Love for luxe
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.