Frills, fancy and finishing touches


  • Education
  • Sunday, 18 Apr 2004

BY PHILIP AUGUSTINE, KAREN CHAPMAN and JAMIE KHOO

Fashion students and designers-to-be will be showcasing their creations at the ‘From Classroom to Runway Looks’ fashion show for KL Fashion Week 2004. StarEducation speaks to them about their inspiration and preparation for the show. 

AS top designers rule the runways, local fashion colleges are humming with activity as new talents and aspiring designers make their first step into the fashion world. 

ON THE DRAWING BOARD: Preparing for a fashion show begins at the basics of sketching designs. Here, students from Carven Academy of Fashion explore new ideasby working on their fashion illustrations.

For the college fashion show – “From Classroom to Runway Looks” in KL Fashion Week 2004 – students have been given the opportunity to trump their designs on the catwalk. 

While some colleges work around given themes, others see a range of different original themes that students developed independently.  

The last few weeks have seen them pouring a great deal of time and effort into their designs as they meticulously hand-sew beads and make chiffon flowers to add the finishing touches to their garments.  

Here, we take a peek behind the runway, at the hustle and bustle of designing, constructing and preparing for the fashion show.  

From the shocking to the glamorous, from the bizarre to the elegant, students are making a statement that demonstrates not only the expanse of their creativity but also their fine technical expertise.  

Watch this space! The next Jimmy Choo or Bernard Chandran could be in the making.  

SML Fashion Academy principal Tan Choo King says her students are all working with denim in avant garde designs. 

“We encourage the students to work on their own designs as this is a wonderful chance for them to show off their creative skills,” she says. 

Tan, who has been a designer for the past 26 years, specialises in overcoats, gowns and cheongsam.  

“I started the academy because I wanted to pass on the knowledge I had learnt to students who are interested in fashion. We teach the students all they need to know here. They don’t even need to know how to sew to begin with,” she says.. 

The academy, established in 1978, was previously known as Sin Mee Ling Fashion Academy and located in Petaling Street, before it moved to its current location in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, and became known as the SML Fashion Academy. 

SPANISH INFLUENCE: Venezuelan student Nila Palacios, from the International Fashion Training Centre, brings out a collection of brightly ruffled, romantic dresses inspired by the Spanish flamenco. Here she modelsand works on her pieces, while principal Annie Wong looks on.

Tan says the academy offers a two-year Diploma in Fashion Design as well as short courses in various fields such as fashion marketing, draping design and professional fashion theory. 

“The diploma prepares students for a career in the design, production and marketing of fashion. They will learn to develop and create apparel, the fundamentals of design and the sourcing and use of textiles. By the time they graduate, they would have developed a professional portfolio,” she adds 

Creativity must be their middle name because it only took these students a few days to come up with designs for KL Fashion Week 2004. 

Morance Chong, a second-year fashion design student at SML Fashion Academy is working on an avant garde dress using bleached denim. 

“I admire the work of Japanese designer Junya Watanabe, so I designed a dress in his style. My dress will be backless and in two colours, purple and green. I spent RM80 on the denim material and accessories,” says Morance whose gothic-style wedding gown won her a consolation prize in last year’s Malaysian-International Fashion Awards. 

If you like the floral touch in your clothes, Jason Chun’s design may just be your cup of tea. His creation is a strapless dress with two huge roses made of cotton voile. 

“I will be using sponge in the roses as otherwise the cloth cannot support the shape (of the rose),” says Jason, who is pursuing a course in cutting at the academy. 

Meanwhile, fashion students from Carven Academy of Fashion will be taking part in two categories – Cheongsam and Avant Garde. 

Ever wondered what to do with beer caps? Goh Boon Huey has put her father’s collection to good use – on a cheongsam. 

“I think there are over 1,000 beer caps on this dress, so it’s pretty heavy! It’s taken me quite some time to work on the dress as I have to flatten the caps with a hammer before gluing each one onto the white linen material,” she says. 

For her dress in the avant garde category, Boon Huey used multi-coloured cardboard to create a dress held together by metal rings.  

Designer Carven Ong says his academy aims to provide international standard training and knowledge to fashion students.  

“The academy was set up in 1991 as I wanted to share my experience with students interested in this field. I keep abreast of the latest trends and revise the curriculum of the academy accordingly. I want students to grasp not only the academics, but also the practical aspects of fashion design,” he says.  

Back to nature 

At the Center for Advanced Design (Cenfad) a collection featuring cabbages, flowers, corals and trees, promises to be a showcase of a myriad colours, shapes and textures. 

Lecturer and fashion designer Adnan Hassan says Cenfad will be presenting 30 nature-themed garments under the Avant Garde, Bustier, Evening Wear and Casual categories  

Lee Jee Young, 24, from South Korea, will contribute three outfits in avant garde, bustier and casual designs. 

“The environment in KL is very good, especially for fashion, and with KL Fashion Week being so big, there will be more experience gained. Since we are students, we are encouraged to use cheaper fabrics as long as it brings out the look that we want,” says the aspiring fashion buyer whose avant garde design was inspired by the coconut tree. 

A FEEL FOR FABRIC: Malaysian Institute of Art fashion design students work hard to ensure that the patterns and designs come out just right for their one-of-a-kind creations.

A firm believer that fashion is all about people, fashion design student Joe Liang Yi Zhou insists that customers should always have something to play with when it comes to their clothes.  

He designed a “Joke Cheong Sam”, which features detachable sleeves and a nurse cap. 

“Fashion is not dull, it’s life. Designers should always strive to create the trends and not merely follow them,” he says.  

Browsing through a food encyclopaedia, Diza Nurizdlihar Che Mat, 18, chose to replicate the look of a red cabbage in her designs.  

“I love the texture of the cabbage and I want to show its intricacies in my dress,” says the second-year fashion design student who has spent RM1,000 and the last two months working on her four-piece collection. 

“This is a very good platform for the students to gain valuable experience. To be a well- rounded fashion designer, you need to have much exposure to all facets of the fashion industry and art,” says fashion design department head Rudie Tajuddin.  

ATTENTION TO DETAIL: Inspired by sea corals, Cenfad fashion design student Noor Sara Mohd Sani puts the finishing touches to her masterpiece by using wires to recreate the texture of the coral.

“Our students are encouraged to be versatile in their designs; they have definitely put a lot of hard work into this project. In fact, some of them spend as much as 14 hours a day working on the clothes,” he adds. 

Twelve fashion and textile design students at the Malaysian Institute of Art have been working against the clock for the fashion show.  

As part of their final-year project, the students will be presenting a total of 54 outfits in four categories – Wedding, Recycle Wear, Dripping and Mini Collection. 

“It’s not easy to become a fashion designer, you need to know the A to Z of everything involved in making the garment,” says head of Textile and Fashion Design Lai Hoo Chu. 

“Batik is one of our fortes. Our students are given the freedom to transform a traditional batik sarong to contemporary design by mixing the solution with Thai dye to create a new mood and texture.” 

Going for a more ethnic feel and look, 21-year-old Chin Lib Sing is inspired by the wayang kulit (Kelantanese shadow play) for his four-piece men’s collection, Lagenda. “Batik-printing is one of the most difficult parts of making the garment. It’s a very precise step-by-step procedure and can be very frustrating if you make even the tiniest mistake,” says Lib Sing who will also be presenting a Rome-inspired evening dress. 

He adds: “It normally takes one to two weeks to create an outfit from scratch but a lot of time is devoted to finding inspiration, doing research and sketching before you start putting things together.” 

Working on a tight budget, fellow MIA students will also model for the show. They will be taught how to walk and pose to enhance the appeal of the clothing. 

Research and inspiration 

At the International Fashion Training College, where Bernard Chandran studied, students are required to conduct detailed research before they begin the actual process of designing.  

The students, however, are deft hands at preparing and putting on fashion shows, as the college puts on six shows a year for students to showcase their work.  

“Often, we’re only given two weeks to work on a piece. We’re not even allowed to talk! We’re supposed to be working every minute!” says student Shafizul Hazree. 

Prior to sketching out their ideas, students are to put together a “mood board” comprising images and elements related to their chosen theme. Additionally, they are required to plan the entire “look” of their design by researching the types of make-up, hair, accessories and colours it entails. 

Final-year student Dhiana Dizulkifli’s designs include a mermaid and sea motifs.  

Research for her sketches involved looking up images of marine life, investigating the different colours and silhouettes, and finding the right fabric. 

“I had to go looking through a lot of fabric shops and eventually decided to use opal chiffon. There’s an abstract design on it, and it’s very soft so I can achieve the fall and movement of the dress,” she explains.  

Coursemate Stephanie Ong drew her inspiration mostly from colour trends in current fashion lines, and more uniquely, from the way gifts are wrapped.  

“I wanted a design that is really feminine and soft, and at the same time, I wanted the woman I’m designing for to be down-to-earth. I’ve used plenty of earthy tones, colours, paired with lots of gold, because I want it to be glamorous too,” she says.  

One of Stephanie’s dresses features fine beading at the hem, which took Stephanie days to sew by hand. 

As to the challenges of coming up with designs, she says the most difficult part is the creative process. 

“You really have to explore your themes and know what you’re doing. You have to start with your main theme first before moving on to your colours,” says the final year student, who is looking forward to having her own label in the future.  

Says college principal Annie Wong, who has had experience as a designer herself: “When they start their own business they have to think about how to make a living. We train students to complete their pieces on time and still do it professionally.” 

She adds that students are encouraged to explore their creativity. Even though some of their designs may be too avant garde, they are taught how to adapt the pieces to make them more wearable and commercially viable while keeping the creative aspects.  

There are various course specialisations available to students, including designing for casual wear, bridal wear, traditional wear, men’s wear and formal wear. More importantly, students are taught the basics on managing and marketing their own business if they are thinking of starting up independently. 

“We ensure that they are given all-round development,” says Wong. “Every student has to do 1,000 theory hours on fashion business, fashion retail and merchandising and fashion PR.”

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