This Chinese New Year, it is all about roaring in style


  • Style Premium
  • Thursday, 20 Jan 2022

Fierce, bold and glamorous fashion reflects the festive mood in Malaysia for this Chinese New Year. Photo: Melinda Looi

As Chinese New Year arrives, it is once again the perfect time to dress up. At social gatherings, there is still a need to observe SOPs but we can definitely look our best.

In the context of fashion, this is the perfect time to throw caution to the wind.

Festive collections out in the market have returned to dramatic designs. The most elaborate outfits you can think of are being offered by designers – from modern cheongsams to avant-garde separates.

There is no dissociating Chinese New Year from fashion. After all, buying new clothes is very much part of tradition. The act symbolises a new start and says a lot about ushering in fresh hopes for the coming lunar year.

Even if you are staying home this time around, it will still help to slip into a festive getup. We all need a little cheering up after almost two years of contending with Covid-19 and dressing up can be an easy way to do it.

The colour red can inspire bravery, while yellow is a reminder to stay optimistic. Being the year of the tiger, look out for animal prints and other fierce motifs as well.

Photo: Khoon HooiPhoto: Khoon HooiOpulent looks are predicted to be popular too. Designers have created some of the most rich and sumptuous outfits using fabrics like brocades.

One thing’s for sure, Chinese New Year fashion is roaring back to life this year.

Where the wild trends are

Maybe to escape reality, designers in Malaysia are channeling a little more fantasy into their collections. Melinda Looi’s for example, was inspired by outer space – specifically, the planet Mars.

Yes, you read that right. With Tropical Mars, Looi tells the visual story of a someone in space and their wardrobe with all sorts of colour and print.

“I know in the past year, lots of people have been isolated due to lockdowns from their friends, their loved ones; and while I’m fortunate enough to be able to be close with my loved ones, I hear it’s like being on a planet of your own,” she explains.

“But these people, they’re amazing. Even in isolation, they still manage to create and find a way to connect. Also they kept colour and vibrance in their life and spirit.”

Looi is focusing on a more affordable collection this Chinese New Year too.

“I’ve always had fans tell me, ‘Mel, I love your clothes, but I can never afford it. This year, I’m aiming for accessibility. That, and ethical and sustainable clothing, where I design with intention.”

Her advice is for a person to embrace their uniqueness, and for the festivities, it means accepting bright colours.

“Don’t hold yourself back any longer. I feel like that’s a trend nowadays: especially with the younger generation. They are confident in who they are and they’re not afraid to show it. I believe that’s important in life.”

For Kel Wen, the creative and marketing director of Behati, he thinks that the pandemic has made Chinese New Year an Instagram affair. Some of his customers bought clothes just for a festive Instagram post last year.

Photo: BehatiPhoto: BehatiHe also recalls how he was not able to celebrate with his family.

“So, this year I’m focusing on standout fabrics like brocades. I’m also designing Instagram-friendly outfits that are visually memorable.”

Kel Wen explains there is a certain look that younger people go for, even when it comes to Chinese New Year. He says they opt for clothes that can help them be noticed in a picture.

“For Behati, it is my goal to make traditional clothes look trendy. Maybe like reinterpreting samfus as crop tops. It is about having that contemporary silhouette.”

Since comfortable fashion has become a big priority, he tries to make that a big part of his Chinese New Year collection as well.

“While there are extravagant pieces, there is also light ones made from cotton fabrics. These are very easy to wear, not just for the festive period but on normal days too,” he points out.

Auspicious wishes and hopes

Trends aside, designers are hoping that this year will herald a return to normalcy and they get to solidify their earnings.

Khoon Hooi says that he was lucky in 2021 as the second full lockdown happened after the festivities. As such, his Chinese New year sales were exceptional last year.

Response has been encouraging so far for his label this year, he further reveals.

“The hope is for proper new year celebrations – bring back the lion dance performance, please! And also suì suì píng an, everlasting peace and safety year after year.”

Khoon Hooi brought out the tiger traits in his designs for his current collection: regal, bold, fierce, playful, splendid and breathtaking.

He points to some of his hero pieces like the “Mei Xing”, a statement brocade number in regal yellow with extra puffy sleeves and a round keyhole neckline adorned with pearls and rhinestones.

Photo: Carven OngPhoto: Carven OngThere is also the “LiQiu” a showstopper set made from an opel fabric combining velvet and chiffon. It is emblazoned in floral prints and finished off with feather detailing on the sleeves.

For his accessories, he designed a mini bag crafted from upcycled brocade. This elegant micro accessory is topped with pearls on the handle.

Carven Ong, on the other hand, drew from Chinese opera for his collection. He calls it “opera-made fashion”.

“I was inspired by my childhood in Taiping. When I was young I attended Chinese operas at the temple. I loved looking at the costumes, which were so beautiful. I incorporated the memory into my designs.”

He adds that the outfits also make use of a custom print created just for his label.

The overall effect is a colourful, vibrant glamour feel to them, which is just perfect for the Chinese New Year. Having the added dramatic effect will surely help make the celebrations feel more special and festive.

About his wishes for the year, he just wants to local fashion industry to recover. He admits that the response for his current Chinese New Year collection has been extremely good though.

“I’m happy. People are really buying new clothes this year. About 80 to 90% of my designs are already sold out. This is compared to just 20% in the past year,” Ong concludes.

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