Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week came, walked thousands of paces up and down a runway, and went, leaving behind loose pins, sequins, and tassels to be vacuumed off Pavilion’s mall floors.
As a child of the ’90s, we’ve lived, breathed, and been bequeathed some of the most iconic fashion looks over the past few decades: Gianni Versace’s more is more, rococo aesthetic; John Galliano’s couture genius before he told the world he loved Hitler; Tom Ford at Gucci, where satin blouses were sex before they were soccer mom Christmas blouses; a late-’90s Stella McCartney making glittery pineapples and tiny hearts on aviators a thing; the mad impact of Phoebe Philo still feeding our silhouette; and the evergreen originator, Miuccia Prada, still “inspiring” designers with her years-ahead visions (Ed: If you’re not following Diet Prada on Instagram, do that now.)
Coconuts KL was lucky enough to be invited to a few of the shows, and what else would we be doing with our lives if we didn’t break down some of the highlights for you?
As always, with any list we’ve ever made, it’s incomplete – we certainly didn’t see everything, and at one point became deeply engrossed in finding a packet of Mentos in our bag, missing a solid three minutes of runway looks. Now you know.
Out of our sweatpants and into the fire, here we go:
Alia Bastamam, Resort 2019 collection, bringing Donna Summer to Bali
Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than flowing fabrics, draped over shoulders and trailing behind your stride? There are few looks more flattering in life, and Alia’s collection resounded deeply in our Studio 54 soul. Off-the-shoulder pantsuits, the glittered one-piece romper, and a few chili-red pieces turned us into living, heart-eyed emojis.
Everything looked wearable, everything looked stylish, but you were never drawn to the non-functionality of it. There were no afterthoughts in her embellishments: Every sequin, bauble, crease, gathering, and detail was there for a reason.
Our favorites: Honestly, there were a lot of things we loved, so we’ll try to be concise — the romper, the asymmetrical neckline chili-red dress that reminds us of peak Halston on Bianca Jagger but better, and that transparent luxe beach cover we wish was socially acceptable to wear everywhere.
The collection is dropping in November, so that gives us exactly three months to open a savings account.
Tarik Jeans, Resort 2019 Collection, going deeper than denim
To understand the significance of local denim designers Tarik Jeans is to understand the history that the fabric has around the world, culturally. It is the great unifier, the Michael Jackson of textiles, enjoyed by everyone, even if for only a particular creative window.
Tarik takes this, and adds another (more local) unifier, layering on the warm nostalgia that old-school Malaya evokes: Whether it’s a T-shirt with a perfectly worn sea turtle, a strong contender for the kind of tourism poster we deserve, or flower patterns taken straight from your mom’s ’70s kebaya, and transplanted onto the shirt you wear when you know your photo will be taken.
Menswear is a large component of Tarik Jeans, and in a market that sometimes feels lost without Hedi Slimane at the helm, the brand steers their collection in a distinct daddy direction: Straight-legged jeans, cuffed sleeveless shirts, open shirts, no shirts, leather jackets. Each look is unique, yet belongs to the same narrative.
Our favorites: A denim dress of epically tailored proportions that we hope Britney Spears will heavily consider wearing in lieu of her iconic ’90s brethren; every single damn T-shirt because we love their cheeky subtlety always erring on the side of good taste; and the beautiful marriage that was one of their women’s tees and a pair of flared, wide-leg jeans. So wearable. So flattering.
Afiq M. Resort 2019 Collection, BDE pantsuit evolution
On a quiet Sunday, we were invited by a friend to check out the collection of a designer we knew absolutely nothing about: Afiq M.
Our Afiq ignorance is not surprising, while Coconuts KL was raised on a steady diet of Fashion Television hosted by Jeanie Becker growing up, we can’t possibly keep up with everything dropping. However, dare we say that seeing a collection with fresh eyes and a clear mind is akin to watching a movie you know nothing about but end up really, really liking: Rare and delightful.
Arriving wearing some kind of Calvin Klein-inspired ’90s nude dress, we paused and watched local celebs take their hundredth picture on the runway before the show started. Had they been here all week, we wondered? Were their backs sore from all that patting? Had they figured out the best parking space that saved you the indignity of walking through a mall wearing head-to-toe sequins?
We sat back and waited for the show.
Afiq M.’s collection turned out to be a very ’90s affair, with a couple of pantsuits reminding us of items torn straight out of our auntie’s ode to Escada closet of ’94. Sharp shoulders, bold colors, double-breasted buttoning: It was the kind of good drama that had been missing from our lives.
A single fuchsia suit, gold-buttoned, with shoulders tailored to cut a b*tch, was enough to give us a glimmer of hope that (arguably) the world’s most flattering shade of pink was coming back to lead us to the light. Tom Ford featured the color heavily in his SS2018 collection, but is it enough to get the ball rolling?
There was the black and white suit number, the embodiment of what we can only describe as women’s BDE (you know, this) – strong, confident, sex without nary a sliver of excessive skin. It was everything we live for, and need a chunky gold-necklace to pull-off.
Our favorites: The aforementioned fuchsia power-suit, and black and white power suit, the absolute friggin’ delight that was a shimmery green pantsuit (does anyone know what fabric it’s made from?)
Jovian Mandagie, Resort 2019 Collection, getting dressed in the dark
Oh boy, we’re gonna preface this by saying that many, many moons ago, we used to appear regularly on television, and whenever wardrobe blessed us with a Jovian piece, we were genuinely happy, because for the most part, we liked his stuff.
My how things have changed: Have you recently walked into a Zara, and had the eerie feeling that all was not well with her? Furry fabrics haphazardly sewn onto what appears to have been an office shirt, the sudden decision to add a smocked gathering to a single pant-leg — it’s almost like watching a breakdown expressed via clothes: Anxious, ridden with temperamental inconsistencies and some kind of fabric strip dragging on the floor.
That was exactly how we felt watching the latest offering from Jovian.
Fabric draping is nothing new to fashion, but perhaps most recently perfected by Alber Elbaz during his time at Lanvin: Flattering, and intended to bring out the beauty of the textile that was used. Jovian’s looks were less artfully gathered than furiously bunched up, fabric inexplicably folded over itself on a jacket that made a slim model look bulky. Lord help any civilian who dares wear it.
The jarring clash of hems and shirts unfortunately brought to mind a mullet analogy: Business on top, party in the back? The opening look of a raspberry-like baubled skirt was paired with a picnic-plaid tunic top, ribbons of material trailing behind like forgotten laundry test-strips (should you want to test out washing methods before you send it to the cleaners).
Even the least offensive look, a sea-foam green blouse, paired with a pair of sky-blue trousers (we quite liked the color combination) left our eyes reeling as soon as we caught the model’s side-profile: Emblazoned like a Kappa logo on the side was the designer’s name, barely legible, in white. Why? WHY.
Far worse was on the horizon, and it took the shape of some kind of prom-ready Yeti: Furry wide-leg trousers, made from the hide of that childhood plush toy you lost, combined with a velvet corset bodice, and detachable gloves.
Who was this intended for? What late-night fever dream brought this to a physical realization? And for the love of all things good, and horrible, if you intend to go so far with a hideous look, at least make the gloves an integral, and attached, part. Yes, Ricardo Tisci’s Met look for Kim Kardashian was widely panned, but you couldn’t deny the commitment that he had ensuring that the gloves didn’t come off until the dress did.
Our favorites: A single pair of mauve satin trousers. They were nice.
Fazbulous, Resort 2019 Collection, what’s syok sendiri in English? That.
Alright readers, quick recap: Nur Fadzura Sharifuddin is a Malaysian actress, slash TV host, slash spokesperson, slash reality television star, slash singer, slash VJ, slash entrepreneur who has her very own eponymous portmanteau clothing line, Fazbulous. Geddit? It’s Faz(ura) + (Fa)bulous. How clever.
Let’s cover a couple of things we liked: There was the casting of an unconventional model, and a skirt that wasn’t entirely horrible.
OK! Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s delve into everything that we didn’t. First, aforementioned unconventional casting of a plus-sized woman, Mona Lisa Cavalli, while initially prompting a tip of the cap (we’d love to see more diversity on more shows), seemed less commendable considering that the rest of Fazura’s models were as rail-thin as we’ve come to expect from a runway. And why put her in a tutu and T-shirt, and not one of your actual designs, as other designers who used larger models have? Was she only a gimmick?
A cheap one, probably, if the rest of the show is anything to go by.
There was no single theme that tied anything we saw together, there was velvet, there was sequins, there was ’70s, there was ’90s: It was all over the place, and seemed like something built on whimsy rather than a vision. A flash of Helmut Lang ’90s minimalism, was quickly followed by a Bob Mackie-inspired two-piece.
Amateur hour at the Apollo, but with a prime-time spot at New York Fashion Week next month as part of an NGO-sponsored initiative from the Association of Bumiputera Women in Business and Profession (who in their right mind made that call?).
Really, is this the best that we have to show in New friggin’ York?
The worst was yet to come, with a finale ripped straight from the iconic ending of Dries Van Noten’s 2015 Spring Summer collection.
Peep it below — Van Noten’s evocation of Monet landscapes on gorgeous pieces was taken to the next level after models posed at the end of a moss-covered runway, as though sitting for a portrait session. Van Noten came out to shyly walk mid-runway, and turned back, leaving his works of art to be admired:
Cue Fazura, who must have been told a partial version of this story, or perhaps her ego saw the scene in a different light. She decided that the best way to mark her rather green foray into fashion would be to have her models collapse mid-runway, slayed … by her killer looks. Fazura then marched atop her (road?)kill, triumphantly posing at the front, receiving applause from her fans.
We’re not one of them. The cult of the personality, especially on someone so new to the industry, should never speak louder than the clothes. Like the plus-sized model she used as some kind of token to diversity, this was yet another gimmick, but one far more telling of how Fazura sees herself.
Celebrities has been successful crossing over — Victoria Beckham probably being the most recent top-of-mind example, but they’ve tread a line that always held their ego back before they earned their fashion chops.
Good luck in New York though! We hear the city is super welcoming to this kind of lukewarm creativity.
Our favorites: Great question, and we’ll get back to you as soon as our eyes have rolled back into their sockets.
There you have it! Another unbridled take on what’s been making KL tick over the last week. Apologies to any hurt feelings, and we acknowledge in advance that this lil round-up is missing some amazing moments, like Nalisa Amin opening for MINLUNA X Fashion Valet, and this gorgeous black dress we caught on the ‘gram while perusing our feed.
It’s been three days since #minlunaxfashionvalet’s #NotFragile fashion show and I’m still shook that this happened. First plus size model to open a show and open #KLFW. Boy, was I nervous!!! 😩 . Thank you everybody for the cheers and support. Big shout out to @minluna and @fashionvaletcom for giving me and the beautiful women the opportunity to showcase our individuality and including diversity and inclusivity on the runway ✊🏽 The collection is now available on @fashionvaletcom. #klfw2018 #plussize #effyourbeautystandards . 📸: @byaztract
On the whole, we were very impressed by the talent and shift towards designer individuality that we saw on the runways: There is a developing aesthetic that we saw each line coming in to, and it’s great to see our local scene grow like this.
What we’d like for next year? Widening the circle, and making it regionally impactful, rather than fodder for the usual suspects to clap about: A lot of these looks deserve a much wider audience, and it we were the team behind KLFW, we’d be working overtime to figure out how to do that for next year.