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Tish Tambakau’s Mister Mode Fashion Night Market

Grace Yew

Fri Jul 13 2012

Tish Tambakau’s Mister Mode Night Market

FIND out how former international student from Malaysia Tish Tambakau turned a university project into Mister Mode, a thriving multicultural night market in an unbridled celebration of fashion, music and art.

The café where I meet Tish Tambakau is surrounded by a number of quaint independent businesses. It makes a fitting setting for our conversation as Tish, an expressive redhead, has begun an independent business herself.

Tish brings a special creative touch to all aspects of her work. Whether it’s her full-time job as an advertising executive or her ongoing stint as director of the seasonal Mister Mode Night Market, Tish is a major advocate of individuality.

The RMIT graduate, resplendent in a bright teal blazer, is happy to share her story. A native of Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu, Tish came to Australia in 2005. She then attended Geelong Grammar School before pursuing an undergraduate degree in communications and creative advertising.

Yet she, like many international students, had some issues with the initial adjustment.

“The transition to Melbourne was a culture shock,” she laughs.

“I was quite excited to come and experience Western culture. But one of the hardest parts was that there were only certain people who could understand all your childhood memories, whereas everyone in Australia grew up here and had a different experience.”

She eventually found a “happy balance” and built many friendships from there.

“It was definitely a life-changing experience, but a good one,” says Tish.

Still, the transition to life overseas was likely eased by Tish’s linguistic talents. She is proficient in five languages, with English being her first. Tish attributes her fluency to time spent in a Chinese high school, where subjects were taught in English and Mandarin. The languages, she says, are “an accumulation of my entire life.”

“I had no idea how to converse in Mandarin at first,” confesses Tish, in a moment that will undoubtedly resonate with every student who has ever struggled with another language.

“Everyone was making fun of me. But then I decided: I wanna learn. After a year, I managed to be fluent enough to converse with people. It was a choice for me to either sit back and have trouble communicating, or choose to learn the language.”

Her experiences have shaped the way Mister Mode runs, to include anyone and everyone.

The market caters to all nationalities and genders in its unbridled celebration of fashion, music and art.

Many international students visit Mister Mode as consumers. Several more join the ranks of the stallholder army.

Tish is particularly enthusiastic about her international performers, naming singer Laura Loe – a Borneo native seen recently on Australia’s Got Talent – as a much-loved act.

“The market isn’t just limited to Melbourne,” says Tish.

“Everyone can bring aspects of creativity from anywhere in the world. International students might have a different source of inspiration, and that alone can bring different contributions to the event.

“I don’t think that a distinct style or personality should be hindered. It should be celebrated. It contributes to our unique sense of style and individuality. Being able to bring these different elements of creativity together under one roof is something that really excites me about Mister Mode.”

Given its humble origins as a student startup, even Tish could not have predicted Mister Mode’s runaway success.

The vintage extravaganza was conceived as a university project in 2010. Despite its popularity, Mister Mode was discarded when Tish and the other two founders graduated and started work.

Fortunately, the initative was revived the following year, when Tish was approached to bring a fresh market element to a Tripomatica warehouse event.

In July 2011, she relaunched Mister Mode and took up the mantle of creative director. Since then, business has been booming.

Mister Mode is more than just a paradise of bargain buys, as Tish reminds.

“It’s about bringing together a community of creative minds in one environment – a place where you can meet other people with the same passion and inspiration.

“The market has a travelling aspect, which was definitely one of our goals. We aimed for an element of surprise, so all our Mister Mode troopers have something to look forward to.”

Mister Mode is now approaching its fourth event, which will be held in August.

“For every event, we up the ante a little more. We are going to do a winter-themed event next: mulled wine, warm cider, hot soup, and we’re introducing a new element. We’re getting artists to come over and showcase their work alongside the performances and the market,” says Tish.

Tish’s vision for Mister Mode is drawn from her personal ideals. She lists five traits – passion, dedication, collaboration, creativity, and constant innovation – as the driving forces of her life and work.

“Since the birth of Mister Mode, there have been so many opportunities. It’s about choosing those open doors and the right way to move forward. My focus is to help and inspire others, and be inspired,” she says.

The ever-enterprising Tish has some advice for students hoping to enter the creative industries.

“Stay true to yourself, and really have dedication,” she says.

“I’ve failed a lot of times but I’ve never stopped trying, and that’s a testament to how I’ve gotten to where I have today. So keep on persisting, believe in what you do, and keep your eyes open for opportunities. Don’t ever doubt yourself. Try everything you can.

“As long as you have that love for what you do, there is always an opportunity.”

The Mister Mode Night Market unites Melbourne’s best elements of fashion, music, and art, and features unique vintage pieces and designer trinkets, both new and pre-loved, for men and women. Stallholder applications for Mister Mode’s August 25 event are now open. For more details, visit the Mister Mode website or Facebook page.