Welcome to CONNECT SERIES: 2021, where we talk to our brilliant and budding MRF founders! Here we explore the ups and downs and the wins and fails of pursuing your dream of starting a label... And most importantly the wisdom, tips and tricks you learn along the way!
This week we speak to Joshua Tong about his founders journey at MAHŌ!
What skills have helped you on your journey to create your dream brand?
I came from a corporate banking background of 15 years, and my money management skills are terrible, (so it wasn't my professional skills that helped me throughout my journey!)... It was sheer determination and drive to chase my creative nature, and a true love for design and retail that lead to MAHŌ and now exhibiting at MRF.
What lies in the heart of your brand and designs?
MAHŌ means magic in Japanese, our tag is 'A Little Magic' which is what I hope to bring to each customer. It's all in the details. Refinement and elegance are all about spending the time and energy to achieve perfection in the subtle details. Appealing to discerning senses through the refined and consistent selection of materials, colours, language, user experience – online and tactile, is what guides the design process of the brand.
What is one key piece of advice you have learned on your journey?
Design is only a small part of the business, so if that's what you love, do more of it and surround yourself with people who can support you for all the things you don't know.
Do you have advice for other designers launching a brand or product?
Take as much time as you need – you will know when it's right. Always be true to your own aesthetic.
What is the best part of your role?
Conceptualisation and design – this is what drives me every day. I feel that you need to do more of the roles you love and are strongest in, to really enjoy the journey.
What skills have served you well on your journey?
Not so much a skill, but I think my genuine passion for my craft and the industry I am a part of, whether as a consumer or a maker. I also think creativity and an un-restrained ability to express my style through my products/designs.
What do you want people to know about your brand/your role?
Coming from a family of Vietnamese heritage, we use incense as a form of prayer and spirituality, and also on the anniversaries of those who have passed to pay our respects and converse with those we lost. My Mother would tell me that when we burn incense (especially at the welcoming of the Lunar New Year) our hopes and wishes would transcend to the heavens and this is where our wishes would be heard. When my Mother passed suddenly in 2011 my world came crumbling down. I fell into a world of darkness, but because of what she taught me about incense as a child, I would sit by her altar and burn incense – one after another in the hopes that she would hear me. I didn't realise until years later that the very act of doing so gave me a sense of calm and connection. MAHŌ was created to share the powerful transcendent qualities of scent and smoke to bring a sense of calm and relaxation – to share A Little Magic.
What challenges have you faced getting to where you are now? Is there one that stands out the most?
It's my 2nd year since launch, however the process was about 4 years in the making and I clearly remember a big personal challenge for me was self-doubt during the early days development. It was a sense of unknowing that casted fear – I just remind myself daily that is my dream and there is nothing to fear but the fear of not going for it.
What's a non-negotiable in your schedule?
I will always start my day with a self-care ritual setup. A pot of herbal tea (as I don't drink coffee), my favourite incense lit in my studio, and a calming playlist on the background. This ensures I start the work day with intent and good vibes only.
What product are you most excited to launch at MRF?
I am soo excited to introduce 2 new fragrances and 2 new burner designs:
Oud Bohême – a dark and earthy fragrance that will take you to the sand dunes of Arabia, and Wander Bloom – a delicious fruity floral fragrance that will take you to the floating markets of the Mekong delta
Connect with Josh and MAHŌ at MRF 2021!