For Hayden Koh, fashion is something that he has always been interested in. He has battled the odds to pursue his ambition of being a designer – and is now living his dream.
The brand that he designs for, Wynka, recently unveiled its 2019 ready-to-wear collection for ladies. It was met with great praise for embodying a feminine yet ultra-cool and quirky aesthetic.
Koh also has his own eponymous label, where he dabbles in both menswear and womenswear. You could say that he is someone to watch in the Malaysian fashion scene at the moment.
It did not start out that way though. According to Koh, it was difficult when he was a young boy. He said that it was rather daunting to go against the norms, especially when wanting to pursue an unconventional career in Malaysia.
“I was born in Malacca and raised single-handedly by my grandmother. It was tough growing up as a creative person because I often felt misunderstood,” the 32-year-old relates.
As it turned out, Koh’s grandmother had a hand in sparking his interest in fashion. She was the one who introduced him to the fashion world.
“When I was growing up with my grandmother, once a year she would buy materials to make her own clothes for Chinese New Year. My first time walking into a fabric shop, I was mesmerised with all the beautiful colours,” he states.
“I remember how happy she was and the experience with her made me realise that I want to grow up to be a fashion designer, so that I can make beautiful clothes for her to wear every day.”
Koh had to move to Kuala Lumpur just to study fashion design. He graduated from the Malaysia Institute Of Arts in 2009, and then again from the SML Fashion Academy in 2010. After that, he worked in the fashion industry for six years.
He founded the Hayden Koh label in 2012. This was after he was chosen to work on a project with Martell and launch his very first fashion collection. His current endeavours with Wynka is seen as an opportunity to step out of his comfort zone.
“The collection is called ‘The Garden’ because the different types of flowers celebrates the many different elements of womanhood. Every woman in all shapes and form deserves to be confident and beautiful,” Koh notes.
“Wynka is all about empowering women with a combination of comfort and playful elements. What sets us apart is that we are developing our own fabrics and experimenting on accessories.”
True to its theme, Wynka’s current designs bring to life the feeling of spring in a lush garden. Each outfit is gorgeously delicate, referencing the alluring blooms the collection is inspired by.
The use of chiffon, lace and silks help carry this message of fragility tempered with elegance and allure. Hues throughout the collection are kept neutral and feminine to showcase the flowers, with pops of colour injecting fun.
Dresses, blazers, lace tops, shorts and pants are easily combined with other pieces in the collection of with any other personal garments. Prints and embroidery conveys the juxtaposition of boldness and fragility.
When asked however, Koh says that his aesthetic is really about being bold and confident. As for his inspiration in general, it comes from travelling and the experience of being able to get acquainted with different cultures.
He adds that while he enjoys both womenswear and menswear, he is focusing on the former at the moment. He also hopes to be able to reach out to more people with his designs and to get them to really appreciate Malaysian designers.
“The fashion industry in Malaysia is growing and creating your own brand identity would set you apart from others. My advice to those starting out is to always remind yourself why you want to be a fashion designer.”
Koh points out that he likes minimal and modern designs. Nevertheless, he admits that his preference changes. He sees it as a form of evolution that helps him continuously grow.
“I would say my proudest is the very first time seeing a stranger wearing my design and how confident she looked in it. My journey has been challenging as I started young and with very little experience.”
“I learned everything so far through making a lot of mistakes, but I guess I was lucky to have met people that helped me along the way. The biggest challenge for me was having to balance creativity and the business side of fashion design,” he concludes.