secondnatvre is about showing the materials quality to the world
No stranger to crafting, Tze Ling grew up watching her parents build architectural model projects. With time, she applied that inspiration & ability of craftsmanship into her real passion: custom-made leather accessories.
With different methodologies, she mastered leatherwork by experimenting + failing + trying again + repeating, until it became part of her (or her second nature, as she would say). That’s how her Singapore-based studio Secondnatvre came to life.
Ling’s production process is centered in her main material – leather. And the way she describes every step in this exclusive is inspiring, like a chef teaching the world how to prepare his top dish. From picking her fave tanneries so she can ensure quality, to diving into swatch catalogues, plus non-stop sampling & upcycling, she achieves the final outcome with a lot of hard work & tons of passion. All that inspired by leather’s long-lasting character & customizable aspect, which allow her to explore different techniques & create innovative pieces that go on for decades.
That excitement for crafting with such legendary material attracted another leather aficionado: Mark Ong, a.k.a. Mr. Sabotage. Together, Ong & Ling designed + crafted memorable pieces, like the revisited version of Nike’s Air Jordan 1 “Rehab S.O.S” – the customized pair that pays tribute to basketball history: when Nike presented special sneakers with ankle reinforcement all made in leather to help Michael Jordan recover post-injury.
The dynamic duo, united by leatherwork & its endless possibilities, is a perf match: Ong with his bold ideas & accurate design + Ling with impeccable construction & on point crafting are always finding new ways to create (or relive) inventive art to wear on your feet.
What a hot combo, huh?
To get a bigger piece of Tze Ling’s expertise on leatherwork & custom-made accessories, scroll down & check out our exclusive interview.
Your work is all about leather, so we have a lot in common. How did you transform your passion for this material into a practice?
Growing up, I watched my parents work on architectural model projects. They created beautiful miniature buildings from board materials. I think that was how I understood the crafting process, visualization and executing something into a final product. I think the passion translated into a different material as my interests were more drawn to leather accessories. I guess it all came together and I'm really grateful to be able to craft products full-time 5 years ago.
Tell us about the process of mastering leatherwork until it became second nature to you.
Mastering leatherwork involved a lot of mistakes made and failing forward. I found these two concepts really helpful in improving my skills & getting me back on the right track. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book: Outliers, in there there was this famous 10,000- Hour Rule. At any skill stage that we are at, we can always put in the hours to improve. Also, the concept of four stages of competence. The psychological state involved in the process of progressing from incompetence to competence in a skill.
Mastering a skill until it becomes part of you, becoming second nature.
And of course, my brand logo and name is inspired by this.
In that process, there's a lot of research behind finding the perfect leather for each project, right? What's it like to choose from a material that is so diverse? What do you usually look for?
Usually, my approach is to work backwards from the final product and then to identify which leather materials are suitable. Having swatch catalogues from tanneries helps a lot in the decision. Sampling is always important to know if the materials work perfectly with the design. Also, it is always exciting to source and work with materials from the top tanneries like: Horween (USA), Japan (Tochigi, Shinki Hikaku), Italy (Badalassi carlo), France (Tanneries Haas), etc.
Personally I feel the approach is very similar to cooking. Identifying the final dish, and knowing which ingredients & flavour help you achieve the final outcome over time.
In what way do leather’s never-ending techniques make this material a tool for great design?
I love how quality leather is both a very long-lasting & customisable material at the same time. My favourite characteristic of leather is how perfectly it works with foil colour printing (hot-stamping). It adds so much elegance and detail to a final product when you foil print a logo or name.
What are the connections between leather’s longevity & your purpose of crafting sustainable + functional pieces?
We all love how a patina develops on quality leather, and with proper care, it can really last for decades.
I feel we live in a world of over-consumption now, and I wanted to let more people know about how long-lasting quality leather is.
Back in 2015, there was a Hermes ‘Leather Forever' exhibition in Singapore. I remember coming across this amazing display of 1930s 1940s Hermes bags & briefcases. Visiting that exhibition was a very inspiring moment for me and I was reaffirmed that I was on the right track to keep using quality materials.
Now, Mr. Sabotage has given us exclusive insights into your partnership. How did this perfect leather match happen?
I interned for SBTG brand way back in 2009. After that I left for university & worked in a bank, leather crafting remained a side gig. At first, Mark ordered leather passport covers when I didn't have a brand going on. Eventually, it expanded into creating a small collection of leather goods. A few years later, the brand started to grow and there was an opportunity to share the same studio space with the SBTG team. I took a leap of faith and went full-time, and the rest is history :)
He has also highlighted the Charlie Tote Bag & the Air Jordan Rehab as the most memorable designs you ever created together. Tell us a little bit more about the concept & process behind those creations.
The Charlie tote bag was a fantasy mil-spec bag idea, but the leather type was always undecided. It finally came together after a visit to a leather distributor in Osaka. The perfect leather was found: the water-resistant horsehide used in A-1 Leather Flight Jacket. The aesthetic eventually expanded into a full collection featuring: tote bags, zip-wallet & passport jackets.
Rehab AJ1 was a project that was always at the back of Mark’s mind. We sourced the materials to look as accurate as of the actual product. Studying the photos of the actual product, I put together the pattern & construction. We got it right at the first sample and went ahead to construct it on the vintage 1985 ‘Chicago’ AJ1.
Yo, sneakerhead. Got curious about Mr. Sabotage chill custom-made pairs?
Put on your most fire kicks & strut down the exclusive [metcha originals] interview with Mark Ong. You can thx us later.