Bangkok-licious

Bangkok International Fashion Week

SAWADEEKA Bangkok! To me, this is a city of everything fabulicious, from the food to the people, the fashion, and the creativity in all the designs. I can never get enough every time I am here. Bangkok just makes everyone feel so welcome, that when you go there you never want to leave. This trip I got to know more about Bangkok, gaining greater insight into this city of deliciousness.

But before we get into the details, let me say that Siam Paragon (a shopping mall) was an amazing host of the Bangkok International Fashion Week. They gave my team an unforgettable experience throughout our entire trip. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. Also a big thank you to Siam Connection, the Malaysian company that promotes trade between the two countries, and in particular to Hunsa, Jo and Dr Eric Leong for recommending me to represent Malaysia at this event.

We were put up at the Sofitel So Bangkok Hotel, which is amazingly modern and chic. The interior is the brainchild of four Thai designers and the staff uniforms are the work of none other than French couturier Christian Lacroix. Once I discovered this, it became very obvious – although the uniforms carry traditional elements, the lines are bold and unmistakably Lacroix. I would love to wear any of these designs.

They welcomed us with a drink made from the butterfly pea (a Thai flower) which was brought to us in two tubes – one containing blue butterfly pea juice and another containing lemon juice. When the two were mixed, the colour changed to a pinkish purple! It was very impressive, and my daughter Maya, who came with us to “help” at the show, was especially excited. But when we walked into the suite the organisers had booked for us, we were awestruck. Our room was on a floor designed around the element of water. So we had fish in vases and a round bathtub. It was super cool. What’s more, we had a superb view of the city and impeccable room service. It felt like heaven on earth, the perfect environment for me to de-stress. As a result, I was very relaxed the whole five days we were there and was not at all nervous about the show.

After checking in, we went straight to the model casting at the hotel ballroom where I had to choose 25 models from 120 girls. I thought the choice would be difficult, but I soon found myself becoming very picky. And how great is that? Being able to choose the best among the group, all of whom were so beautiful and professional. For my finale, though, I insisted on having a celebrity Thai model because I felt it was important to honour our host country. Luckily, we managed to work with Bee, who is not only a model but also a singer and actress in Thailand, and very easy to work with.

Siam Paragon was very professional and arranged for us to have celebrity make-up artist Ped Apichart, who did a great job interpreting the look I wanted. Our hair stylist Kai had a great team to work with too.

On the second night, Siam Paragon invited us to a welcome dinner for all the designers at Manna restaurant in the mall itself. I had been to this restaurant two years ago and had fond memories of the food. We met our fellow designers: Manish Arora from India, John Paras from the Philippines, designers for Thai brands like Theatre, Tube, Flynow, Fri27Nov…. There was also the editor ofHarper’s Bazaar and the various heads of Siam Paragon. When I introduced myself to Manish, the famous Indian designer, he said: “Melinda, we met more than 10 years ago, at a Hong Kong show.” Then it all came rushing back – we had been in the Asia Pacific Young Designer Award Hong Kong together in 2000. I felt awful – I’m just so bad with names. But Manish was great, he didn’t take it personally and it was fantastic to know how well he is doing now. Of course, the collection he presented at the BIFW 2013 was simply stunning.

After a long day of fittings, adjustments and the welcome dinner, Hunsa took us to the Refresh wellness centre to relax. My girls and I really enjoyed our Thai massages which helped rejuvenate us for the show the next day.

The next day started very early in the morning, from rehearsals, sound and light checks to a full dress rehearsal which we don’t do anymore in Malaysia. But it was good that we did the full dress rehearsal, as we spotted some flaws and managed to correct them before the real thing. We also rearranged the models by their outfit colours for the runway choreography. I have to say the front and backstage crew were very helpful. I, meanwhile, kept retouching the outfits and adding accessories till about half an hour before the show. I know – I just can’t help doing this!

A beautiful tent had been set up between the Siam Centre and Siam Paragon malls, with good seating, nice lighting and a great sound system. True to form, the Thai guests turned up very fashionably dressed. The show started on time and finished quickly. There were no speeches. It was just one designer after another with an intermission of one hour. This is something I would like to bring back to Malaysia to share.

Although I never get to see my own runway shows, I think we did a pretty good job considering that we had just over a month to put together this collection of 33 looks, which is based on a poem by Publo Neruda called Lost In The Forest. I imagined myself being lost and incorporated wildlife in my designs, which came in dark colours like black, maroon, olive and teal, but with streaks of red, symbolising strength. My accessories – earrings and necklaces – actually featured real bugs sealed in resin! My team worked very hard on this, and it certainly showed. If you’d like to see some backstage pictures, check out my instagram @melindalooi or my facebook at facebook.com/melindalooi. I was also thankful that our Bangkok Trade Commissioner, Niqman Rafaee M. Sahar, and his lovely wife Tengku Eliza Ibrahim, came to grace the event with friends and family. It was nice to have that local support.

We didn’t have any sightseeing time, but managed to squeeze in a day at the weekend Chatuchak market. I love walking around this hippy market, scouting for bits and pieces here and there. My favourite section is the art and crafts. There are always some great paintings and sculptures on sale.

Our last night ended with another good meal. This time, Hunsa took us to her celebrity friend Atchara Burarak’s cafe in Thonglor, called Kub Kao Kub Pla. They serve delicious Thai and Western food with some great desserts, including my favourite coconut cakes, and a huge selection of ice cream. It was so good that I had to ta pau some for my team who were not there with us.

I could go on about this trip – about the food, fashion, interiors and so on. Instead, I will just promise to be back again soon. “Kob khun ka” to all my Thai friends who made this a memorable trip and “terima kasih” to all the Malaysians who made it possible. Thank you!

Mel’s Place is a fortnightly column by Melinda Looi for The Star newspaper.

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