From KL to the world: Here are the Malaysian fashion designers who have gone global

Malaysian fashion designer Bernard Chandran with UK’s Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton (left) and America’s Katy Perry wearing Malaysian brand Khoon Hooi. Photo: @bernardchandran and @khoonhooi
Malaysian fashion designer Bernard Chandran with UK’s Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton (left) and America’s Katy Perry wearing Malaysian brand Khoon Hooi. Photo: @bernardchandran and @khoonhooi

There’s more to Malaysia’s fashion industry than dressing up the ultra-rich Datins and Datos. Look harder and you’ll find a collection of noteworthy talents with original creations and vision who have made their mark on the globe for both ready-to-wear and haute couture. 

From phenomenal on-screen gowns to traditional outfits and award-winning silhouettes, here are some of the top Malaysian designers making a stylish splash in international waters.

Khoon Hooi

Katy Perry wears Khoon Hooi at the 2019 Jingle Ball. Photo: Instagram / @khoonhooi
Katy Perry wears Khoon Hooi at the 2019 Jingle Ball. Photo: Instagram / @khoonhooi

Perak-born fashion designer Khoon Hooi’s looks have been worn by A-listers like chart-topping American singer Katy Perry during last year’s Jingle Ball concert in Minnesota. The singer wore the brand’s soft yellow, embellished gown from its Spring 2020 collection, featuring a giant bow.

Hollywood actresses Karen Pittman and Ginnifer Goodwin were also decked out in Khoon Hooi’s extravagant gowns for the Golden Globes in January earlier this year.

Khoon Hooi, whose full name is Lee Khoon Hooi, launched his own label in 1999, six years after he graduated from the Malaysian Institute of Art. He spent those years harnessing his fashion skills in competitions, eventually cinching his first award as runner-up for the Malaysian Young Designer Award in 1996.

Carven Ong

Carven Ong created the set wardrobe for the film Crazy Rich Asians. Photo: Instagram @carvenong_courture
Carven Ong created the set wardrobe for the film Crazy Rich Asians. Photo: Instagram @carvenong_courture

Remember the luxurious, glittery, tiered wedding dress from the iconic wedding scene in Hollywood’s Crazy Rich Asians? Conceptualized by the movie’s costume designer Mary E Vogt, Malaysian couturier Carven Ong helped bring the legendary wedding gown to life. He also created the bride-to-be’s golden jumpsuit in the bachelorette party scenes.

Ong also designed the national costume for last year’s Miss Universe Malaysia Shweta Sekhon, showcasing a bold, winged costume inspired by Peranakan culture.

Alia Bastamam

Alia Bastamam showcases her collection at Milan Fashion Week. Photo: Instagram @aliabastamamkl
Alia Bastamam showcases her collection at Milan Fashion Week. Photo: Instagram @aliabastamamkl

No stranger to the local fashion scene, designer Alia Bastamam scored international acclaim when her Spring/Summer 2020 collection was showcased at last year’s Milan Fashion Week. Her designs featured lush silhouettes and androgynous tones, exuding a sense of dominance.

The designer was also part of the wardrobe selection for Crazy Rich Asians. She won the accolade for Designer of the Year back in 2017 at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week.

The modest womenswear designer created her namesake label back in 2010, after working as a junior designer making custom bridal outfits, under the guidance of Malaysian-Indonesian fashion designer Jovian Mandagie.

Bernard Chandran

Kate Middleton takes an interest in Bernard Chandran’s creations at the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange. Photo: @bernardchandran
Kate Middleton takes an interest in Bernard Chandran’s creations at the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange. Photo: @bernardchandran

Crowned as Malaysia’s “King of Fashion,” Bernard Chandran has seen his dresses on Hollywood’s most prominent celebrities like singers Estelle, Lady Gaga, and LA-based Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh.

Chandran has even showcased his collection to the Duchess of Cambridge at the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange in Buckingham Palace last year. The best part? Kate Middleton displayed a special interest in his outfits. He was also the head judge in 8TV channel’s 2007 installment of Project Runway Malaysia, and a guest judge in Britain’s Next Top Model, Cycle 6.

Chandran graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from The Paris American Academy. He was the first non-European (and first Malaysian) designer to win both the “Open European Contest for Look of the Year 2000” in 1991.

Cassey Gan

Cassey Gan in her distinguished prints and haute couture face mask. Photo: Instagram @casseygan
Cassey Gan in her distinguished prints and haute couture face mask. Photo: Instagram @casseygan

At first glance, you’d notice that Cassey Gan’s quirky, print-blocking pieces are one of a kind. Two years ago, Gan made it to London Fashion Week. The innovative designer got a chance to showcase her futuristic, printed brand of clothing with Fashion Scout, one of UK’s largest fashion showcases.

Gan was also featured in the September 2012 edition of Vogue Italia as one of the future’s generation of fashion talents. The following year, Gan established her very own fashion label, featuring outfits in eclectic patterns.

Would you believe that Gan actually completed a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering before she ventured into the fashion industry? She decided to pursue her dreams and eventually graduated from the London College of Fashion in 2012 with a BA in Fashion Design and Technology. Her graduation collection was selected by the college for its external press show.

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