One-on-one with the Singaporean who tries to dress men better

Mention ‘menswear’ and strain your ears for the collective groan of fashionable gentlemen all over Singapore for whom style is often relegated to fast fashion labels such as Uniqlo or H&M—not that it’s a bad thing, hardly, but it’s so, you know, expected. Enter Collin Goh, founder of A for ARCADE, who is here to revolutionise menswear by creating and curating wardrobe staples that bring a fresh new breath of air to men’s fashion. In this interview, Collin shares how his business objectives for Arcade has changed since its inception in 2006 and the role fashion plays amidst calls for inclusivity and environmental-consciousness.

Collin Goh

Zat: Humour me a tad. Describe what you do for a living in exactly five words and elaborate on your thought process behind this choice.

Collin Goh: I run a fashion business. There are two passions I have for quite a while now: branding and fashion. I love the intricacies and subtlety a good branding campaign requires and the endless possibility and creativity clothing and styling provide. This path has always been something that intrigues me organically, and I’m just very fortunate to be able to do this for a living.

What was your childhood like growing up, and how has this affected the decisions you’ve made now in both your personal and professional life?

Collin Goh: I won’t say I’m a conscious five or 10-year plan kind of person. I also don’t live day by day. So it’s hard to draw a direct inference of my current life to my upbringing. I had a childhood with a great amount of freedom. Nobody ever told me I couldn’t do something. I was allowed to dabble in whatever I fancied, and nobody ever told me I’m not good at it. I just had to figure most things out by myself. I will say somehow that has led me to become quite an independent thinker and willing to make and shoulder whatever decisions I make.

Who or what inspires you the most, and what can we learn from your source of inspiration that would help us live a more fulfilled life?

Collin Goh: A fulfilled life is one where you feel you are doing your best and bettering yourself every day. Ok, every day is unrealistic, but along the way, I always remind myself to think ahead before I act on anything. If my current action might not lead to where I want to be, I’ll most likely not act on it.

To answer the question, I’m most inspired by the late Steve Jobs, sports personalities like Michael Jordan, the late Kobe Bryant, and many real-life stories I stumble upon every day. Some can be significantly life-changing.

Collin Goh 2

How has your business objectives for ARCADE changed or shifted since its inception in 2006?

Collin Goh: Our business objective at ARCADE has been chiefly about doing things that we personally feel excited about. We don’t have lofty goals of being a global fashion retailer. We think of it more as a bunch of people who share a common sense of appreciation for fashion and ideas and just execute ideas to the best we can, along the way keeping to a brand ethos that is light-hearted and hopefully inspiring.

What role do you see fashion playing in a world beleaguered by debates about identity, climate change, and post-pandemic new normals?

Collin Goh: Fashion has a specific purpose, to me at least. It should make us feel good about ourselves. If your identity is compromised wearing something, you shouldn’t be wearing it. If you think this brand is not in line with your climate change ideals, don’t buy and support them. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing this brand or particular style of clothing in this new norm, don’t wear it. Fashion alone can’t change the world.

Model with his foot on a skateboard

ARCADE is one of the few fashion retailers in Singapore with an extensive, dedicated, and diverse clothing range for men. Is this inclusion a result of burgeoning demand or a reflection of the evolving zeitgeist of fashion?

Collin Goh: We started the Arcade menswear line in 2012. Back then, it was out of my personal desire to create clothes that resonates with my dress sense. Now, I’m just glad that we can be one of the few in Singapore who try to dress men better. Demand for good clothing for men has been on the rise, and we are just beginning to scratch the surface. We hope to see more men pay more attention to what they wear outside of work in the near future. Function and form can co-exist. Dressing is more a form of self-expression, not necessarily narcissism.

What are your current top three favourite cultural phenomena that you’re obsessed with, and why?

Collin Goh: I don’t think what I’m into is considered cultural phenomena, but currently, I’m into picking up a
new sport – skateboarding, the anime AOT and neo-vintage sneakers.