Founder of Onlewo, Mike Tay on telling the Singapore story through fabrics

If you are a big fan of prints, you would be in for a treat at Onlewo. Mike Tay is the founder and designer of Onlewo, a Singapore lifestyle brand that features iconic Singapore landmarks and motifs on products like cushion covers, wallpaper and furniture upholstery. Mike has been featured among the top 50 Most Influential Singapore Designer in Singapore Tatler Homes, 2016.

We had a quick catch up with Mike to hear about the inspiration behind his brand.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Mike. You have no formal training in design but have managed to create such beautiful designs. What got you started on fabric design? 

During a mid-career break, I took time to explore the city and went around taking photos. During my free time, I started playing with images digitally and fell in love with the experience of pattern creation. That was how it started.

How did you get the business started? Were there any interesting milestones? 

I had an idea to start a collection of wallpaper based on my love for Tiong Bahru where I lived for 7 years. The space, food, architecture inspired me to share the unique charm of this hood. Then I searched for wallpaper printer online to start a catalogue.

Thereafter, I signed up with Singapore Furniture Fair for a booth to introduce my brand together with my first collection of fabrics. Few months later, I had a chance to participate in a pop-up fair at Singapore Design Center selling cushion covers, wallpapers and stool using my fabrics. The response was encouraging. A week later, I was lucky to receive a coverage on ST Life whereby more people knew about my brand. 

Your brand draws inspiration from places and cultures in Singapore. What made you decide to do that? 

What can be more compelling than tapping on things and places that move me? Naturally I look inwards to this country that I call home. 

How do you intend to preserve the culture and heritage of Singapore through your fabrics? 

Each fabric has a title and my story to introduce the pattern behind it. I hope that it will inspire and bond our community together over our shared identity.

What is the most interesting thing you have seen your fabric on? 

I can’t say which is the most interesting as my fabrics are made into apparels, upholstery and curtains. The application is quite wide. But I love seeing how the fabrics transform a space and a piece of furniture.

How do you think the design industry has evolved in Singapore over the years? 

People are encouraged to try through pop-ups running throughout the year. It gives young designers a platform to showcase at a low cost. So we have seen a growth in talents. 

Is there a quote or life motto that you live by? 

Find joy through simple things in life that give you the balance and peace.

Lastly, what’s the future plans for Onlewo? 

Besides designing fabrics for interior use, we are also an ID company with 12 years experience. Interior styling and designing inspired by our heritage and culture in the true sense is our core interest and passion that will spur us forward. 

Check out Onleweo products at

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