.

Music you listen to now?

Steve Aoki!!! Turbulence is damn shiok (meaning good, for our non-Singaporean readers) man!!! But really, I listen to everything lah. From Bossa Nova to Jazz… Dirty Electro… And Radiohead. I love Radiohead. I have their entire collection of songs.

I was wondering how did the name, “Obbi Good Label” came about?

*Laughs* this is a very common question from my customers. It actually started out as “Hobby’s Goods Label”, but I felt that it wasn’t “International” enough. So I played around with the words – took out a few letters here and there… changed the letters… and slowly OGL formed.

Sounds pretty quirky! What’s the ideology behind Obbi Good Label?

OGL is planned out to be a true brand of leather craft – and not just “another leather accessories” brand. We want to emphasize and establish the fact that leather craft is truly limitless and not bounded by the usual set of rules. For example I even made a championship belt for a Superfuture (an online forum) competition.

With the recent rise of concept stores in Singapore, how do you think your shop differs from the rest?

Well, for one, we are not 100% retail focused. I mean, you can see that our shopfront is actually more of the workshop itself. The defining point is that we specialize in bespoke services for our customers. As said earlier, leather craft is limitless. Customers can walk in with any crazy ideas they have in mind and we can slowly discuss the possibilities that are available for them.

What are the plans for Obbi Good Label in the near future?

We plan to build ourselves stronger fundamentally as a brand. Although we’ve been around for quite a while, we still believe that we are a relatively young brand. Also, we recently separated and defined our products into 4 elements: Workwear, Native, Contemporary and Gentleman. The reason for this is because likewise to shoes and bags, we do not believe that wallets are a “one-for-all situation”. We believe that different wallets should go along with the various walks of life and having different purposes, matching the attitude and lifestyles of our customers.

Your friends like you because?

*laughs* I guess it’s probably because I’m a steady guy and not a spoilsport? Or maybe because I like sharing. I don’t know lah! Ask them yourself!

Text by Toke, Images by Izuan

Visit Obbi Good Label at 39 Arab Street #02-02 Singapore 199738, or their international online store at www.obbigoodlabel.com.
More photos from the Obbi Good Label’s interview coming up.

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