From The Straits Times    |

Photo: Darren Chang


The French word marquage describes the art of literally making a mark. In this series, three marquage artists here who specialise in painting on luxury goods tell us how they fell into this growing art, the styles they each do best, and how they can make your leather goods truly your own. Part three features Cherin Sim, 31.

Read part one here and part two here.


Before marquage became a full-time gig for Sim, she made bespoke leather bags after attending a leatherworking course in Italy. To value-add to the service, she started personalising the bags she made for her customers. 

From there, she refined her painting skills for her portfolio and experience by working on her own items and her friends’, at minimal or no cost.


Photo: Darren Chang


Eventually, a paying customer commissioned Sim to paint a Louis Vuitton Delightful GM in October 2015 – the first luxury bag she ever painted on. “The owner of the bag engaged me to alter it into a bucket bag and paint the Powerpuff Girls onto it.”


Photo: Darren Chang


But that wasn’t her “first breakthrough”, which she says happened in August 2016, when a client came to her with a Louis Vuitton Keepall 55 (pictured above), requested an Astroboy theme, and told her to “give me something from you”. “That was when I started looking at the canvas as my own and taking ownership of what I created,” Sim says.

“I would like to think that I can paint anything. I never paint the same thing twice, so technically, it’s always a new challenge each time as I never really know what the final outcome will be.


Photo: Darren Chang


“My strength lies in pop art, icons, and cartoons in a Superflat style. Superflat is a term coined by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. It’s a style with no gradient or shadows, but can still look 3-D – just like old school cartoons. I like that it looks more graphic and stands out more on the canvas. Sometimes, I also paint realistic works. But what I paint is largely dependent on my client – my understanding of the client’s preferences, the item I am painting on, and the subject matter I will be painting, which will determine the suitability of the style that I choose to apply.

“Another of my signatures is imperfect symmetry, where the left and right sides of a piece are different, but look the same from afar.


Photo: Darren Chang


“My custom work starts from $1,000. The fee goes up according to the size (very small or very big is more expensive), the number of colours (more colours are more expensive), the number of straight lines (the straighter the lines, the tougher it is; it requires a lot of patience, skill and good handling of the brush to paint a perfectly straight line or circle freehand), the size of the details (small details are harder to paint), the material (super grainy leather and super-smooth leather are more difficult to paint on).

“When clients need something urgent to be made for gifting on special occasions, I sometimes accommodate them if I can. Although most of the time, I don’t, because I always prioritise the clients I’ve already promised a deadline to.

“In cases where I agree to expedite an order, I charge 30 per cent more, because it means I will be losing sleep over completing that particular piece.”


Photo: Darren Chang


Sim is so dedicated to her craft that she flies over to Japan up to four times a year to buy paintbrushes. Getting them online is not an option “because they may be damaged on the way”. She retires her brushes after every one to three projects, so the trips are essential. “I choose my brushes by picking up an entire bunch, and examining each one carefully to identify the ones with the smoothest and neatest bristles. My tools are always of the best quality as I believe that great tools make a great craftsman. Good brushes make my work flow, and make the outcome of my work better. I spend more than $2,000 on paints and brushes a year.”

Contact Sim via Instagram (@simcherin), but be prepared to wait until 2020, as she is fully booked up to end 2019.


This story was first published in the November 2018 issue of Her World, as part of a feature titled Up To The Mark.


Photography Darren Chang

Styling Bryan Goh

Makeup Marie Soh, using Laura Mercier

Hair Den Ng/Prep Luxe