Designer Hariharan Arasu has just launched his inaugural menswear collection, which comprises loose tops and pants in breathable materials, writes Nadia Badarudin

FROM the day he rolled out his first collection in 2012, Hariharan Arasu has stamped a mark with his modern look infused with Indian cultural elements designs.  

Hariharan, a 27-year-old fashion designer from Kuala Lumpur, is among the new generation of talents who are blazing a trail in the local scene with their impressive ideas and craftsmanship.

His first collection — which was showcased as his final-year project at the Petaling Jaya College of Art and Design (PJCAD) — comprised six pieces, reflecting heavy influence of Indian Asoka with a futuristic twist.   


A fusion of modern and traditional Indian designs by Malaysian fashion designer Hariharan Arasu. (Picture credit: Sakti Vaelan / Vaelan Photography)

Next, he took his cultural roots to the next level and presented an alternative version of traditional saree in the form of short and sexy dresses with the details made from saree fabrics. His portfolio also comprised an all-black, saree-inspired outfit with an edgy look.

“I received nasty remarks from people who thought I insulted traditional Indian saree with my designs,” says Hariharan.

   “Well, it’s a bit controversial but I didn’t think it’s insulting. What I did was improvising something traditional to suit the taste of the younger crowd,” says the designer who founded Ardana Haran after obtaining a diploma in fashion designing from PJCAD. 


Hariharan integrates his cultural roots in his designs. (Picture credit: Hariharan Arasu)

 

EARLY EXPOSURE

Hariharan loves painting and crafting artsy stuffs since young. He follows fashion and loves to dress well too.

His interest in designing sparked after watching his grandparents —who were tailors — working on their pieces. At 16, he knew that fashion designing was his call.   

In college, Hariharan seemed to be on the right track especially after winning two design competitions.  

   In 2011, he won the grand prize in a competition organised by The Body Shop and the prize was a three-month internship with fashion designer Melinda Looi. He apprenticed with

Datuk Jimmy Choo after winning the Kronenbourg 1664’s L’Aperitif Fashion Competition in 2012.

   “With Melinda Looi, I learnt the work behind the scene and picked up beadwork skills. “Winning a week’s mentorship with Datuk Jimmy Choo in London was a big thing for me. I got to observe how the industry works on a larger scale. During the trip, I got to go to London Fashion Week as well,” says Hariharan. 


A saree-inspired piece (left) called Futuristic Robotica Couture Saree from the designer’s 2014 collection. (Picture credit: Hariharan Arasu)

WOMENSWEAR TO MENSWEAR

The designer draws inspirations from his Indian cultural heritage.

   “I’m always inspired by the way people dressed in the 60s or 70s. But when I design, I’ll improvise — combining modern look with traditional design elements.

   “And I’m having more customers looking for such fusion take for made-to-measure clothes like combining cheongsam collar with saree blouse,” he says.

   From bespoke pieces to ready-to-wear womenswear including Hari Raya collections, he has taken one step further by launching his inaugural menswear collection at the 2018 Indian Fashion Festival in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 31.

   The collection comprises formal and casual wear mainly in linen and cotton.

“The collection is inspired by the Hindu god, Shiva. Practicality is the key here, so you can see loose tops and pants come in breathable materials like cotton.

   “I also play with colours such as earthy brown and blue for easy mix and match,” he says.   


A saree-inspired piece (left) called Futuristic Robotica Couture Saree from the designer’s 2014 collection. (Picture credit: Hariharan Arasu)

FACING CHALLENGES

Unlike the past, the local fashion industry is very competitive, with a rising number of designing schools and fashion design graduates aiming for a fair share of the pie, says Hariharan.  

“There aren’t enough support and platforms from the relevant authorities for young designers to showcase their talents and work.   

   “The stiff competition has resulted in some of these aspiring designers to simply give up or take up jobs unrelated to their skills and talents to make ends meet.”

   Despite having a smooth start in stepping into the fashion scene, it is not always an easy ride for Hariharan when it comes to sustaining his business.

“It was a struggle during the early years because I was still an unknown.

“As a result, I set up Ardana Haran Bridal and ventured into bridal wear and make-up.

   “Besides, I’m fussy about the make-up on my models. Most of the time, I would do their make-up myself,” he says.

   At Ardana Haran Bridal, Hariharan teams up with a hairstylist. And when it comes to make-up, Hariharan is a self-taught artist who finds ideas and inspirations from celebrities like the Kardashians.

Juggling two businesses is another huge challenge.  

“It’s tough to juggle two businesses especially when one (the bridal business) is picking up speed. There were times that I lost my designing mojo because I was too caught up with make-up bookings.

   “But, when I work, I’m very focused, disciplined and determined. I’m very organised and I don’t like last minute work. That helps me in overcoming the challenges,” he says. 


The young talent likes to bring out the elegance and confidence of a woman with his designs. (Picture credit: Hariharan Arasu)

FUTURE PLANS

Hariharan aims to propel Ardana Haran to greater heights.

   “I plan to expand my business internationally. Rather than going global with ready-to-wear clothes, I will focus on made-to-measure pieces where I can challenge my creativity as well as experiment with grand and dramatic ideas. That’s more of my style.

   “But since I’m a one-man show, I have to take baby steps to reach greater heights,” he says. 

What’s his advice to aspiring fashion designers?

“Dream big. Don’t give up easily, especially if you don’t get the job that you want right after you completed your studies.

   “And don’t make lack of funds as an excuse to stop pursuing your dream to have your own fashion label or run your own business. There’ll always be a way for you to make it. Don’t let your talent and knowledge go to waste.”

“Competition is stiff,” he says, “so it’s important to carry yourself well and be actively connected on the social media platform to promote your work, especially when you are your own boss,” he adds.


Hariharan realised that fashion designing was his call when he was 16. (Picture credit: Hariharan Arasu)

IN A FLASH

1. WHO DO YOU ADMIRE THE MOST IN FASHION DESIGNING?

I look up to Pierre Balmain of French luxury fashion house Balmain. I admire him for his way of styling and bringing out the wow factor of a woman’s figure, resulting in a look that exudes nothing but confidence and boldness. I also adore Elie Saab, Zuhair Murad and Donatella Versace for their stunning pieces, especially evening wear with beautiful details, which embody the elegance and confidence of women.

 

2. WHAT IS FASHION FAUX PAS TO YOU?

I would say colour-coordinating everything in an ensemble. I’m also against the use of animal fur in any fashion piece. That’s a big no for me.

 

3. DO YOU HAVE ANY STYLING TIPS?

I believe in elegance and simplicity at most times. For me, less is always more. For instance, if you’re wearing an evening gown, don’t go all crazy by stacking on accessories. Choose a simple necklace and a pair of studs. Or, if you want to put on dramatic earrings, keep the neck bare.

 

4. CAN YOU SHARE SOME BRIDAL MAKE-UP TIPS?

Usually the bridal outfit and accessories are meant to make the bride look grand. So, the make-up should be simple: Natural and minimal, not change her face entirely.

 

5. IF YOU’RE NOT A FASHION DESIGNER, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?

I would do any job relating to art and run my own business along that line. 

[email protected]