Into The Atelier: Motoguo

Bedazzled is an understatement in this case.

If you walked through a walkway that bears close resemblances to a law firm straight out of a 1950s film, it’s where the Motoguo team craft their magic. As soon as we set foot into the space, we are welcome by a huge and gigantic space pod in yellow. Moto Guo, the founder of the eponymous brand, explains that vintage nostalgia has always been the brand’s identity and the space pod is a signature centrepiece of the studio. “It’s inspired by the Futuro pod from the Sixties, an experimental residence usually placed in forests or isolated places,” Moto explains. Kinder Eng, co-founder of the brand then chips in with excitement, noting that this is a rejuvenating pod too, as it’s strategically located at the “health section” according to a Feng Shui master.

Jay Perry Ang, who co-founded the brand, shares that the team moved in two years ago, but the renovation of the studio took a year because of the COVID lockdown. “Fortunately, moving is not much of a hassle for us because our previous office—which is half the size of what we have now—is just one level above.” The effort put into the design of the space is apparent—every nook and cranny is unique on its own and eccentric, to say the least. Eng, who was fully in charge of the design, shared that he was heavily influenced by Officine Universelle Buly’s brick-and-mortar store, a fragrance brand based in Paris. While the brand houses an expansive collection of antiques and vintage decors, they tend to also add elements that clash with each other, creating a striking contrast—just take the 1950s stairway that leads to the spaceship-looking pod in Motoguo, for example. Eng gestures towards the pantry, “The lights [in the pantry] are designed to look like the ones used above an operating table in a dental clinic, while the furniture reminds you of an American diner. As for the rest area, it’s more nature-inspired. The mat has a mountain, lake, and pond lookalike colour scheme.”

A quick tour around the studio and you will surprise yourself with some kitschy, one-of-a-kind trinkets sitting in the most unexpected corners. “The trophy-looking vases in the pantry and this painting on the bookshelf are from our friends. We travelled a fair bit for business throughout the years and were given an opportunity to collaborate with artists based all around the world,” Eng shares as he patted Rubber, the pet dog casually strolling around the studio. He added that amassing vintage knick-knacks and collectables has always been something they enjoyed even in their personal time.

“We wanted to get vintage furniture we found on our trip to Bangkok, but the shipping fee was beyond what we could afford. Hence, we aborted the plan,” Ang—who takes charge of budget allocation—shares with disappointment etched on his face. In spite of that, the studio does, however, smell very much like a vintage store. “It’s the smell of aged items. The closest scent we found is the Diptyque Eau Des Sens; it has a tinge of bitter orange and is very citrusy,” says Eng. Dabbling into lifestyle products is on Moto Guo’s to-do list. The pillowcase, for instance, is one of their first steps. For someone who only has perfume on his beauty list, Moto notes that venturing into incense is the next step they are looking to explore as a brand.

When asked which was their favourite part of the studio, Moto responded without hesitation, “The toilet. I spend a lot of time in there thinking and pondering! The toilet is an immersive space, and we even have a heated toilet seat!” he blurts, laughing as he tried to justify his preferences. Eng seconded that by saying the hallway that leads to the toilet is his personal favourite. “The tinsel decoration at the end of the hallway is an artwork by PLNO (Party Like No Others),” Eng points out. On the retro-futuristic tile sat a green-lined mirror found on Etsy, alongside the silver-toned delicately carved shower knobs that the trio scored from a warehouse sale. “I had to stand and watch behind their backs when the builders put them up on the wall because handling these dainty things is not easy. Plus, we spent a lot of time and effort sourcing and dragging them back!” Ang chuckles.

It’s hard to dismiss the passion they have for the atelier they managed to secure after making a name for themselves over the past six years. The studio is a huge milestone for them, personally and professionally. “My own place is not as nicely decorated. We spent too much effort on our studio. But I guess it’s alright since we do live in the studio sometimes during the peak periods.” Moto shrugs, face beaming with pride. Despite that, there’s one part of the well-beloved atelier that Moto is itching to change: the double-duty bright pink curtains that also serve as the backdrop for photo shoots. “I prefer something crazier—more prints maybe. We always say that we can sew it ourselves instead of buying them, but deep down we know it will never happen,” Moto confesses. With clientele all over the world, being busy has become the norm for the team, but when asked if they ever thought about moving their headquarters elsewhere, they reveal, in unison, that business-wise, Malaysia remains the most budget-friendly country for operations despite production limitations.