Keep­ing it Malaysian

Three sea­soned fash­ion de­sign­ers speak about stay­ing stylishly true to their her­itage.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE -

For Bernard Chan­dran, fash­ion has al­ways been about cre­at­ing some­thing fresh and unique. The de­signer, who is of Chin­dian parent­age, says that his aim is to push boundaries and cre­ate an il­lu­sion of beauty that cap­ti­vates.

“My de­signs are fem­i­nine but quirky. If you take a closer look, you’ll find that my dresses are not just dresses. Some­how, they’ll have some­thing dif­fer­ent. I de­sign for the kind of girl who is vi­brant but to­tally fem­i­nine.”

Bernard, 48, has had 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence un­der his belt. He stud­ied fash­ion de­sign abroad, where he grad­u­ated with a Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in Fine Arts from the Paris Amer­i­can Academy and Pat­tern Mak­ing at L’Union Des Cham­bers Syn­di­cales Parisi­ennes.

He says that he is very proud of his coun­try. That is the rea­son why he re­turned here be­fore found­ing his own la­bel. He thinks that his de­signs rep­re­sent Malaysia, and are prob­a­bly the key to his suc­cess.

“To an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence, my clothes may be from the ‘ Far East’. But they are Malaysian. Malaysian In­dian or Malaysian Chi­nese. We’re dif­fer­ent, we’re unique. This is what I al­ways tell to the Western world,” he ex­plains.

Bernard is best known for be­ing able to make the old new again. His cre­ations ad­here to cur­rent trends, yet main­tain well- recog­nised form and sill­houttes. In this, he draws from the Malaysian iden­tity.

“You can spot my her­itage in the clothes I make. I don’t find it dif­fi­cult to bal­ance be­tween tra­di­tional and mod­ern el­e­ments at all. I think a de­signer’s cul­ture and back­ground will al­ways find a way to shine through.”

On grow­ing up in Malaysia as young boy who loves fash­ion, Bernard says that it was not easy. His own fa­ther was ini­tially re­luc­tant in al­low­ing him to study fash­ion de­sign. He also re­calls be­ing teased by his friends for lov­ing fash­ion.

“Things have def­i­nitely changed. If you no­tice, there’s a new con­fi­dence in how peo­ple re­gard the trade. There are def­i­nitely many more par­ents al­low­ing their chil­dren to go into fash­ion de­sign now,” he adds.

To suc­ceed in fash­ion, con­sis­tency is ap­par­ently the key. Bernard him­self has showed reg­u­larly at the Lon­don and Paris fash­ion weeks. He has even opened a bou­tique in the heart of Lon­don, lo­cated right smack in swanky Knights­bridge.

“You have to un­der­stand that fash­ion is a busi­ness where you sell. It is a busi­ness you need to make money. It’s not just about mak­ing beau­ti­ful things. Yes, de­sign­ing is an art. But the prod­ucts have to be wear­able art,” he states.

(From left) Bernard Chan­dran, Rizal­man Ibrahim and Melinda Looi are veter­ans in the lo­cal fash­ion in­dus­try. -YAP CHEE and AZLINA AB­DUL­LAH/The Star

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