Nur Liyana Mohd Radzi was 17 when she first found out about American fashion designer Thom Browne.
She was fascinated by how he seamlessly blurred the line between the conventional definitions of masculine and feminine.
“He is without a doubt my favourite designer. His campaigns feature men and women side by side styled in the same outfits, yet both look equally exquisite.
“His execution is impeccable and it was through his creations that my eyes were opened to the realm of menswear, even though he is both a menswear and womenswear designer.
“Ever since then, I’ve adopted the practice of incorporating menswear pieces into my personal style as well because I believe clothing is for all. It’s self-expression in its purest form,” shared Nur Liyana, 25, via email.
Today, Nur Liyana is a stylist at Proper Cloth, an e-commerce menswear brand founded in 2008 in New York City, the United States, that offers custom-made clothing.
She is the first woman to hold the position of a stylist at the company, beating 145 other candidates to get the job last year.
Nur Liyana graduated cum laude in May 2020 from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), right in the middle of the pandemic.
She was worried whether she would be able to get a job then as many companies were not hiring.
However, FIT had offered her the opportunity to earn invaluable experience working backstage for international labels during New York Fashion Week. She also took on various internship positions in luxury and bespoke menswear brands and publications.
“As an international student here in the States, there are limitations with working opportunities while simultaneously being a student, hence why most of my experience being in the industry stems from my internships.
“It was intentional on my end to obtain different kinds of internships because I wanted to diversify my knowledge of menswear from different roles within the industry.
“However, my interest has always remained on the more creative side of the industry, which is styling,” she shared.
As a fresh graduate, she was eager to hit the ground running, make her family proud, and prove her capability.
She applied to many companies but did not hear back from many of them. Then her current company had an internship opening which she applied for immediately.
Just after three months, the company offered her a full-time position and she has been one of their two stylists ever since.
“My duty is to create looks for our campaigns as well as any new items we have. Part of my job is to understand who our customer is, what kind of look this person would gravitate towards, what colours and silhouettes best fit our models and, from there, I create looks that would appeal to our target market.
“My job ranges from product styling and on-figure styling where we work with models at our studio, to styling and merchandising at our 5th Avenue showroom,” she shared.
Nur Liyana feels her biggest contribution as a stylist is her female point of view on menswear.
“I am honoured to be the first woman to hold a stylist position at this company. I have learnt a tremendous amount simply by observing the team and I have been given much freedom to express my own stylistic views as well.”
During the pandemic, the company has also had to adapt by venturing into face masks.
“One of the main items that has kept the company afloat during the pandemic are our unique and innovative masks that come in an array of styles,” said Nur Liyana, adding that the masks are certified as BFE (Bacterial Filtration Efficiency) ≥95% and PFE (Particle Filtration Efficiency) ≥85%.
“As a fashion brand, we had to find a way to make these masks merge with our stylistic vision. A proud moment for me was when one of the mask photoshoots that I had styled was featured in The Wall Street Journal,” she added.
She said the fashion industry took a big hit when the pandemic consumed the economy and it is still recovering.
“But one thing it did prove was how resilient the industry was by adapting to consumer needs. Mask sales was the saviour for many brands.
“And being able to observe how quickly the industry adapted to such a drastic change was truly an invaluable experience,” she concluded.