Malaysia is known for many things — food, nature, islands, and many more. However, you might not realise how well the Malaysian designer fashion scene is thriving. Made up of established icons and up & comers, the industry has been gaining international recognition for years.
Designers in Malaysia have been making waves in the international fashion industry, and familiar faces such as Bernard Chandran are becoming household names. Another notable fashion designer in Malaysia is Khoon Hooi, who designed Katy Perry’s outfit for the 2019 Jingle Ball event. Many of them are aware of fast fashion and its deleterious impact on the environment.
Subsequently, many of them have started their own sustainable fashion labels paying homage to their Malaysian roots. Without further ado, let’s look at the 5 Malaysian designers that you need to know in 2022.
Pink Jambu by Malaysian designer Tengku Marina Ibrahim
Malaysian designer Tengku Marina Ibrahim believes in the philosophy of making unique and one-of-a-kind pieces to stand out from fast fashion brands that mass produce and replicate the latest fashion trends. Pink Jambu specialises in combining traditional batik-making techniques with interesting and eccentric prints. Being able to focus on making a few pieces at a time ensures that the products retain their quality. The brand’s founder also aims to preserve the heritage of ancient batik craftsmanship as well as champion ethical and sustainable working practices.
Here are our editors’ picks for Pink Jambu:
Tenun Clutch: Blues & Greens: The Tenun handheld clutches come in vibrant hues of blue and green, made from handwoven textiles which take months to weave. Malaysia’s Queen Azizah has personally endorsed the Tenun (Cheminahsayang) used for these pieces, which is a testament to their quality. These classy accessories are suitable for any occasion, such as a casual shopping trip with your girlfriends or a wedding dinner.
Batik Clutch: Reds & Pinks: Not a fan of cool tones such as blues and greens? These batik pieces are at the opposite end of the colour spectrum compared to the Tenun clutches for those who prefer warm hues. True artisanship is exemplified through the hand-painted purple and pink flowers which add nice details to the handcrafted clutches. Like their Tenun counterparts, these clutches are very versatile and charming for a wide variety of occasions.
Khoon Hooi by Malaysian designer Lee Khoon Hooi
When Malaysian designer Lee Khoon Hooi was a young boy, he loved eating char kway teow behind his childhood home in Malaysia. He talks about his childhood memories fondly, and certain memories, like his favourite roti canai and nasi lemak, are etched in his mind.
Many years have passed, and Khoon Hooi has since grown into an eminent designer in Malaysia. His works of art have also graced the catwalks of the Paris Fashion Week since 2010. His loud and whimsical sense of style is reflected in the clothing that he designs.
We’ve covered his story before, in-depth.
Our picks from the Malaysian designer:
Chitose Bag: Eco-sustainability and environmentally friendly practices have been on everyone’s mind for a while now. Bans on single-use plastic bags at supermarkets are becoming increasingly common, and you may want to bring along this Chitose Bag made using upcycled brocade fabrics instead. There’s also the option of using this bag as a tote bag-the generously-sized interior means that you can dump all your essentials into it and not worry about things falling out.
Evening Chiasa Short Handle Bag: The cousin of the Chiasa Short Handle Bag, this Evening Chiasa Short Handle Bag was modelled after Japanese bento boxes. At first glance, it may seem deceptively small, but it is roomy enough to carry all your valuables and essential items. The ornate embroidery on the bag makes it perfect for an older woman, such as an older friend or your mother.
AHNDE by Malaysian designer Tanya Steven and friends
AHNDE is the lovechild of Malaysian designer Tanya Steven and two other friends, as well as a smorgasbord of many things. How would you describe this Malaysian fashion brand? Basically, Singapore and London, art and science, the chemistry between friends, all rolled up into one. Tanya sees everything as a series of interlinked and interconnected events, and her designs reflect this. AHDNE’s shirts are functional, form-fitting, and effortlessly stylish for everyday wear.
Show AHNDE some love by purchasing:
MAYA shirt: This formal piece which features puffed sleeves is especially suitable for warm climates in Southeast Asia and beyond. If you want to inject a pop of colour into your wardrobe, go for the MAYA shirt in Cherry blossom, a nice pastel pink that is gentle on the eyes. For a crisp white look, opt for the Maya Shirt in White. The loose and billowing silhouette makes this blouse flattering on every body type.
CORA Shirt: This oversized CORA Shirt reminds us of the trend of wearing your boyfriend’s shirt. For a light and breathable outfit, go for the White and Eggshell versions of the shirt, made from 70% cotton and 30% viscose. On cold office days, the Cherry Blossom CORA Shirt can be worn as a jacket. Play with textures by adding a statement necklace or a simple scarf.
Lemon by ACK by Malaysian designer Amelia Clair Kortum
What made Malaysian designer Amelia Clair Kortum come up with this name? As a baby, she was drawn to the taste of lemons, recalling that she would add salt on them to make them extra sour. Lemon by ACK is a wordplay on her initials and her love for lemons, and it was launched after her four-year stint in the retail industry which exposed her to the lack of sustainable fashion options as well as the ubiquity of fast fashion. The budding fashion designer in Malaysia also realised that a lot of customers don’t fit into standard sizing options. The brand aims to address this issue by having fully adjustable clothing.
Amelia incorporates activism into her brand by employing refugees from the El Shaddai Centre to help her manufacture clothing pieces at the Life2Life Sewing Centre.
Support Amelia and her work by purchasing:
Stacey Halter Top: This V-neck halter top with a plunging neckline comes with adjustable halter ties. Crafted using upcycled kimonos, it is a great option for clubbing or lounging on a beach chair. The Pink Bird version comes in a hot pink halter top with bird and flower prints, perfect for making a fashion statement. For a more simple and minimalistic vibe, pick the Mango version and layer it with a necklace to complete the look.
Bekki Top: Everyone from daring fashionistas to the simple dresser can pull off the Bekki Top with its lace-up design. The Flax version comes in a gold, earthy tone and the Jade version of the halter top comes with a green motif with shades of grey, and specks of red and yellow. Accessorise it with a clutch bag and a pair of jeans and you are ready to hit the clubs.
SOPHIA by Shirley by Malaysian designer Shirley Ong
Malaysian designer Shirley Ong recounted that her motherhood journey wasn’t exactly smooth sailing — after trying for 10 years, her daughter, Sophia, was finally born. In order to support her daughter and herself, the enterprising fashion designer in Malaysia decided to launch her own fashion brand with Sophia as the namesake. Initially, most of her other customers were fellow Malaysian mothers. Sophia has since grown from strength to strength, and the brand has fans from all over the world requesting for custom orders. One of the latest milestones in the brand’s journey includes having the honour of presenting her bag to Tun Siti Hasmah, the wife of the 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad.
Support this working mother by exploring these pieces:
Jadeite Obi Silk Handbag in Red Kiku: Made using the finest Japanese silks, this luxurious red clutch bag is embellished with golden chrysanthemums, which represent longevity and rejuvenation. The exquisite gold handle is adorned with a customised jadeite bangle. Buy it as a present for your mother and she will appreciate the fine details on this gem.
Vintage Obi Silk Clutch: This rectangular clutch bag is made from vintage obi silks hailing from Japan, with peonies signifying good fortune and ageless beauty. The long golden chain makes it easy to carry this charming and sophisticated bag around. This accessory is the pièce de résistance for any outfit, and it would be the ideal finishing touch for an evening gown or a cheongsam.
We hope you enjoyed reading about these talented homegrown designers in Malaysia. As the world becomes increasingly globalised, more and more Malaysian designers have a chance to showcase their works on an international stage. To learn more about emerging and established fashion designers in Malaysia as well as Southeast Asia, remember to follow our Instagram or blog for more updates.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Team Dia is made up of Dia’s three co-founders: Kylie, Alia, & Aisha. They are friends from Malaysia who decided to create Dia in 2020 out of love for their home region. They have lived across the world and have worked in government, big data, journalism, hospitality, and market research. They’d love for you to join the Dia community.