Your 10 Questions for fashion designer Zang Toi

  • Business
  • Saturday, 24 Jul 2010

Generally, we tend to think that anything from the West is better. Being Asian, did you face such a problem when you first started out in the West? Dan Joon Chew, Johor Baru

No. I have always been very secure about who I am, and the Westerners have always treated me as an equal, and with love and respect. So, please, do not ever feel you are inferior just because you are an Asian. As a matter of fact, the Westerners love and respect our work ethics.

Now that you are highly successful and living your dream life in New York, in what way do you feel you are a part of Malaysia? Or is Malaysia a part of you? Marcus Cheh, Petaling Jaya

My love and appreciation for my family, friends and fans in Malaysia and the most delicious cuisine always serve as a great reminder of how proud I am to be a Malaysian. Also, my happiest times while growing up in Kuala Krai, Kelantan, will always be my most cherished memories.

Being born in one of the most rural districts in Kelantan, how did you end up studying fashion in New York’s top design school when most people would have opted to study medicine, law or some other typical course? Nik Kimie, Kota Baru

Thanks to my beloved mother, who has always encouraged and supported my love of beauty and creativity. I remember my father sort of freaking out when I decided to enrol for fashion design at Parsons School of Design, but my mother got on the phone after my father, and declared that I should go for it if that was what I loved.

How well are our local fashion designers competing with their foreign counterparts? Tabitha B.C. Boi, Penang

My personal view is that one shouldn’t be too consumed with competing with others, but to always give one’s absolute best in whatever one pursues. Dream a dream, and work hard to make that dream a reality.

Why are there more renowned male fashion designers than there are female fashion designers? Bernard K.H. Lim, Penang

That might be true, but there are also many well-loved and well-respected renowned female designers such as Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Rei Kawakubo, Jill Sander, Donna Karan, Frida Giannini and on and on…

What matters to you most as a fashion designer? Who is your favourite designer? Syafa, Damansara Utama

To always be true to myself and my vision, and not be afraid to lead my own path as a designer. My favourite designers are the late Yves Saint Lauren, Christian Lacroix and Jean Paul Gaultier. These three are amazingly talented and their creations never fail to put a smile on my face.

What would you change in the local haute couture landscape so that young Malaysian designers need not travel abroad to seek international attention? Do you think KL will ever be a high-fashion hub on par with Tokyo? Wan Xin, Penang

KL can also be a high-fashion capital on par with Tokyo only if our local talents are not afraid to take flight with their creativity and work hard to earn that spot. Again, any dream is possible only if one works hard to turn the dream into reality.

What was your most memorable piece and who was it designed for? How old were you when you designed that? Eva Rodericks, Penang

One of the most memorable outfits was the brown couture silk shantung evening coat lined with pleated silk organza leaping tiger with matching brown couture silk shantung strapless gown from my Spring 2000 collection. It was worn by Melinda Gates (wife of Bill Gates) to President Bill Clinton’s state dinner. It is especially memorable because I am a huge fan of the Clintons.

Malaysian designers tend to produce works that resemble something that came out of a tourism ad. Must art and fashion always be contextualised this way? How do you view fashion and art? Yuen Li, Penang

I do not view fashion as art. My view of fashion is that it’s simply a piece of clothing meant to be worn and enjoyed. Hopefully, beautiful fashion will help transform the lady into the belle of the ball.

How do you rate our local design schools and what do you suggest they do to have some standing in the region? Marcus Tan, PJ

I honestly do not have the authority to rate the local design schools as I have not had a chance to visit these schools during my once-a-year brief trips back home. My suggestion to the schools is to encourage their students to believe in themselves and not be afraid to lead their own creative paths.

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