Malaysia will be in the fashion spotlight soon in a new reality show. Jasmine Chong, a Malaysian designer based in New York who recently presented a collection alongside New York Fashion Week – the fourth time for her – will be taking part in Making The Cut.
Hosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame, the show (premiering on Amazon Prime Video on March 27), will see 12 designers competing to win US$1mil (RM4.2mil) to invest in their brand and the opportunity to create an exclusive line available on Amazon Fashion. It is also a big opportunity for 32-year-old Chong to tell her story to viewers.
When contacted via email, Chong says she has always gone down a quieter and slower route as a designer. Her eponymous label, launched in 2016, is produced in New York City’s Garment District. The signature look is in marrying the romance of rich detailing with the functionality of ready-to-wear.
Chong has worked with brands such as Anna Sui, Thakoon, Marchesa, Halston and Tory Burch. She graduated from the School Of The Art Institute Of Chicago and Parsons The New School, both with a degree in fashion.
For Chong, fashion should always be about inclusivity and diversity. She has felt pressured about using model-sized women in the past, and this is something she will always push back against.
“Look at the women around us that we love and respect – they are beautiful in such different ways. The influence of fashion on beauty ideals is tremendous, especially for younger girls.
“As someone who wears a US size 12/14, I often wonder what it would have felt like growing up seeing a range of models in fashion magazines. I didn’t get that chance, so I feel it’s important to do that now, more than ever, ” Chong says.
She also believes that fashion can indeed go “green”. To her, thoughtfully designed, well-crafted clothing that is treasured and worn over and over again can be better for the environment.
“A few of our signature pieces are also ‘size-agnostic’, with fluid, drapey silhouettes, so they are still wearable even as our bodies change. It makes the pieces less disposable and less likely to end up in a landfill.”
Looking back, she wishes that she had doubted herself less. That, and to trust her instinct – listening to her inner voice and the people she considers her closest support system.
“There are always going to be people who have things to say about you, and what I now tell myself is to just work hard and stay true to your voice, ” she notes.
At the moment, she’s focusing on taking her label to the next level.
“I’m in the midst of a period of growth for the business. I’ve just released what I believe is the most important collection of my early career, and there’s been a lot to celebrate. It all sets the tone for what’s to come.
“There are pieces drawn from traditional Grecian draping, which I’ve always loved, with references to the volume and intricate lace sensibilities of Rococo dressing, ” she says, about her Autumn/Winter 2020 designs.
“I was inspired by being in the Palace of Versailles (in France) this past summer. The collection is about being in this grand, gilded, spectacular space, but at the same time feeling insignificant and human.”
She also took risks with the collection, working with tailored pieces and metallics. Drawing upon a love of costume, it made use of Italian flocked velvets and jacquards, as well as menswear silk shirting with French lace.
Though she’s based in the United States, she has never forgotten her Malaysian roots. Chong recalls following her mother to fabric stores around Kuala Lumpur and watching her as she made dresses on a black 1950s Singer sewing machine.
“Malaysia is my home country, I miss it so much and I am always looking forward to my next trip home. You can frequently find me in New York City’s Malaysian restaurant Kopitiam whenever I’m homesick.”