Love for luxe

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - STYLE -

Rizal­man Ibrahim claims that in­te­rior de­sign is ac­tu­ally his first pas­sion. He re­veals that he ap­plied to study the sub­ject at Univer­siti Te­knologi Mara but was re­jected, and in­stead got a place for a course in art and de­sign.

“I ac­cepted the of­fer and de­cided to ma­jor in fash­ion. In­stead of play­ing with spa­ces, I had to then learn how to de­sign for the hu­man body. It was still about tex­tures, colours and forms, but in a dif­fer­ent medium,” he says.

The 44- year- old has nev­er­the­less, come a long way since then. He is now recog­nised for hav­ing a pen­chant for the dra­matic, with his cre­ations often seen on some of the most high pro­file ac­tresses, record­ing artistes, mod­els and celebri­ties.

Not sur­pris­ing, as Rizal­man’s sig­na­ture aes­thetic is all about mak­ing things luxe: “I took ke­bayas and ku­rungs to a whole dif­fer­ent level. Not just as some­thing for ‘ mak­ciks’ but some­thing that is quite rel­e­vant, cur­rent and trendy.

He does ad­mit though that it was dif­fi­cult start­ing out. De­sign­ers did not have the In­ter­net back then. Ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion like trends were lim­ited, and he had to wait for in­ter­na­tional mag­a­zines to ar­rive in the coun­try to catch up on the lat­est fash­ion news.

“There are still chal­lenges now. Young de­sign­ers who are just start­ing out will have to con­tend with more global brands mak­ing its way into the coun­try. While it was a more niche in­dus­try in the past, we had a big­ger slice of the cake.”

On the sub­ject of what it takes for Malaysian fash­ion to go global, Rizal­man says iden­tity is the key. “The Malay cul­ture for in­stance, is not that well dis­cov­ered by the world yet. Sa­rees or cheongsams are well known, but do other coun­tries recog­nise our ku­rungs?”

In or­der to be stand­out in the in­dus­try, you must have a strong cul­tural ref­er­ence. Hav­ing that can ac­tu­ally make for a strong state­ment. The fash­ion peo­ple around the world are, af­ter all, look­ing for fresh­ness and new­ness.”

The years have seen Rizal­man mov­ing on from just ply­ing the trade of ev­ery­day fash­ion. Aside from an ex­panded busi­ness which of­fers cou­ture wed­ding dresses, he also has a com­pany that fo­cuses on in­te­rior and home de­sign.

“Again, it was the same as how I did fash­ion. I brought in­ter­na­tional ac­cents and el­e­ments into lo­cal Malaysian houses. I mixed the two aes­thet­ics to­gether – keep­ing the tra­di­tional feel, but mak­ing it more mod­ern,” he says, re­gard­ing his recipe for suc­cess.

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