From the moment you step into this apartment in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, it is clear you have entered into a designer’s world. Batik fabrics in various colours are neatly stacked in a corner, a fabric mannequin stands on the opposite side of the room, and various art pieces and posters dot the walls. And this is just the living area.
Welcome to the home of Tino Soon – a fashion designer who has been a stalwart of the country’s fashion industry since the 1980s, creating homegrown fashion brands that were beloved and worn by many.
Most recently, he has turned his practical, playful eye to offering ready-to-wear batik outfits to a new generation of fashionistas.
“With my batik collection, I adapt the designs, from the motifs to the cut of the fabric, and make them accessible to people. I want to make the designs relatable to today,” explains Soon.
The modest walk-up apartment was bought by Soon in the late 90s.
“I’m familiar with this part of KL and was living in another place nearby. It’s an area that is very accessible to the main city. Yet, it is still quite a quiet area,” says Soon, who regularly takes the bus and train to run errands.
A distinct character
In this home that he has lived in for almost 25 years, Soon has used pops of colour, delightful travel finds and a mishmash of antiques passed down from family members to create a truly unique home with character.
Ask Soon to point out a particularly beloved possession in the house, and without hesitation, he will tell you that there are too many to pick one!
“Most of the things you see here (in my house) are from my travels, family antiques and gifts from close friends. No matter how small or simple the gift is, I’ll keep it and will find a place for it in my home.
“It’s important to me because of the person who gave it to me,” shares Soon as he gets up to pick up an adorable ceramic frog coin box given by a close friend.
That, in a nutshell, is the magic of this house – a room of curiosities full of the delightful results of a brilliant eye for uncelebrated but wonderful objects and serious antiques, coexisting in perfect harmony.
Other eclectic treasures include a distinctive wooden carving of a star fruit, weaved baskets and curios amassed over a lifetime and throngs of coffee table books and biographies.
There is also a beautifully woven rattan basket from his grandmother that sits proudly in the living room area.
“I have a fascination for all things woven. It’s a very skilful art and creative,” says Soon.
For a dramatic flair, Soon has hoisted above the dining table a huge chandelier entirely made from spoons, ladles and crystals.
A conversation-starter no doubt, this chandelier that Soon made himself is inspired by the auspicious act of scooping and was one of many that used to hang in his shops.
“When I had to close the shops, the chandeliers were kept in storage for many years. I sold a couple and this was the only one left. So I thought why not just have it at my house?,” he shares.
As he has grown older, Soon no longer feels attached to things like he used to.
“For me, life is now all about keeping it simple. I’ve given away a lot of things that I used to collect and have around the house.
“Now that I’m 70 years old, I’m just grateful for the many wonderful things that I have done, and seen in my career.”