For Malaysian designer Alia Bastamam, it seems that the fashion world is hers for the taking. She has conquered the local scene and is now setting her sights on the runways abroad.
Since its founding in 2010, her eponymous label has grown from strength to strength. A regular at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week (KLFW), Alia’s designs are celebrated for being feminine yet sensual.
In 2017, Alia was named “Designer Of The Year” at KLFW. A nod to her talent, it also cemented her status as one of Malaysia’s more prominent designers.
What’s next? She is now looking to expand to Europe or the United States. Her label made its Milan debut recently, in a trade show running alongside the city’s Spring/Summer 2020 fashion week.
“We have had influencers wearing our designs in Milan before, but this is the first time that we’re actually going there to present a collection,” says Alia, 35, in an interview.
“Just a few months ago, Michelle Williams, formerly of Destiny’s Child, wore one of our baju,” she enthuses. “Yes, we’ve been working really hard to get international recognition.”
The Alia Bastamam label first started by offering made-to-measure creations. It later expanded to include bridal and resort designs, then finally, a diffusion line of trend-driven ready-to-wear.
According to Alia, she already has regular customers in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is just that her label does not have a physical presence in overseas stores yet.
“I’m looking to diversify, or at least, try to show a different side of Alia Bastamam. The market here is really small. So I guess that’s why a lot of designers in Malaysia are expanding to other countries,” she notes.
“The Malaysian fashion scene is okay. It’s cool. Just look around. You’ve got a lot of cool kids here. They’re interested in fashion, they’re passionate about it. But we are lacking the platform to showcase talents.”
Alia, who hails from Subang Jaya, Selangor, actually studied architecture before switching to fashion. She said that she did not grow up in a very creative environment. Her mother is a biochemist, while her dad is an engineer.
A graduate of Raffles Design Institute, Alia first completed her diploma studies in Kuala Lumpur. She then decided to continue, and obtained her degree in fashion design from Raffles Singapore.
“Last time, I was very timid. I was very good with my art, but I never believed in myself. I never believed I could do anything,” Alia says, about her experience as a kid.
“Being a fashion designer has made me more confident. I guess I became more sure of myself when I realised I’m doing something good with my talent. Creating jobs, for example.”
Alia credits the success of her fashion label to having a good team. She says she has good partners who help her take care of the business’ different aspects – operations, public relations and marketing.
“So, I get to be as creative as I can be without worrying about money, for instance. Managing your finances as a designer can be a very challenging thing. But it’s very important if you want to build up your brand.”
The Alia Bastamam atelier and showroom is located in Damansara Heights, KL. Her designs can also be found in department stores like Isetan and Robinsons, as well as online.
Alia has collaborated with other brands to come up with fashion accessories. In the past, she has worked with Yoke & Theam to design shoes, as well as bags with Sometime By Asian Designers.
Alia says that the people in the fashion industry here are very supportive of one another. However, she does not see other designers as competitors. She instead treats them as friends.
She states that she still does not get the whole “watching out for yourself” idea of doing business. As she aptly points out, “If your ‘art’ is different, how are you competing?
“Melinda Looi and Bernard Chandran have always been nurturing and teaching younger designers. They would share anything with you, or talk to you. Or ask you how you are.
“We’re friendly. We’re all different. I don’t feel like there’s a need to be competitive. I think fashion is more open now, and there are so many designers around.”