Malaysian designers reflect on what the pandemic has taught them


  • Style
  • Friday, 19 Nov 2021

For Malaysian designers (left to right) Rizman Nordin, Datuk Jovian Mandagie and Khoon Hooi, the pandemic has taught them to appreciate time more. Photo composite: Swiss Watch

Malaysia has witnessed a year or more of downtime for the fashion industry since the pandemic hit. Yet, local talents in Malaysia did not give up.

Now that sectors of the economy are opening up again, designers reflect on what the hard times had taught them.

Datuk Jovian Mandagie, Rizman Nordin and Khoon Hooi are looking to the future, with hopes that whatever they have learnt will serve them well.

The trio revealed their experience recently in a campaign with luxury watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen. The sharing aims to offer an important source of encouragement.

Telling their stories, the designers spoke on how they had to adapt and pivot to stay ahead of the game.

Read more: Malaysian fashion returns to life with physical runway shows

Jovian said that Covid-19 riddled him with uncertainty – but it also taught him to trust those working for him. His label quickly switched from designing fashion apparel to creating essential items like face masks.

He thanked his loyal customers who supported him throughout the difficult period.

“I believe in any crisis, you just have to stick together,” he pointed out, explaining that he does not see his fashion label as just being about him.

“That is why I am always thankful to my team for sticking with me and believing that I can lead them to better days and better times.”

According to Jovian, he can be a workaholic. Time is valuable to him and he ensures that he makes good use of it.

“Sometimes I forget that I also need to find time to take a break and find the balance in life. Life is short as we all know it, so I live to make the best of every second I am privileged and blessed to have.”

Rizman Nordin of the Rizman Ruzaini label said that he transformed his business when lockdowns were in place by launching an online platform to sell his designs.

On his personal experience of being stuck at home, he related how he had more time to spend with family. He was able to be with his pregnant wife and subsequently, see his daughter grow up in the months spent indoors.

Rizman said that time teaches everyone valuable lessons. For him, it has made him who he is today.

“I’ve learnt to always try to find the bright side of things. With every challenge, there could be an opportunity. So, don’t give up, think of ways, look for opportunities to succeed and do it.”

Read more: Time to dress up again? Menswear moves beyond Zoom calls

Khoon Hooi, whose fashion label focuses on occasion wear, explained how the industry came to a halt with Covid-19. As there were no events and nowhere to go, most designers suffered a loss in sales when people stopped buying trendy clothes.

He managed to overcome it by evolving his brand. He introduced lifestyle creations like loungewear and even kaftans for kids.

“It has taught me to think outside the box and continue to innovate,” he commented, on what his experience as a fashion designer taught him.

During the pandemic, he felt like time slowed down. It gave him the opportunity to mull over his future though.

“My work usually requires me to meet with a lot of people and there is hardly time that I can spend alone. So, time is very precious to me, especially when I am able to find time for myself, just being alone in a quiet space,” Khoon Hooi concluded.

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