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14th May 2024 EDT RELEASES

Mr. Sabotage Revisits His Roots With the SBTG x XLARGE Collaboration

Ahead of the 18 May 2024 release of the limited-edition capsule, Mr. Sabotage shares his history with XLARGE, how the designs came to be, and their significance to him.

Mr. Sabotage Revisits His Roots With the SBTG x XLARGE Collaboration
Mr. Sabotage Revisits His Roots With the SBTG x XLARGE Collaboration

Singapore hasn’t always been the “land of opportunity” when it comes to art, let alone sneakers—at least hitherto Mark Ong’s arrival. Better known as Mr. Sabotage, in his hands, through his craft, the seemingly disparate worlds of punk rock, skateboarding, basketball, and military motifs find harmony.

Still one of the country’s greatest exports, for over two decades he’s been a global ambassador for the island nation, transforming the Little Red Dot on the map into a creative beacon.

Now, he’s viewed as a luminary akin to his predecessors like Jeff Staple and Futura. The former, becoming a collaborator on many occasions; the latter, an early inspiration, now his blueprint for longevity.

By way of his SBTG (Surplus) imprint, he’s collaborated with the likes of Nike, New Balance, and ASICS—just a few in an exhaustive list; even extending his artistry beyond shoes to include clothing, a camera, a credit card, and a cornucopia of others.

His latest collaborator, by extension, is also his first. XLARGE’s influence on him was very much intrinsic before SBTG the brand came to be. Thus, this collection in essence is a full circle moment, a nostalgic homecoming.

Mark Ong/Mr Sabotage (SBTG) Interview

What are the things that tether SBTG and XLARGE? What is the link bridge between the two that made this crossover possible, that made sense for the collaboration to happen?

It’s really interesting. Around the year 2000, a bunch of friends and I used to work as storeboys in a place that sells XLARGE. So I’m very familiar with the collection, the history, and I have a personal love for the brand. So to be able to do a collection together, it’s an honor, man. It’s like a dream come true, coming full circle.

You’ve been at this for so long, over 20 years.

Y2K, man. That was Y2K, that was before I started my brand. I was kind of formulating my brand inside, so XLARGE definitely gave me a lot of influence in terms of starting my own.

At that point, have you started on customizing shoes or was it still incubating in your mind?

Definitely incubating. So I collected a lot of vintage sneakers back in the day. Back then, there were no retro sneakers until the first Nike Dunk came out in 1999. When the first retros were released, I thought, “Oh, this is available now and I could use it as a canvas.” So I started painting on it.

Then the rest is history.

The rest is history. And I started SBTG in 2003.

Mark Ong/Mr Sabotage (SBTG) Interview

Considering that it’s a full-circle moment for you, what was your first reaction when the opportunity to collaborate with XLARGE presented itself?

Things always have a way of coming full circle. It has happened so many times. I was pleasantly surprised but I wasn’t so taken aback. I knew it, I knew the day would come, even if it took 24 years.

So it’s a great opportunity; I already knew what I wanted to do and proposed the concept, got it approved, and bam! Rocking this (showing off a piece of the collection he’s wearing) out.

Mark Ong/Mr Sabotage (SBTG) Interview

How did you decide the art direction the project will take? What was your process like in creating these designs?

It was pretty straightforward, featuring two logos. XLARGE’s OG logo is very iconic. We wore it as a crest. We were proud of it.

So when I started my brand, I wanted to create something iconic as well, which is the Arabic logo. So the essence of it is kind of the same, as is the design direction.

To merge them together, I took inspiration from old punk flyers where you would take elements from different magazines to form your own messages. Kind of like ransom notes. In the spirit of custom and DIY culture, I used that approach to combine these logos together on a shirt.

Did you encounter any challenges in this process or was it more of a cathartic experience?

When the opportunity came to collaborate with XLARGE, I think the Japanese team was in Singapore but I wasn’t around at that time.

But they copped one of my t-shirts which has this split-up/mashup concept. They said they really liked it, and that’s when the stars aligned. I was like, “Yo, why don’t we combine the SBTG logo and the XLARGE logo in this way?” And boom, it’s done.

A lot of people ask what was the hardest part, but there were no hard parts. I enjoyed the entire process and the brand resonated with me because of my history with them, so it was more excitement than hardship.

And I also have a good partner who manufactures my clothes, and it’s amazing that every time I’d Photoshop a design and send it to him, he brings it back to me exactly the way I want. So less hardship, more joy.

By this point, XLARGE is a legacy streetwear brand with a well-established design language and iconography. Something that’s unique to you, were there new elements you managed to bring to the brand through this collaboration, that perhaps would help introduce XLARGE to a new audience?

I had a connection with XLARGE for as long as 20–25 years so I wanted to present this collection as a kind of vintage t-shirt to reflect that history. So if you see the pieces, the shirts are washed and the seams are single-stitched to give it a little old school vibe.

I think XLARGE hasn’t been around in Singapore for a long time and me having a special history with them, I spoke to the dudes that carried the brand back in the day and they were all really excited. My brand is kind of new compared to theirs, but I wanted to do the opposite where SBTG is a vintage t-shirt and XLARGE is a new t-shirt. Mix it up a little bit.

And I feel that’s a really, really good way my audience can learn a little bit about my history before SBTG was created—especially in this format: punk-inspired where you tear out flyers and stuff and put it together. It’s that DIY [element] that always catches eyes and draws a lot of attention.

Mark Ong/Mr Sabotage (SBTG) Interview

You’ve such an expansive body of work. With your personal resonance with XLARGE, where does this rank among all your previous ones?

You can’t choose your favorite child but I always say that my favorite is the latest one. I’m very big on being present. So when people ask me about the past collaborations that I’ve done, sometimes at that moment, I would forget. I’m always looking ahead. But this’s definitely one of my favorites. This bears so much meaning to me, seeing these two logos together.

Mark Ong/Mr Sabotage (SBTG) Interview

Commemorative SBTG x XLARGE x PUMA Suede Customs (not for sale)

A grunge aesthetic, ‘80s Americana, pop culture references, military motifs are all recurring elements in your work. What about them fascinates you that they’re mainstays in your creations?

To touch on one, military aesthetics is because I was serving the army in Singapore back then in the year 2000 to 2002. I hated it, man. But I was always paying attention to the graphics, the tanks, the way everything was applied, the stenciling, the camouflage.

That’s where I took inspiration, that’s when I spent a lot of time formulating my brand leading to its military aesthetic. So when I started painting sneakers, I did a lot of camouflage and that became a discipline.

The first time you paint it, it looks like shit. There are so many layers to it where you had to prep the paint, you had to do a lot of prep work to form the shapes until it becomes a language in your head where you could just freestyle.

That took a long time, so creating that military aesthetic and camouflage pattern became a friend and a teacher. It also taught me success and failure. That’s my relationship with camouflage and military aesthetics. It’s a discipline.

The grunge aesthetic was through punk rock and skateboarding. That was the soundtrack when I started skating so I took a lot of influence from that. I always say, I’m a punk rocker before a skateboarder, and then an artist. In that order.

SBTG x Nike Dunk High “Varsity Bones” Custom for Kobe Bryant

Your clientele, or fan base even, have included some of the biggest names in the world. Off the top, what’re the personal highlights you’ve had in your career?

Besides skateboarding, punk rock, and being an artist, I’m also a basketball fan. I’ve met many greats, I’ve met the late great Kobe Bryant—rest in peace.

I did a shoe for him in 2008 when he came to Singapore and Nike wanted to do a national gift for him so I customized a pair of shoes, presented it to him at the Nike store. It was a huge honor and I remember clearly in my head, he said—when I explained the concept—“That’s what’s up!”

Looking back, I kind of miss that. I kind of wish I had more time with him. Several years went by and I got to meet Stephen Curry and did a shoe for him too. Down my portfolio, I have done two shoes for two champions.

In between that, there was a conversation of me doing a pair for Jordan in Japan but that didn’t come to fruition. That’s my biggest regret. But yeah, never say never. That would be my dream.

But when you met them, that was prime Kobe and prime Steph. Back in 2008, that was MVP Kobe. The concept of those shoes you did for him, an alternate reality, only a basketball fan, only a real Kobe fan could really appreciate its genius.

So we did a shoe based on what if he went to Duke University—which he didn’t. So that was a fictional concept that we presented to him. That’s why he said, “That’s what’s up!”

It’s so fresh, even for him. Designers could’ve just taken the Lakers colorway and dressed the shoes. But this was conceptual, taking his history into account and reimagining it. It’s still mind blowing thinking about it today.

Yes, conceptual. I’m very happy you know that!

SBTG; Stephen Curry; Under Armour

SBTG x Limited Edt x Under Armour Curry 5 Custom for Stephen Curry

Having laid your signature on almost everything, from sneakers, toys, to luggages, and a credit card even, what’re things that you’re itching for an opportunity to work on still?

An airplane.

Is there a specific type of airplane, a fighter jet or a commercial airplane?

Singapore Airlines, man! I always wanted to do something for the country. We’re such a young nation, less than a hundred years old. We’re in this position where you could write history. Whether you like it or not, it’s there for you to write it. So I always wanted to do a pair of sneakers for the military and a plane for our airline.

How do you imagine it being?

When the day comes, it would be an application of what I’m into during that time. Having been in this for a long time, I know how to do something sick. [Grins]

Mark Ong/Mr Sabotage (SBTG) Interview12

Would you encourage others to follow in your footsteps? What would it take for them to excel as you have?

Being an entrepreneur, an artist, to survive for this long, you have to learn business as well. A lot of people don’t want that, they just want to let their art speak for itself. I want to say that in this day and age, that doesn’t really happen anymore. It’s not a nice thing to say… but don’t be naive. You have to learn both, both have to coexist, or get a partner.

Work with a partner and have someone manage you because it’s a long, hard, and lonely road. I’m a natural optimist. I got my training from failure out of skateboarding. You try a trick, you don’t always land it. You fail a lot so I developed this relationship with failure and we became friends. And that’s why I feel I could last this long.

If there’s something to take away from this interview: Become a friend of failure, and you get longevity from that, because success is its byproduct.

When all is said and done, what do you want people to say about you and your legacy?

I want people to say that I have contributed to the history of Singapore, to the history of Southeast Asia, by changing the game, by putting us on the map.

Do you have any message for the SNKRDUNK community?

Enjoy yourself, immerse yourself in this culture that we’re in. Because it is great right now. It is a good time right now. We have an abundance of products, collaborations, and creativity being pumped into this culture. There’s never been a better time.

Mark Ong/Mr Sabotage (SBTG) Interview

Image Source: SNKRDUNK; HYPEBEAST; Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore

SBTG x XLARGE Collection Release Details

The SBTG x XLARGE Collection will be released on Friday, 17 May, 9PM (ET) / Saturday, 18 May, 9AM (SGT), exclusively on the SNKRDUNK App.

But for a limited time, the pieces will be available at the SNKRDUNK Singapore Flagship Store on launch day from 11AM (SGT). To commemorate the release, Mr. Sabotage (Mark Ong) himself will be present at the popup from 2PM to 3:30PM (SGT). Don’t miss the chance to get your tees signed, pick his brain, or take a pic!

SNKRDUNK Singapore
333A Orchard Rd
#01-09B Mandarin Gallery
Singapore 238897


SBTG is the creative entity that encompasses the multimedium work of Mr. Sabotage.

From apparel to accessories, SBTG designs both ready-made offerings and made-to-order items, featuring the punk-inspired and military motifs he has made his signature.

XLARGE is a pioneering streetwear brand that opened in November 1991 at Los Angeles’ Vermont Avenue.

Fusing the cultures of MUSIC, ART, and SKATEBOARDING, XLARGE elevates practical clothing beyond just everyday wear, but also as a canvas for fashion.

HYPE DROP is SNKRDUNK’s next-generation concept store for the curious and fashion-forward.

The offerings are specially curated to include the most-hyped brands and designers, with regular releases of exclusive collaborations.

Streetwear on the SNKRDUNK App