KUALA LUMPUR: Fashion is a fickle industry to be in.
What’s trendy and “in” changes so often that the industry has to constantly evolve and reinvent itself to stay vibrant.
With the runaway success of the just-concluded KL Fashion Week 2003, it can now be considered as a must-watch annual event, with a pivotal role to play in the years to come, and more importantly as a catalyst to change.
In just over two days, more than 50 fashion designers flashed their 500-odd pieces of creations at the MidValley exhibition centre which have earned heartening reviews from fashion practitioners.
Never in the history of Malaysia has there been such a large congregation of local fashion talents – either established or green horns – gathered under one banner and before a mass audience.
The KL Fashion Week 2003 has certainly ushered in a new phase in the development of the local fashion industry.
Designer Victor Goh, with 26 years' experience, who has travelled far and wide to catch fashion shows and fairs overseas, said the event was the first where so many local designers were exposed at once.
“There are many talented local designers here but the public have never seen their works,” he said.
Though he did not take part, Goh made sure he attended every show to support the event organised by The Star and presented by L’Oreal.
He said the norm where local designers did everything on their own should change.
“They design, they market and organise their own little in-house fashion shows for invited guests and they do sales as well,” he said.
Many who saw the shows were surprised by the high standard exhibited by local designers – even London-based high fashion designer Datuk Jimmy Choo was impressed with the design, cut, choice of fabrics and colours which, he said, were “very advanced”.
One notable achievement was the ability of local designers to draw inspirations from traditional culture when interpreting their creations.
So you have designers – veterans, up-and-coming and even Malaysians who made good overseas – who fused Mandarin collar with kebaya tops, Malay batik prints and traditional motives on sarongs with Indian beadings to bring out costumes in such a rush of colours that were simply astonishing.
Local models did not disappoint when presenting the creations on the catwalk.
Malaysian international designers invited to take part in the fashion week brought along with them not just their enthusiasm but also costumes befitting the themes – shocking, revealing, opulent and whimsical.
London-based Steven Sin transformed a traditional Chinese wedding headgear into a carnival-mood party accessory made of colourful flowers while local designer Carven Ong presented a body-hugging laced kebaya top with a micro-mini fur skirt.
Veteran Bernard Chandran came up with a denim series decorated with motives similar to those found on traditional Malay sarongs, while Melinda Looi brought beading art to greater heights with her evening wear collection.
Others like New York-based Zang Toi, London-based Richard Kinloch and Singapore-based Peter Hoe, to name a few, imbued the fashion week with an international flavour.
L’Oreal managing director Alvin Michael Hew said the cultural expressions displayed by various designers were the most inspiring part of the show.
“It is good to know that multi-cultural influences have groomed the creativity of our designers, who are not copycats who just followed the western trend blindly,” he said.
Lewre managing director Lew Fong Voon, who staged a bridal collection on Saturday to the applause of a full-house audience, believed KL Fashion Week 2003 would be a platform for both designers and the public to nurture higher appreciation towards fashion.
“It provides exposure for local designers. It also helps to engage the audience to realise that fashion is a form of lifestyle, a way of life that should get better and better,” he said.
As a fashion writer with over a decade of experience rightly pointed out, the local fashion scene had been dominated by veteran designers for far too long with few newcomers making the break in recent years.
The scenario is set to change soon.
At the KL Fashion Week 2003, students’ collection from colleges such as Limkokwing University College of Creative Technologies and the La Salle International Fashion School, showed promising talent.
The inaugural Star Designers Awards will be another effort to nurture talents of young designers, said Bill Keith, president of the Malaysian Designers Association.
“This is considered good for a first timer. But to meet international standards and generate more interest, this fashion event needs more support from all sectors within the industry.
“The show should not be limited to just showcasing designers, but should also rope in buyers, department store operators, textile companies, fashion critics and even international players.
“International fashion fairs, be it in London or Hong Kong, are more than fashion because they provide links to supplementary industries.”