Hari Raya and fashion go hand-in-hand. Yet, this year may see everyone scaling back when it comes to dressing up as the recent movement control order (MCO) has put a dampener on preparations for the festive celebration.
With the MCO in place, it means there is no going out and shopping for new clothes, no browsing at your regular bazaar or even getting an appointment with your favourite tailor or designer to have your Raya clothing specially made for you and your family.
While Malaysian designers are still releasing Hari Raya collections for the year, they say sales have been affected. With everyone practising physical distancing, it is harder to place orders for custom-made pieces, as you need to be present to get measured.
“Going back to ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option for us. Even prior to the MCO being announced here, the pandemic has already forced us to think outside the box, ” says renowned couturier Khoon Hooi. His designs has been spotted on the red carpets in Hollywood.
He explains that his team has produced short videos of all of the Hari Raya styles offered. This is to assist clients in their decision making process, helping them purchase a specific design from the comfort of their own homes.
Dirk Luebbert, CEO of the Melinda Looi group of companies, notes that those who are celebrating would probably rethink their fashion purchases.
He believes the focus will be more on the values and virtues of Hari Raya. Luebbert is the husband of the prolific designer known for her edgy yet chic designs.
“Instead of buying four baju raya maybe we only buy two and donate the extra money to the needy? Or buy baju raya as a gift for others, especially those who may not be able to afford it?” he ponders.
"At Melinda Looi we are donating five Emel baju raya (from the ready-to-wear range) for every one Melinda Looi baju raya bought. Also one Emel baju raya will be donated for every one Emel baju raya bought.”
For Alia Bastamam (who has conquered the runways in Malaysia and abroad), it is all about adapting to change. She has a dedicated online team attending to clients.
Alia is also offering online consultations. All this with the hope that they can offer a more personal touch to people buying through the website.
With Raya outfits, classic designs will last longer in the wardrobe and many people buy not just for Raya but to attend weddings and special events throughout the year, ” she says, regarding stretching the fashion budget.
"Opt for investment-worthy pieces, ” Khoon Hooi advises. “The evergreen elegance of a baju kebaya, for example. The sheer top adorned with floral pattern embroidery can be paired up with a skinny cut pants for a dress-down look.”
Dressing up still matters
Dressing up for Hari Raya, after all, is seen as a tradition. It is difficult to do away with buying new clothes for the festivities. Some would even say that it won’t feel right without having new baju Raya.
Designer Syomirizwa Gupta thinks that people will be more selective this year when celebrating. He says that it will all bear down to the matter of need versus necessity – but style will be a factor in the equation.
“I believe we still know how to have fun no matter what situation we are in because we are a positive bunch of big ‘family’. Please be as creative as you can because this is a moment in history and we should make the best with what we can.”Fern Chua, the founder of Fern Batik, thinks this year’s Hari Raya would be even more heartfelt.
She says the whole Covid-19 situation will only give everyone a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation of their loved ones.
“I would like to wish the best to everyone preparing for the festivities. I believe that despite the situation and whatever the outcome when Raya comes, we should all still take the moment to appreciate it, ” she adds.
“It will still be fun to get ready and dress up for Raya, although this year’s celebrations will probably be in smaller gatherings compared to previously, ” points out Emylia Anwar of Poplook.
“It is definitely fine to wear simple yet comfortable Raya outfits. Raya this year will definitely be different but it should give all of us a sense of contentment, ” says Zairin Ahmad, the founder of Umma.
“Despite going through a crisis, most of us are still able to celebrate comfortably at home with family and loved ones while our frontliners are saving and battling to save lives during these unprecedented times.”
While everyone is experiencing a “new normal” at the moment, fashion can probably help make the needed lifestyle change easier. For Hari Raya, it is the trifecta of fashion, family and food that will matter.
“There’s that warm feeling when you wake up on Raya morning, get dressed and have your Raya meal with the family. After that you watch some Raya shows on TV and take lots of family photos – those are the moments I look forward to the most, ” Alia concludes.