Welcome to our brand new weekly series of #whois featuring some of the personalities behind some of the brands/companies in the region. We feel the importance of showcasing some of the local heroes doing big things in the region.
I first met Mel a few years ago at a Nike event. The first thing that caught my attention about Mel was her smile and her boyish style. I approached her for a photo and she told me about her brand – SSAP. We keep in touch and we would meet during some of the events or Nike Running Club sessions. When she told me about coming to Singapore for Nike x Virgil Abloh event I told myself that I have to spend some time to get to know her better. You see the the impressive thing about Mel is Mel, she has this positive aura that you wanna be associated with. Here is our conversation about her and SSAP while we ate lunch amongst uncles in Chinatown and strolled along Little India.
Who is Mel? And what do you do?
I am Mel Sangsomsap. I am from Bangkok and I run my own clothing brand – SSAP.
What does SSAP stand for? How did SSAP come about?
SSAP is short for my last name – SangsomSAP. So after getting my bachelor degree in Bangkok I went to Parson School of Design in New York. After graduating I actually got a job with UNIQLO design department. On the side I was also the assistant to the high end tailor Antonio Azzuolo, he has taught me so much about fabrics and tailoring. It allowed me to have access and understand the process of making clothes. I got so inspired and I had always wanted start my own clothing label but the production cost in New York was so high. So I kinda put the idea on hold until I met a fellow Thai friend who worked in NYC’s garment industry and he said to me “Just Do It and I will sort you out”. The rest is history :).
So when did you start SSAP? What was your first collection back then?
Back in 2012 I started my first collection with just 6 designs of button down shirts. Every time I look at it I kinda laugh at myself a little.
Being a designer of a clothing brand, how does your day to day look like?
I actually do everything by myself from distribution to marketing to production for SSAP. I am also a freelance copy writer for an ad agency. So I do have to juggle between both responsibilities. Plus I love sports and I am training for my upcoming triathlon races. And I recently got into jiu-jitsu so I would do either one of the sports on daily basis. Sports allows me to take my mind off my work problems and make me refocus better when I design.
As a female designer, how do you design clothes for men? SSAP is a menswear brand correct?
I would say it is an unisex brand. If you look at the way I dress, I am not a girly girl. I like menswear and I wear them on a daily basis. When I design, I actually think of what my ideal man would wear (chuckle).
Which city inspires you more? Bangkok or New York?
New York is inspirational and Bangkok is home. Bangkok does give me access to a lot of local products and resources too.
Then why did you leave the Big Apple?
Things are getting so expensive in NYC. The standard of living plus the production cost for me was just too much.It costed me $35 just to make a button-down shirt excluding fabrics and trims. So I packed my bags and my Nike AF1s back to Bangkok.
What inspires you?
I get inspired by people. Not fashion people but just ordinary people and everyday people. The ones who don’t even try to hard to look cool. Like the old ladies wearing SAKOL indigo from head to top at a local fair. Or even when I am training jiu-jitsu, I get inspired. When I am obsessed, I am inspired. I want to get into their world.
Is that how your SAKOL project come about?
SAKOL is short from Sakolnakorn, a province in Northeast of Thailand, this northern province in Thailand is best known for its indigo blue fabrics. Villagers still use centuries-old weaving and dyeing techniques that continue a long tradition of quality. One time I went to check out OTOP which stands for ‘One Tambon (meaning sub-district) One Product’, it is basically a fair that showcases local Thai products from each province in Thailand. This fair is usually frequented by older women (laugh) but I went there to check it out anyway and it was there I found out how beautiful the SAKOL indigo blue fabrics are. I like the originality of the technique and I want to support the locals through my brand and my collection so I made a small capsule collection using SAKOL Indigo fabrics.
Lastly what can we expect from SSAP’s next collection?
I am thinking of doing a collection based out of outdoor and combat sports since I am so passionate about it right now (big smile).
Footnote: Mel does bike, jiu-jitsu, run, swim, wake-boarding and surf aside from being an awesome human being