The fifth edition of Malaysia’s most talked-about fashion event finds designers maturing into their design identity, write Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup and Nadia Badarudin.
FIVE years into Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week Ready-to-Wear, the event finds itself on firmer footing and a stronger reputation.
Shows are attended by royalty, celebrities and socialites, and passionate fashion fans document every outfit on and off the runway.
There is a long list of sponsors and even government endorsement through the Tourism Ministry.
Held from Aug 16 to 20, there was a real buzz at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur over those five days as fans, friends and family came to show their support.
Away from their own shows, designers sat among the crowd to cheer for their fellow designers – or if you’re cynical – to scope out the competition.
KLFW RTW insists on brand new collections, so everyone’s curious to see what everyone else has to offer. And five years on, the crowd have become more perceptive.
You can tell from their cheers or silences which designers are putting in the work and the ones merely playing for their moment in the spotlight.
The event also tasked itself to champion regional fashion design through the AirAsia Runway Ready Designer Search (see sidebar).
Meanwhile, FashionValet gets into the Merdeka spirit with the #IAmHomeGrown campaign.
You get a sense there is a bigger picture at play here. Fashion is inextricably linked to our identity, and anything that is worth doing is worth doing well. It’s only natural to use that platform to celebrate national pride and support regional excellence.
SPARKLE AND SWAY
A decade ago when Datuk Sri Dr Farah Khan established her eponymous label, not even half the brands showing at KLFW RTW 2017 had come into existence.
It’s partly why her guest list on Thursday night felt like a throwback to the days before seemingly-out-of-nowhere Instagram stars took over the fashion front row.
She opened the show with society children walking to the oohs and aahs of an adoring crowd.
Gowns, jackets and even bootie shorts were covered in her signature sequins. There was a selection of dresses inspired by 20th century art masters, with works from the likes of Picasso, Matisse and Kandinsky wonderfully transposed in sparkling sequins and beadwork.
Meanwhile, Eclipse began its show with a video tribute to its late founder Sonny San, who passed away in October.
The collection featured athleisure pieces as well as sexy, backless dresses in botanical motifs, with full skirts that sway beautifully in motion.
As expected, Carven Ong rolled out an awe-inspiring collection. Soft and flowy evening gowns in emerald green and dreamy inky blue take centre stage, with intricate, flowery appliqué, frills and beads among the detailing.
Ribbons creatively placed around the waist break down the monotonous tone of a dress and jazz up the feminine silhouettes of the overall look.
Alia Bastamam and Nurita Harith also reliably sent out gorgeous, feminine pieces in rich, sleek fabric.
Mimpikita played with bolder colours and silhouettes, presenting a collection that is an effervescent mix of different prints and textures.
The colour selections at Innai Red were relatively subdued, but the pieces are sure to be coveted all the same.
PLAY AND PRACTICAL
Making its second appearance at KLFW RTW, DD Collective served practical clothing at its best. The label played up pop graffiti prints and fresh floral fix in combos of summer dresses, cropped tops, pleated midi skirts and pants.
Known for his simple yet slick clothing and footwear, Sarawakian designer Maatin Shakir went for simple cuts and effortless looks in clash pairings of animal prints and muted colours, mainly in beige and black.
This year also marked his first collaboration with maker of upcycled bags Biji-Biji Bags and Sarawak’s jewellery brand CynT.
Ana Abu likewise made it to the runway at Pavilion KL, presenting tunic tops with embroidered silhouettes of faces, oversized hoodies and an outstanding pleated jumpsuit.
Loose cuts as favoured by the label can be tricky to pull off lest the outfits look like sacks on legs but they were done so well that even KLFW RTW head honcho Andrew Tan was clapping enthusiastically.
There was a strong menswear vibe at Ezzati Amira, as the designer showed oversized suits in a grey chequered pattern and reconstructed shirts with enlarged pockets.
Her voluminous maxi dresses in floral prints don’t feel particularly girlish either, even as she worked with typically feminine styles and patterns.
ROOTS AND ROLL
Speaking of menswear, Tarik Jeans opened its show with a model covered in gold glitter wearing a songket sampin belted by a fanny pack. On his head is a denim tanjak.
The collection is called Nusa Bencana, and amidst all that blue jeans the show could easily turn into a disaster of archipelagic proportion, but there was enough attitude and restraint to see things through.
On the other side of the songket and batik spectrum is Adila Long. The designer showcased DiaRevival, her first luxe ready-to-wear collection.
Featuring 18 looks in a variety of black and coral orange shades, the designs redefined the meaning of elegance with modern cuts and smart layering of traditional textures with appliqué detailing.
Meanwhile, top marks to Syomirizwa Gupta on a fresh and culturally-rich collection that merges his Indian and Indonesian roots, in recognition of a familial heritage that is not that uncommon in Malaysia and yet increasingly lost to society’s standard of modern Malay homogeneity.
Batik and kain pelikat pieces in vibrant colours are transformed as tops, dresses, jackets and trousers in a manner that flatter both the pattern and the clothing style.
Meanwhile, his maxi skirts are cut like lenghas, and he paired dresses over loose pants on a spin of the Punjabi suit. One dress features a bare left shoulder and fabric draping over the right, in a style not unlike a classic saree.
Tran(s)-fixed at designer search finale
IT’S a clear-cut win for Tran Thi Tu from Vietnam at the third edition of the AirAsia Runway Ready Designer Search, Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week Ready-to-Wear’s very own next top designer search.
The grand finale on Friday saw 20 young talents from 10 Asean countries showcasing Asean-themed creations on the runway.
While there were more misses than hits by the competing designers, Tran stood out and stamped her mark in three looks of indefinite boldness and flamboyance.
Turning minimalist is outdated, and the designer came out with a mix and match of pants, loose-fitting jackets and dresses in clashing prints, with a rich layering of fabrics and textures as well as exaggerated detailing imbued with ethnic-inspired motifs.
Besides the impressive and meticulous craftsmanship and needlework, the fresh colour combination of red, gold and brown added a touch of glamour to the pieces.
Tran walked away with prizes including a confirmed show segment to showcase her full collection at KLFW RTW 2018, a year-long mentorship from the KLFW RTW team, RM25,000 sponsored by FashionValet to produce a capsule collection that will be sold on fashionvalet.com, a six-page fashion spread in AirAsia’s Travel3Sixty inflight magazine and a special feature in Female Malaysia magazine, among others.
The AirAsia Runway Ready Designer Search was established with the aim to empower youth and develop young talents in the fashion industry across the region.
This year’s panel of judges included AirAsia CEO Aireen Omar, KLFW RTW founder Andrew Tan and FashionValet co-founder Vivy Yusof.
Last year’s winner, Anuruk Jaidee from Thailand also showcased his full collection on the runway in Kuala Lumpur.
The nature-inspired collection was presented in dominant shades of black and red.