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 two features Miki Gao, 28.

Read part one here and part three here.


While Gao has no formal art education, she has been artistically inclined since she was a child. “My younger cousins loved getting me to draw for them, and I’ve always enjoyed picking up hobbies like crocheting and jewellery making.”

She has turned that dexterity with her hands into a successful 13-year career so far, as a full-time hairstylist at Kim Robinson, and the go-to hairstylist for many local It girls and socialites.


Photo: Darren Chang


If you have been following her on Instagram, you will have noticed that she is also an occasional artist who paints cartoon characters, animals, Marvel superheroes and the like on leather and canvas bags, pouches and cases –  a hobby she picked up in 2013. “I wanted to find a passion outside of hairstyling. And I started to paint.”


Photo: Darren Chang


Her first project wasn’t marquage. It was a mural on multi-label boutique Tribeca’s wall at Forum The Shopping Mall in 2013. Her dabbling in marquage only started the following year when socialite Jamie Chua, her regular client at Kim Robinson, entrusted her with her Birkin So Black bag to paint on. “I had never painted on leather before, but Jamie encouraged me to try. I made the mistake of using acrylic paint on it – not a good medium, as it gradually peeled off. I repainted it with leather paint a year later.”

She has since painted on one more bag and two leather jackets for Chua, and has more customers from the salon.


Photo: Darren Chang


“Although I’m partial to pop-culture characters, I am still trying to find my personal style and am learning more. My customers usually leave the design to me, though some have requested specific designs. I usually try to accommodate what they like of ask for, but I add personal touches or tweaks to complement the client’s personality and preferences. For example, when I painted Simpsons characters on matching cardholders for me and my boyfriend, I painted them wearing football jerseys and holding footballs, because my boyfriend likes the sport.”


Photo: Darren Chang


Contact Gao via Instagram for her marquage services. This is her part-time gig, so the wait will take months. Her charges vary according to the complexity of the design and size of bag and material; the price is steeper for materials which have an uneven surface, like crocodile skin. Gao does not paint on patent leather or PVC, because the paint peels off them easily.


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