Local brand The Toxic Friends Co. is no stranger to a particular brand of mild controversy; enough to induce a gasp and a loosening of the purse strings, but not offensive enough to warrant a protest petition.
After all, we wouldn’t have expected anything less from the artist that dared draw a link between Singapore’s first president and rapper Lil Wayne’s hip-hop record label.
The Young Money tee, launched just before Chinese New Year in 2018, proved to be the brand’s bestseller, said founder Brendan Mayle Kor, 22, who does everything from design to marketing for the online store.
“As of now, it’s still a one-man show. It’s my brainchild,” said the undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University. “I get to play around with the whole concept, the art direction of the shoot.”
Founded in November 2017, Brendan hopes to build a different kind of patriotism through The Toxic Friends Co., one “just for us to be more proud of what we are”.
“With mostly Western hype brands in the scene, I felt it was a bit monotonous and (there is) not much character,” said Brendan.
“I wanted to just have this local influence on all this streetwear. I realise you do see the American flag on merch but people don’t really wear a Singapore flag, other than during National Day.”
Inspired by Goodstuph and illustration studio Tell Your Children, Brendan is well aware that the brand’s output was only for a select few who would appreciate the humour.
“I felt that (local design chain store) Naiise was too PG, and cutesy, and not my target audience, I felt everything was too curated, too palatable for the masses. I think the whole brand of Toxic Friends and Co. is to push people to the edge.”
One thing Brendan admires about Naiise, however, is the chain’s physical outlets.
“I think brick-and-mortar stores are still a mark that you’ve made it, in a sense, because it’s nice to have a physical store where customers can actually feel the material and try it on, the cutting and stuff like that.”
Brendan likens a physical store to an exhibition, and hopes to rent a space one day, perhaps for a pop-up concept.
He let slip that The Toxic Friends Co. once considered an outlet, but he was “too lazy to make it happen”. However, he remains open to the idea.
“I’m actually looking at a place right now near Rochor, I actually did a lot of work in the area, but I would hope to be among the young shops. It’s a quaint place. That’s where I hope to be located at.”
Last year, Brendan was among six young creatives behind the OnBorrowedLand: Sungei Road Market art exhibition, which focused on the former Thieves’ Market, which closed in July 2017 to make way for the construction of the Jalan Besar MRT station.
For now, the NTU School of Art, Design and Media undergraduate is focusing on his film major, which he hopes will help in video-based advertising and marketing of future projects.
He is also in the midst of a collaboration with the canvassing efforts of NUS FASS Arts Mode, the annual bash by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore.
The Bicentennial-inspired designs are currently available for pre-order via FASS Arts Mode, and these designs will be available on The Toxic Friends Co. in the coming months, said Brendan.
Fans of The Toxic Friends Co. can visit the brand’s next flea at ARTas 2019, the free annual art festival for young people, happening Jul 6 from 1pm to 6pm at 88 St Francis Road.