The business of fashion weeks

  • Style
  • Thursday, 20 Mar 2014

A design by Bill Keith at last year's Stylo Fashion Grand Prix event. 

After dominating the F1 social scene for seven years, the fashion forward partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Stylo has evolved into the Mercedes-Benz Stylo Fashion Grand Prix (March 24 to 29) and a trade fashion event, the Mercedes-Benz Stylo Asia Fashion Week (November 2014).

COUTURE and cars are a match hand sewn in heaven. The heady cocktail of fast cars and fabulous fashion provides just what the F1 needs; a series of shows and after-parties where KL’s rich, famous and beautiful can glam it up in eye-catching fashion before cooling it off in Sepang’s luxurious Paddocks for the race weekend.

Once Stylo’s tagline was "Fashion’s merely the excuse", harking at its propensity for high-octane parties. Now it has morphed into serious business as designers and foreign media congregate to propel Malaysian fashion into the next level.

“The success of our fashion partnership has encouraged us to dream bigger. We now aspire to be in the forefront of Asian fashion and make our mark at a regional level. Fashion is sometimes seen as flippant and frivolous but it is a mega-billion dollar business as it incorporates clothes, bags, shoes and accessories and provides jobs,”

notes Roland Folger, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Malaysia.

Initially Mercedes-Benz was the main presenter for Stylo Fashion Grand Prix but since Stylo’s undisputed success over the years, the car maker decided to invite the Malaysian fashion juggernaut into its stable of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks to be Mercedes-Benz Stylo Fashion Grand Prix. “It is an immense honour for Stylo to be embraced by the world’s best car maker and most authoritative global fashion week,” said founder Datuk Nancy Yeoh.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks dominate the global scene in 30 cities across four continents and include the Big Four – London, New York, Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks. It is estimated orders worth RM200mil are taken at each Fashion Week, which translates into big business by any standard.

Stylo Fashion Grand Prix started in Malaysia in 2007 as the brainchild of PR queen, Yeoh, who envisioned shows should be staged in purpose-built or transformed venues rather than at existing shopping mall concourses or meeting halls.

“Datuk Nancy produced her tantalising concept and explained that fashion festivals are meant to engage consumers so they should be staged in unexpected locations. For maximum decibel and that wow-factor, she suggested a temple hall, a pre-war stadium, a school in the middle of nowhere, Lake Gardens, the base-jump of the KL Tower, derelict buildings and other imaginative, never thought of venues,” recalls Elaine Hew, Mercedes-Benz’s marketing general manager.

(From left) Mercedes-Benz Malaysia president and CEO, Roland Folger, Stylo International CEO and president, Datuk Nancy Yeoh and shoe designer Datuk Jimmy Choo. 

“I remember thinking it was so outlandish it would either be the craziest thing we have ever supported or the biggest marketing export this side of Stuttgart!”

Backed by Mercedes-Benz, supported by another great Malaysian export Datuk Jimmy Choo and armed with her little black book containing precious contacts, Yeoh launched Stylo Fashion Grand Prix as the must-attend prelude to Sepang Formula One in 2008.

The fashion events were literally a runway success and Stylo soon became the most successful commercial event export brand for the country.

Singapore Tourism Board took it across the causeway five months after its Malaysian debut and a year later the Madrid Tourism Board jumped onboard. Mercedes-Benz Singapore and India were roped in when they joined the F1, but Stylo soon relocated its international office from Singapore to London. From London it brought Malaysian fashion to Mexico City, Prague, Jakarta, the Indian F1, Singapore F1, the London Fashion Week and the 2012 Summer Olympics with the help of Mercedes-Benz.

“Stylo is an exciting B2C (business to consumer) fashion festival brand, but we soon realised our platform could support something bigger for our country – by turning Kuala Lumpur into a fashion trading hub with our Asian partners,” enthuses Yeoh, president and CEO of Stylo International. “We aim to position Malaysia as Asia’s B2B (business to business) hub for global fashion players.”

This resulted in the formation of the Mercedes-Benz Stylo Asia Fashion Week which was launched last December and supported by My Creative Ventures, a new initiative under the Malaysian government.

Designers, buyers and media from 11 Asian countries turned up to give their seal of approval.

Filipino designer Avel Bacudio catwalked away with the inaugural award of ‘Asia’s Most Influential Designer of 2013’ that saw 250,376 hits on Stylo’s Facebook during the two week-long competition. Malaysian Joe Chia was named ‘Asian Industry’s Choice’ followed by Salut de Miel from South Korea and Sofie from Indonesia in third place.

Avel Bacudio, last year's Asia's Most Influential Designer, next to a model in his design. 

“Joe entered Stylo’s 2008 Moda competition and emerged runner-up. Who would have thought five years later he would be the Asian industry’s hot favourite? This is just the tip of the iceberg of a fledging local fashion industry bursting with great talents but with limited opportunities to be recognised until now,” said Yeoh.

According to Folger, Kuala Lumpur is a metropolis with amazing retail opportunities but lacks incubators for young fashion talents. When he inked Stylo to take on the Asia Fashion Week which is the only Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in South-East Asia, Folger knew there was massive talent waiting to be tapped and promoted.

“Having a talent pool is of little use if there is no proper platform to generate sales, publicity and garner financial backing. We now provide the engine.” said Yeoh.

She added that there is no trade fashion week currently existing in Malaysia so a trade-based Malaysian Fashion Council is currently being formed to initiate the Malaysia Fashion Week at the end of the year to run concurrently with the Asia Fashion Week. Besides fashion, it will incorporate fashion accessories and textiles.

“The public needs to be educated about the difference between a retail fashion festival and a trade fashion week. A trade event such as the Asia Fashion Week features collections months before the garments appear in retail department stores as designers need to take orders from buyers and have them manufactured based on confirmed orders.

Fashion festivals such as the Stylo Fashion Grand Prix featuring existing stocks from the selling floor, are great consumer activities but are definitely not set up for business-to-business trade,” said Yeoh.

A design by Bill Keith at last year's Stylo Fashion Grand Prix event. 

“In most capital cities, a fashion festival is set up to boost tourism whereas a trade fashion week comes under the purview of international trade and sometimes, domestic trade. For our designers to ‘get out there’ it’s tough doing it on their own. Support from a government agency like Matrade and an influential global fashion player like Mercedes-Benz can truly fast-forward processes and this is basically what trade fashion weeks should be about.”

The Mercedes-Benz Stylo Asia Fashion Week will be a nomadic annual trade event, travelling throughout Asia and partnering local fashion weeks while the Stylo Fashion Grand Prix continues to thrill end-consumers with fashion being merely its excuse.

“It allows us to remain close to our consumers while we endeavour to bring Malaysian and Asian fashion to the world,” says Folger. “Some ask why a carmaker would be linked to apparel as Mercedes-Benz is about engines, oil, pistons and mechanics. But there is more than meets the eye as fashion and cars share similar traits.

“Both produce new collections and models seasonally. Both depend on creativity, cutting edge techniques and new materials, be they textiles or carbon fibre. Both outsource certain components as Mercedes-Benz and designers do not own cow farms but buy leather from reputable suppliers.

“Our AMG cars can be customised to the buyers’ requirements and tastes, from seat fabric, wheels, colour tones, special steering wheels and various options, just like made-to-measure haute couture dresses!

“We depend on machines but the details and finishing touches are done by hand. Finally, Mercedes-Benz still requires the human eye and tactile senses to check each car after it rolls out of the production line – just as designers check for flaws, stains and missing buttons!”

In the latest March issue of British Vogue, Mercedes-Benz has a double page spread featuring their new GLA 250 4MATIC car with Georgia Jagger (Sir Mick Jagger’s daughter) pouting prettily and credits given to photographer Serge Leblon and art director David Carette. Absolutely an apex of art and auto!

The Mercedes-Benz Stylo Fashion Grand Prix KL 2014 with jaw-dropping shows and uber-chic parties will be held from March 24-29 in trendy clubs along Party Central aka Jalan P. Ramlee under the eyebrow-raising tag ‘Wearable Fantasies’. It will culminate in a 1920’s black-tie event at Hap Seng Star with its annual Fashion Awards themed “Who is Gatsby?” in partnership with De Beers Diamond Jewellers.

The Star is the official media partner of the Mercedes-Benz Stylo Fashion Grand Prix 2014.

Stylo Fashion Grand Prix 2014 diary

A Stylish Slumber Featuring Men & 
... More Men (Opening Night)
A Tribute To Men’s Fashion

Date        : March 24

Time        : 9.45pm

Venue        : Poppy Garden, Jalan P. Ramlee       

Showcase        : Datuk Tom Abang Saufi, Joe Chia, Kinslager & Quarter Homme       

Dresscode        : Sleepwear, party wear & underwear

Co-Host        : Visa Worldwide       

Media Night – Strictly Media,
Models & Paparazzi

Date        : March 25

Time        : 10pm

Venue        : Poppy Garden

Host        : Stylo

Co-Host        : RAPR Mileage Communications       

The Fashion World Of Suzie Wong
35 Years Of A Cut Above

Date        : March 26

Time        : 9.45pm

Venue        : Poppy Garden        

Showcase 1 : A Cut Above Hair Show featuring 35 muses for 35 years       

Showcase 2 : Jason Yek & Keith Kee

Dress code       

: Chinese/50s

Collaborator : Kinohimitsu       

Alter Ego – Heroes, Villains, Bikers & Babes

Date        : March 27

Time        : 9.45pm

Venue        : Poppy Garden        

Showcase : Bill Keith & Emerging Designers Semi-finals 2014       

Dress Code : Leather, chains, bikers & babes

Co-host        : Poppy Garden

Collaborator: Harley Owners Group (HOG)       

Who Is Gatsby? ... A Vintage Party
Mercedes-Benz Stylo Fashion Awards 2014

Date        : March 28

Time        : 9.45pm

Venue        : Hap Seng Star, Jalan Sultan Ismail

Showcase        : Zang Toi, Jovian Mandagie, Bon Zainal, 
Fairuz Ramdan & Illiza Ho Emerging Designers Finals 2014

Dress Code        : 1920s/vintage/black tie

Host        : Mercedes–Benz

Collaborator: De Beers Diamond Jewellers

Mercedes-Benz AMG Petronas F1 party 2014

Date        : March 29

Time        : 7.30pm

Venue        : Simfoni Lake, KLCC Park

Showcase        : Azlan Adrian Arif, Phuna Boon Yi & Shawn Cutler

Dress Code        : Stylish & Chic       

> Entrance is strictly by invitiation only.


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