Florence-based shoe designer Mashizan Masjum has many fond memories as a student of the School of Communication Studies’ (as the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information was previously known) pioneering cohort 25 years ago.
“I loved my academic years. I made so many good friends that I’m very close with even till today, including some teachers,” said Masjum, who was also the first vice-president of the school’s Communication Studies Club (as the Communication Information Club was previously known).
As the club’s vice-president, Masjum was actively involved in the school activities, from debating to performing in school plays. The former broadcast journalist also recalled how he discovered the storyteller in him during his undergraduate days, when he served as one the first editors at The Nanyang Chronicle.
After a 20-year-long career in broadcast journalism, where he worked with networks such as National Geographic, Masjum took a sabbatical in 2013 to study shoe design in Florence.
Today, Masjum owns an eponymous luxury shoe label known as Mashizan that is based in Florence and distributed in multi-label boutiques and department stores in New York, Milan, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
For some, switching from documentary filmmaking to shoemaking may seem like a big jump. But for Masjum, the two share many similarities. As he puts it, his career now combines “the best of both worlds,” as he gets to combine visual storytelling through the company’s campaign films with shoe designing.
“What I do now is still about storytelling, and each collection of mine that I come up with is inspired by a previous documentary I’ve done before,” said Masjum, who credits his time in WKWSCI as the catalyst for rousing his inner storyteller. “So in some ways, storytelling will always be with me.”
Masjum’s penchant for telling stories through fashion was evident even from his undergraduate days. One of his fondest memories from his days in WKWSCI include directing a fashion show for the school’s first anniversary.
“What I do now is still about storytelling, and each collection of mine that I come up with is inspired
by a previous
I’ve done before.”
“We held a fashion show on the steps of the Chinese Heritage Centre, which was our school back then, before the current building was up. We created a catwalk coming down the steps; the girls were the models for the show, and we had German fashion designer Karl Lagerfield as our sponsor,” he said.
WKWSCI students used to be housed at the Chinese Heritage Center (CHC), which students used to call the ‘museum building.’
“That was fun, because no one in NTU had thought of holding a fashion show,” Masjum added. “Years later, people were still talking about the girls from our school, and the image of the school as being hip, glamorous and fun.”
Despite all the years that have passed, Masjum still feels a great sense of fondness of his time in WKWSCI, and ranks his experience there as invaluable.
“The relationships that I built, the experience I got in running the CS Club and The Nanyang Chronicle - you can’t buy that,” said Masjum, who remains in close contact with several of his classmates and teachers from the time.
Even back when the facilities weren’t as advanced, and the current blue and white building was non-existent – it was still a time to be remembered.
“In my time, there was no sense of history, tradition, and we didn’t have high tech equipment,” said Masjum. “But all of us wanted to make something out of the programme, all of us were very driven, creative - and I think that’s why the first batch is very special.”