YearStarter 2023: Style - Malaysian fashion roars back as runways return


After a bruising period during the pandemic, the Malaysian fashion industry stepped up its game last year in anticipation of 2023. – Photo composite: KLFW, Alia Bastamam

After two years of intermittent lockdowns, the Malaysian fashion scene roared back to life in 2022. From physical runway shows making a return to the launching of new labels, it has been an exciting time indeed.

Those within the industry had great hopes for a bounceback after businesses took a hit during the pandemic. This optimism is something expected to carry over into the new year. Yet, it seems things will not exactly go back to status quo.

The effect of the pandemic

"Retail and fashion businesses were terribly affected by Covid-19. It led to the forced closure of many," says Gillian Hung, who is known as the doyenne of the Malaysian fashion industry.

"Everyone had to reinvent ourselves and restructure the way how we do business. It is no longer the same!"

Hung is the former president of the Malaysian Official Designers Association. She served 13 long years in that role, helping to nurture other local talents.

Hung thinks that 2022 has been a good year for the Malaysian fashion, with the industry recovering. -- Gillian HungHung thinks that 2022 has been a good year for the Malaysian fashion, with the industry recovering. -- Gillian Hung

She explains that fashion labels have to now adopt new ways to stand out from the crowd. For example, there is no question about not using social media or other digital means to make their presence known.

According to her, we are witnessing more fresh faces – from the Gen Z, especially – who have launched their own streetwear brands last year. This however does not mean the veterans will be left behind. Hung herself introduced a new fashion label in September, Master Mind Group (MMG).

She also kick started an awards programme that same month to encourage the next generation of trendsetters from fashion, hair and makeup to work hand in hand. This is to help spur the collective style industry.

"I predict that we will be seeing even more individual brands rising to make Malaysia proud. There will be more varieties of choices and hopefully, the industry here will regain competitiveness," Hung notes.

A return to the runway

Last year also marked the return of Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week (KLFW) to the runways, which ran from Aug 17 to 21.

KLFW was also celebrating its 10th anniversary and shows were in full swing with the appearance of local designers and new designers.

Sustainability was embraced among the designers like Hatta Dolmat whose collaboration with local social enterprise Kloth Malaysia saw the collection with fabrics and materials made from recycled bottles materials and fabrics made out of recycled bottles.

Going global

Alia Bastamam, who has made a name for herself in the country for her chic, feminine womenswear designs, thinks that Malaysian fashion has become more global and modern in 2022.

"From a very niche setting, fashion has grown exponentially into a bigger audience," she points out. "With much thanks to TikTok. KL city now has its own fashion set. From there, you get small fashion businesses sprouting after the pandemic – streetwear brands, jewellery makers, beauty products and the list goes on."

Alia (in black) has been busy with setting up physical fashion showcases once again this year. -- Alia BastamamAlia (in black) has been busy with setting up physical fashion showcases once again this year. -- Alia Bastamam

Alia relates how she is connecting more in the past year with her clientele than ever before. She has been busy organising events, from private client showings to even a trip to Langkawi for the launch of her Resort 2023 collection.

"Moving past the pandemic, people are just more inspired to do what they want and more unafraid to break the rules," she adds."I see a burst of creativity. Brands, designers and more are trying new interesting things, plus finding ways to be different from competitors.

"Yet, she is not daunted by the challenge. "I look forward to grow along with my peers, also to see what new brands and designers have to offer in their creativity," Alia says.

"It’s nice to see things being switched up, like the increasing number of standalone shows, or how designers are being inventive in translating their vision into campaign visuals. Also, how brands have stepped up."

What to look out for in 2023

Expect to see more lifestyle collaborations in the local fashion scene in 2023. -- Pestle & Mortar ClothingExpect to see more lifestyle collaborations in the local fashion scene in 2023. -- Pestle & Mortar ClothingExpect to experience fashion in all aspects of Malaysian life in 2023. Like how collaborations have become a big thing on the international style scene, the local industry is similarly working with various bodies and entities.

For example, local streetwear label Pestle & Mortar Clothing will be exploring a new campaign in partnership with the Badminton Association of Malaysia. It is to also celebrate the Malaysia Open 2023 happening in January.

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YearStarter 2023

   

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