Mark, Creative. EZY Ankle Pants from UNIQLO; rest of outfit Mark’s own.
This is the second time we’ve photographed Mark, and it’s true what they say—some things don’t change. We know him to be a wisecracking, funny-face-making man, but despite all his joking around, Mark is your quintessential family guy. Having to nurture two young kids and be an awesome husband while co-running your own company and serving in church is no mean feat, yet Mark does all that with panache, and with his sanity, sense of humour, and style still intact (on most days, he says). As the co-founder of Parable Studio and a die-hard typophile, Mark knows a thing or two about precision in design—not only when it comes to his work, but when it comes to the perfect fit. We spent some time catching up.
Shentonista (S): You manage many roles—you’re a father, a partner at a creative agency and you also serve at church. How do you manage to do what you do everyday?
Mark (M): Grace from above! That, and I have epic partners. My wife, Sarah, is amazing. Parenting takes two people being equally involved and I’m very thankful for her. I also have a great partner at work who makes me better just by being epic at the things we do. He’s also a father of two, and serves in church, so we really do support each other the best we can.
S: What inspires you to keep on doing what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis?
M: I’m learning more and more to take joy in the simplest things—a little detail that we’ve finished, a colleague making a breakthrough in their life, friends welcoming new members to their family (a lot of babies recently, man). I want to leave behind a legacy for my kids, and I want to live out my life to the fullest.
S: What are some of the biggest joys and challenges in running your own business?
M: The amount of responsibility can be crushing sometimes. The biggest joy is seeing others around you succeed or make breakthroughs. That’s when we can celebrate as family—usually with Jollibee! Parable Studio loves fried chicken a little too much I think.
S: What life skills are rarely taught but extremely useful?
M: Speaking and presenting your ideas in public! (laughs)
S: Work-life balance or work-life harmony?
M: I think balance is a myth. The equation doesn’t add up. We have a five to six day work week out of seven days. You can’t call that balance! Harmony however, begins to get closer to what it should be. I see work as a part of my life—this doesn’t mean I work all the time, or I don’t work at all, but I try to come home early to be with my kids, and not to fret or stress about work. I definitely try to have a laptop defrag on the weekends.
S: What’s a typical day like for you on a weekday and a weekend?
M: On weekdays, I get up early-ish to put the kids on the school bus. I have a quick breakfast (hopefully some exercise too) and a time of meditation before I head off to work until about 6-ish. I’ll then bring the kids (and maybe my dog) for a walk, have dinner, put the kids to sleep, catch some last emails and sleep as early as possible. Super exciting as you can see.
On weekends, it’s family time mostly. We have church on Sunday mornings and then most of the time, dinner with one or both sets of grandparents on Sunday evenings. It’s a time to rest, and spend time meaningfully with the kids—which could mean an excursion to the beach, park, museum, play area, swimming etc.
S: What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from being a father?
M: Just to be in the room. Kids don’t need you to be like any other man (especially the ones you see on TV). They just need you to be your best you—patient, loving, tender-hearted, and present.
S: How differently do you dress on your weekends off, or when you’re just headed out around the neighbourhood?
M: (laughs) I kinda enjoy the freedom to dress terribly for my NTUC run. I don’t care! It’s the weekend so I can wear what I want—I’m usually in a singlet, shorts and slippers.
S: How does your style fit into your lifestyle?
M: I don’t have that many clothes, but I try to look “put together” regardless of the occasion (unless I’m on a neighbourhood NTUC run). My everyday uniform is generally a long sleeved shirt and jeans. This can be dressed up with a blazer for meetings. On the weekends, I’d wear a long-sleeved shirt with shorts but it depends, it could be with a t-shirt underneath as an extra layer. That said, recently I’ve been digging the polo shirt—there’s something really classic about that silhouette.
S: How important is style and comfort to you?
M: I think it really depends on the occasion. On most days, when I’m working, I try to be comfortable. It’s usually 75% comfort and 25% style on regular days. On special occasions or when I have presentations, when you need to rock up a bit and look the part, then people will expect you to look more professional.
S: In your opinion, how do you manage to stay comfortable and be stylish both at once?
M: Having the right fit—just knowing what looks good on you and not being afraid to make adjustments off the rack. Also, with the horrendous weather here in Singapore, choosing breathable items and not being kay kiang (“biting off more than you can chew”) and wearing a wool shirt! (laughs)
S: Share with us the three things you’ll look out for when purchasing a clothing item.
M: Cut, Colour, and Cost.
S: Describe your style in three words.
M: Mark D’s Three C’s— Clean (I’m not a massive prints guy), Comfort (Singapore’s hot, guys…) and Crossover (same items, different permutations).
S: Clothes for everyday wear, be it for home, work or play—share with us some of your style hacks.
M: Style hacks? God is in the details, and the fit. I feel like fit is super important. The clothes don’t need to be expensive, but if they fit right, they look good 99% of the time. Little details like pocket squares (even in shirts), a nice watch, or interesting accessories help to elevate outfits. With most of my clothes, I try to find ones that can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion, and these pants fall in that category. They surprised me the first time I wore them as they fit pretty darn well for an off-the-rack piece.
S: How you would take an outfit from day to night?
M: Perhaps contrary to most, my daywear is pretty casual. I find that a blazer (a well-fitted one, of course) can help an outfit transition rather effortlessly. For example, these pants are a cool hybrid that won’t look out of place with either a blazer or a t-shirt.
S: If you could raid anyone’s wardrobe, who would it be and why?
M: Either one of the twin brothers behind Les Freres Joachim, this French menswear blog. I’ve admired their super well-put-together outfits for ages. They’ve got great individual items that they match together really well, every single time.
S: What’s something funny that has happened to you recently?
M: I got asked to model UNIQLO’s ankle pants! (laughs)
S: What’s a typeface that best describes you?
M: Make that the one I’m working hard to finish—Morris. It was my graduation project at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. I put everything I loved and learned into that. Not quite a magnum opus but definitely something close to my heart.
S: If you could say something to the world all at once, what would it be and why?
M: Stop for just one day, look around you and be thankful for what you have, and think about how to make it better. I feel we spend our days chasing things that perhaps don’t really lead to true success.
S: Time freezes for everyone but you for one day. What do you do?
M: Spend time with the family. Go for a picnic, which I’ve been wanting to do but haven’t for a really long time.
S: What’s the closest thing to magic?
M: Knowing that you’re loved and holding your own child in your arms.