Scouting young fashion talent

Lim says that if you have London Fashion Week on your CV, no one will question your competence.

Students presented 43 designs that are a cultural mix of ideas, fabrics, textures and colours on the catwalk.

“TOOK part in London Fashion Week”. While not every designer can include this in their resume, 20 young Limkokwing University of Creative Technology students and graduates can certainly do so.

On Feb 17, the group presented 43 designs at Fashion Scout, the United Kingdom’s largest independent showcase for emerging and established design talents during the London Fashion Week (LFW).

Fashion Scout is known for championing and showcasing design talent by providing a platform to showcase excellence from all over the world.

Held twice a year, LFW is a trade show that is among the “Big Four” of fashion weeks, along with those in New York, Milan and Paris. There were 54 participants at Fashion Scout, but Limkokwing is the only university invited by the organiser to showcase its ability there.

The core team from Limkokwing consisting of 20 students and graduates from the university’s Faculty of Lifestyle and Creativity chose “Asian and African Culture Meet in Europe” as its theme to reflect the rich cultural mix of its student population.

Designers Maureen and Kutraleswarean (right) represented the team in London.
Models practise their runway looks before the show.

“Our designs reflect the diverse background of our students and represent a mixture of ideas,” said Limkokwing University of Creative Technology vice-president of brand, creativity and talent development Datuk Tiffanee Marie Lim.

In the run-up to the event, the entire university was involved in the unique experience. Students and lecturers joined hands to contribute ideas, fabrics, accessories, shoes, headwear and wraps, an effort that saw students practically scouring the world to source for materials.

“We got embroidery from India, Indonesian batik, Chinese silk, traditional lihiya designs from Swaziland and fabrics from Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Ghana, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Nigeria and Iraq. We also hand-made Malaysian batik and hot-pressed the Balinese barong character onto cloth,” said Lim.

The final collection had over 40 designs created by the students, as well as pieces made under Limkokwing Fashion Club, dubbed as the “world’s first fashion label created by a university”.

“The organisers usually invite brands that have looks to sell because Fashion Week is a trade show where buyers gather to pick what they want to feature at their stores. So, universities are not normally invited. But we bridged that gap with the Limkokwing Fashion Club,” explained Lim.

Behind the scenes primping for the event.
Behind the scenes primping for the event.

“This commercial platform adds value to students because it allows them to take their designs all the way (to retail) and participate in events such as this,” she added.

Attention to detail

Under normal circumstances, designers usually take six months to a year to put together their runway collection. But the additional test for Limkokwing was that it only had two months’ notice to design over 43 looks.

In the end, the university didn’t disappoint.

Attention to detail was the name of the game and the models stepped out draped in clothes that featured ethnic prints and intricate designs on fabrics adorned with hand-woven gold and silver threads. They wore heels embellished with floral patterns, golden inlaid moccasins and bold accessories. Topping off some of the creations were crystal hairpieces that had to be attached individually to the models’ hair.

The result was a striking display of textures, colours and cultures, all coming together in unison on the catwalk at the packed Freemasons’ Hall, on the first day of the LFW.

“Limkokwing produced a remarkable show which was intelligent and well attended. It is our pleasure to have invited such a prestigious design university to participate in London Fashion Week,” said Fashion Scout’s operations manager Gina Hewitt after the show.

The drawing board

Maureen K Dewi, one of the two graduates who made the trip to London, said they received the Fashion Scout invitation last December.

“There were a lot of things to do – and a lot of holidays during that period.

Designers Maureen and Kutraleswarean represented the team in London.
Designers Maureen and Kutraleswarean (right) represented the team in London.

“Our design team struggled to get things done, but we did it,” said the 23-year-old from Indonesia who is also brand manager of Limkokwing Fashion Club.

In the end, the prospect of showcasing their designs in London energised them and kept them going even during difficult moments.

The trip from university to the global catwalk was a learning experience that went way beyond the classroom.

The other designer who went to London, Kutraleswarean Padamanathan, 22, described it as the most stressful period of his life.

They had to fight for the best models as other brands were competing for the same girls, deal with a modelling agency calling to say it would not be able to provide the required models, and run around looking for extra items needed for the catwalk. And on top of dealing with jet lag and the cold, they worried about filling the seats in the hall.

“We had to deal with so many things happening at once and it was really stressful. But it was such a great experience because I got to see the real fashion industry and how it works,” said Kutraleswarean.

Above all, the Limkokwing graduate from Malaysia was overjoyed to be living his dream. “My dream is to have my own show at LFW one day. But now, even before I have my own brand, I have already gotten this opportunity, and at such a young age. I am really grateful for that,” he said.

Prof Bell says that it is a great opportunity for students to display their work at the London Fashion Week.
Prof Bell says that it is a great opportunity for students to display their work at the London Fashion Week.

Lim said the show was interesting as it challenged the students.

“They had never dealt with such a big event before and there were a hundred things happening at the same time.

“As we were inviting London guests, and there were different shows happening at the same time, the team had to compete for guests to come to their show.

“We are walking on one of the biggest runways in the world. Not many students or even designers get this opportunity.

“There was this sense of competition that we don’t have at home. We didn’t want to see even one empty chair in the hall because we had worked so hard for the show. So there was this sense of challenge and hunger. This is the kind of stuff the students will never forget,” she added.

The road ahead

Malaysia’s representation at LFW was not only limited to designers. Tanisha Demour, 21, also volunteered to model the designs at Fashion Scout.

“I’m amazed and excited to be a part of this event because the students have been producing amazing garments and designs. I’m also proud of myself as a Malaysian walking on the London runway,” said Tanisha, a mass communication student from Limkokwing.

Limkokwing University of Creative Technology vice-chancellor Prof Cedric Bell said participation at Fashion Scout is a huge privilege.

“It is a great opportunity for our students and also a big achievement for the university.

A model with a hijab showcasing the collection’s diversity.
A model with a hijab showcasing the collection’s diversity.

“Over 200 guests attended the event, which speaks volumes about the standing of Limkokwing in terms of the fashion world,” he said.

Lim hopes that Limkokwing’s participation at the prestigious event will get people to take note of the story behind the brand.

“I hope the people who came to our show will be inspired because we are a group of young designers.

“Now, these 19-year-olds are at the top of the game. You will find it very hard to beat them in 20 years’ time.

“The students’ life will change because they have done this. If you have this on your CV, no one will question your competence. You are validated,” she said.

Taking a broader view, Lim felt that the success at Fashion Scout also opens the door for more Malaysian designers to be featured on the international arena.

Male fashion was also represented on the runway.
Male fashion was also represented on the runway.

“For the developing world, it means that the gap is not that big. Last time, they were only searching for talent from where they are (in the west). But they have exhausted all of these resources and are now looking where we are.

“They are watching us. So all we have to do is be the best where we are. Then, we can compete to be the best in the world.”

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