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