Hot Lon­don fash­ion de­spite the cold

Our colum­nist heads to Lon­don for a trade show and fash­ion week.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - Award-win­ning fash­ion de­signer Melinda Looi tries to marry con­sumerism and ma­te­ri­al­ism with en­vi­ron­men­tal con­scious­ness. She be­lieves her great­est cre­ations are her chil­dren.

IT’S been grey, wet and cold in Lon­don. Not ex­actly the most con­ducive weather for fashionistas to dress up in their favourite clothes; how­ever, this is the Fash­ion week – and all the storms in the world could not stop the fash­ion­ably cre­ative and cre­atively fash­ion­able com­ing out in full force!

We just fin­ished the Pure Lon­don Fash­ion Trade Show (held from last Sun­day to Tues­day) at the Lon­don Olympia – sim­ply an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for my team and I. We were placed un­der the Agenda area (the pre­mier area) and man­aged to find new stock­ists and po­ten­tial cus­tomers from Bri­tain, Ire­land, Mid­dle East and Port­land. Al­though we didn’t see any Asian buy­ers, whom we had ini­tially been tar­get­ing, I’m glad to know that my de­signs are be­gin­ning to ap­peal to new mar­kets. It was very en­cour­ag­ing to re­ceive spe­cial re­quests and en­quiries, pro­vid­ing us room to ex­plore and grow.

Out of all the brands ex­hibit­ing at the Pure Lon­don un­der the Agenda area, I do be­lieve we were the luck­i­est. The or­gan­is­ers picked the most out­fits from our collection to show­case on the run­way. As a re­sult, we had many buy­ers, stylists and press com­ing to see us af­ter each show to ask for info, check out the collection and com­ment on our pieces. Not only has this been a learn­ing curve for us, we have also made new friends from the lo­cal fash­ion in­dus­try as well as ex­hibitors from Ger­many, Hong Kong, Korea, Spain and Greece. I, for one, en­joyed the op­por­tu­nity to ex­change ideas and con­tacts with both man­u­fac­tur­ers as well as sources. I didn’t ex­pect the ex­hi­bi­tion to bring about this many new friend­ships but it just goes to show that life is full of pleas­ant sur­prises!

Other brands from Malaysia present at the Pure Lon­don in­cluded Mee­sha Sukira (a batik re­sort-wear brand) and Sakura Malaysia (a bag and ac­ces­sories line us­ing Malaysian her­itage ma­te­ri­als). Given the strong Malaysian pres­ence, our Malaysian Trade Com­mis­sioner and his as­sis­tant from Bri­tain came by to visit us, and were very help­ful in an­swer­ing all sorts of ques­tions about the trad­ing process and re­lated mat­ters. Thank you, Ma­trade!

Right af­ter the trade event, my PR agency ar­ranged a ‘Meet & Greet’ ses­sion with the me­dia at a posh depart­ment store called The Lib­erty. We en­joyed a nice English af­ter­noon tea with yummy scones and cakes, dur­ing which I in­tro­duced the brands un­der my um­brella. They ab­so­lutely loved the cur­rent Au­tumn/Win­ter 2014 collection, my cou­ture col­lec­tions, the ac­ces­sories I’d made and my very talked-about 3D print collection, which is still trav­el­ling around the world for shows. The me­dia were gen­uinely ex­cited to meet us as we’re one of the few Asian de­sign­ers to be show­cased in Bri­tain in the re­cent past. Some of the stylists ac­tu­ally ex­pressed the hope to see our 3D printed collection to be back in Lon­don for fash­ion shoots. As you can imag­ine, this re­ally made my day!

In the mean­time, we are also work­ing on our new 3D printed collection for this year, and I do hope to be able to write about that soon ... with sim­i­lar re­ports on pos­i­tive re­sponses from the press.

As I write this col­umn, I feel very ex­cited as I have an­other week in Lon­don. I’m thor­oughly en­joy­ing the Lon­don Fash­ion Week, try­ing to cram in as many shows as pos­si­ble. Due to the size of the event, shows are be­ing held at dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions. I was at Somerset House, the main venue, for the J. JS Lee and Haizhen Wang shows ... Bravo to them, they had such amaz­ing ready-to-wear col­lec­tions. I re­ally en­joyed the shows as well as just ob­serv­ing the unique fash­ion sense of Lon­don­ers – there was no limit to fash­ion and in­no­va­tion through their styles of dress­ing! Some­times I wish that we could see more of the same zany styles back home in Malaysia, where most people tend to play safe. I sincerely be­lieve that Malaysians are cre­ative; we just need to ex­press our cre­ativ­ity through fash­ion more!

At an­other venue – Fash­ion Scout in the Freema­sons’ Hall – I at­tended ‘Ones to Watch’ by four young de­sign­ers: Sarah Ryan, Car­rie-Ann Stein, Hiroko Naka­jima and Ge­orge Styler. I quite like Hiroko’s knitwear – very easy to wear and in­no­va­tive. The oth­ers were su­per cre­ative and avant garde. I took my friend, Ping, for a night show by Pam Hogg, a rock star-cum-de­signer. Be­fit­ting her artis­tic tem­per­a­ment, her mod­els were not pro­fes­sional mod­els but friends who strut­ted the cat­walk in neon-coloured leo­tards with printed taglines such as “this collection is not for sale!” and “pussy riot”. There were brides with translu­cent leo­tards and tulle mesh tops with dra­matic head veils. It was ex­tremely in­ter­est­ing, but not some­thing we will see any time in the near fu­ture in our lo­cal fash­ion shows!

I was also lucky enough to bump into two of fash­ion’s most in­flu­en­tial crit­ics/writ­ers – Suzy Menkes (fash­ion edi­tor, In­ter­na­tional New York Times) and Hi­lary Alexan­der ( The Tele­graph’s for­mer fash­ion di­rec­tor).

Menkes still re­mem­bers in­ter­view­ing me in Kuala Lumpur last year, and men­tioned the most re­cent New York Fash­ion Week, say­ing she thinks Alexan­der Wang is the best of all, and that most of the de­sign­ers seemed a bit lost this sea­son. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to read­ing her pieces on these shows. Alexan­der was in her sig­na­ture fur hat and bold ac­ces­sories, it was im­pos­si­ble to miss her! But def­i­nitely one of the most talked­about fig­ures at the Fash­ion Week was a cos­play la­tex lady, who was to­tally cov­ered with la­tex with only her eyes and mouth ex­posed. She came in a dif­fer­ent colour theme ev­ery­day, even her hair was made of la­tex. Salute! But I’ll have more on fash­ion­ista styles, and the dif­fer­ences be­tween the Lon­don, Mi­lan and Paris Fash­ion Weeks, in an up­com­ing col­umn.

Freema­sons’ Hall was also host­ing Bernard Chan­dran, So­rapol, Nap­sugar Von Bit­tera, Mimi Fasi Nuvo Cou­ture, Anna K, Krasil­nikova, Lara Quint, Lera Leschova, Paskal, Yasya Minochk­ina, Jamie We: Huang, Hema Kaul, Ash­ley Isham and so on. It’s my as­pi­ra­tion to hope­fully en­ter this show ... let’s see!

Af­ter the show, Ping and I had a girls night/Valen­tine’s din­ner at a Korean restau­rant. We made ex­cel­lent ‘dates’ for one an­other as we are such good friends with much to catch up on.

Now that the Lon­don con­ven­tion is over, I am plan­ning the next leg of this jour­ney – to beau­ti­ful Italy. I plan to take a few days off be­fore the White Mi­lano trade fair starts, and to visit Venice, def­i­nitely one of the dreami­est places on earth. I will be ex­plor­ing Venice alone ... and just hope it doesn’t rain as much as it has dur­ing my time here in Lon­don.

Floods in Venice are quite some­thing! Re­gard­less of the weather, how­ever, I’m sure it will be a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, and be­ing the foodie that I am, I can­not wait to taste au­then­tic Ital­ian cui­sine.

Italy, here I come. Buon­giorno, Italia!

Melinda Looi with Hi­lary alexan­der, TheTelegraph’s for­mer fash­ion di­rec­tor.

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