A Nike collection to commemorate its founder’s heroic service
CULTURE Published: April 25, 2019 Updated: April 30, 2019  |  WORDS: Amirul Shazzani

Meet Sam Lo, the Singaporean artist behind Nike’s Jewel Changi Airport store design

Nike’s newest outlet at Jewel Changi Airport celebrates all things local, thanks to artist Sam Lo. 

A Nike collection to commemorate its founder’s heroic service
Singaporean artist, Sam Lo, collaborated with Nike to put a local stamp on the store – from t-shirt designs to permanent murals.
File photo

The eighth Nike store in Singapore, which opened last week, is also the largest one in Southeast Asia.

Nike has made its biggest move in Singapore. As if that’s not exciting enough, the brand has sweetened the experience by embracing Singapore’s culture and incorporating it into the design of its duplex unit – one of the key retail spaces in Jewel Changi Airport. For those who have visited the store, the hyperlocal twist in the store design is hard to miss – especially the giant Peranakan tile-inspired “Just Do It” slogan between the first and second levels of the store. But who is behind these designs? Meet Singaporean artist, Sam Lo, also known as SKL0, as she talks about her experience collaborating with a prolific brand like Nike, her future plans, and her favorite sneakers of all time.

We read that the inspiration behind the mural you created for the Jewel store is the idea of breaking free from society’s rules. Why have you chosen to illustrate the act of breaking free – how does it relate to you and Nike the brand?
I think that breaking free is a highly relatable concept for most of us in this day and age. Although we are grateful for the things we have, soul-searching and wondering about the what-nows and what-ifs will always be on our minds, as an expression of our innate need for self-actualization. This seeking is not unique to Singaporeans, but to all of humanity. And Nike has captured that with its urge for us all to “Just Do It”. “Just Do It” is not a blasé statement – it is to be the best of who we are.

The patterns on the mural have this nostalgic feel about them that’s reminiscent of the traditional Peranakan floor tiles at old shophouses in Singapore. Why have you chosen to represent these tile patterns?
It’s sometimes argued that the Peranakan culture is not all-encompassing enough to be representative of Singapore, but it is something we all recognize and is very much a part of Singapore’s visual landscape. Peranakan designs are also unique in the way they present great detail on a large scale that becomes a whole visual expression that is more than the sum of their parts.

Your mural aside, what’s your favorite thing about the Nike Jewel store, the largest in Southeast Asia?
The fact that it has a place in Jewel, which is currently the most monumental addition to our visual vocabulary. Already, the attention to and appreciation of the Jewel experience has been incredible. Nike being a part of that is a huge statement – of Nike being a relatable and loud-and-proud brand that appeals to the senses of Singapore.

A Nike collection to commemorate its founder’s heroic service
One of the artworks by Sam Lo for the Nike Jewel store, inspired by the act of breaking free.
Nike Singapore

Your art tends to have a strong local flavor, usually by featuring the use of colloquial language. How did that come about?
To me, our colloquialisms are what makes us most Singaporean. Singaporeans come from all walks of life, a diversity of cultures and aspirations. But our colloquialisms are our stronghold – it will never be obsolete, it will always be. And it doesn’t matter which niche of society you’re from, it’s only natural – if you’re Singaporean, you just get it, and you just do it.

Your t-shirt designs exclusive to the Nike Jewel store are very relatable to Singaporeans. How did the process of collaborating with Nike on these tees come about?
Honestly, I’m both amazed and incredibly humbled by this opportunity, and I haven’t wrapped my head around how it came about. All I know is that some very important tastemakers saw something in my work, and made this all happen, and I was more than keen to get inside the powerful statement that Nike makes as a brand, and to make it our own – by a Singaporean, for Singaporeans.

You’ve worked with Nike on several projects. What’s the best part about working with a brand as prominent and influential as Nike?
It’s a privilege. Nike is a brand that I’ve come to love even as one of their loyal enthusiasts. Sneakers are very personal to me and the range that Nike constantly offers and continues to evolve has been a part of my life for such a long time.

A Nike collection to commemorate its founder’s heroic service
The Nike Jewel store houses the first ever full-fledged “Nike By You” in-store customization service in Southeast Asia, with t-shirt designs by Sam Lo featuring localized catchphrases.
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You’ve come a long way since getting arrested in 2012 for doing what street artists all over the world do. How has that experience impacted your psyche and how has it informed all the work you’ve done since?
It has made me more appreciative of the voice that I have as an artist. I am very fortunate for the opportunities that have come about as a result of what was a very unpleasant season in my life, and I would like to give a shout-out to all the people who have taken a chance on me before, during, and beyond that season. I have learned from so many Singaporean artists and many others involved with the creative scene, who have had my back and helped me grow as an artist continuously, and who saw me as just one of them – an artist, a Singaporean, and someone who has a voice and wants to make it count.

If you could pick a spot anywhere in the world to showcase your artwork, where would it be? And why?
Ideally, I’d like to be able to travel to as many places as I can to learn from and experience the cultures and art forms in different countries but if I have to pick one, I’d like to visit and practice in New York, to take in the fast-growing art scene and challenge myself in that environment.

Can you let us in on your upcoming plans?
I have had amazing opportunities in the past two years, both artistically and in having an influence on other things that matter. For now, I’d really like to just dig deeper into my artistic practice, cross paths with and collaborate with more amazing people, and push boundaries with what I can create.

Because we are Straatosphere, we have to ask: what’s your favorite pair of sneakers of all time?
My all-time favorite pair (and I wish I had them!) is the classic Air Jordan 1 OG in red, white and black. I also especially love the Jordans from Virgil’s ‘Ten Icons Reconstructed’ series.

Follow Sam Lo on Instagram for more of her work and collaborations.

Featured image: Nike Singapore

Read more: Thinking about getting these Singapore themed Nike tees? Just do it