Fashion roars on


str2_db_0907_p4b_4cols1Fiery fashion: Malaysian heroes with Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and National Sports Council director-general Datuk Seri Zolkples

Our columnist designed a new look for team Malaysia.

THE secret project that my team and I have been working on has finally been revealed: we’ve been designing the official attire of our national athletes. Earlier in the year, the Youth and Sports Ministry selected us to be the official designer for team Malaysia. You cannot believe how excited we were to be awarded this project! What an honour it is to dress our top sportsmen and women!

We were pleasantly surprised when Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin approached us to send in a proposal for a new look for our Malaysian athletes. We came up with about six designs (all incorporating stripes) as well as new silhouettes for the tracksuits; we sent in various high-performance fabric samples, accessories like caps and trolley bags, not forgetting the march past uniforms.

We were given free rein to propose anything we thought would give our athletes a more modern and energetic look, and we made the most of this freedom.

We met Khairy and his team, and presented our boards and visuals. After a few rounds of modifications, we won the project and started working closely with National Sports Council director-general Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong, Olympic Council of Malaysia and the team from Yonex, which is the main sponsor of the tracksuits.

The collection – Malaysian Heroes or Wira Malaysia – is inspired by tigers, our national animal which also influenced the previous uniforms, especially their colours of black and orange.

In our designs, the unique characteristics of our feline muse is translated into two bold and vibrant prints which appear consistently across both our athletes’ sports kits and their formal march past uniform. Tigers are majestic, strong and powerful – which is just how we envision our athletes feeling when they wear our kits. As Khairy said in a press statement when the new uniforms were unveiled recently: “Certainly, the pattern of the designs does not define victory. But the patterns can inspire us as a nation. After almost 10 years, I believe it is time to renew our existing patterns. More aggressive, more dynamic, more attractive.”

At the launch of the new uniform, I was sporting my own tiger tracksuit and running after the athletes to collect their signatures. I discovered that not only are they good sportsmen and sportswomen, but they can also rock a catwalk! It was my first time meeting stars like Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Pandelela, Noraseela, Farah Ann, Razali, Ayuni, Najuwa and Khairul.

I must admit, I’m not much of a sports enthusiast; I wasn’t into sports back in school! Right now, I must be one of the few people who don’t have a clue what’s happening in Brazil at the World Cup. So, in truth, I didn’t know most of our national athletes, but now that I’ve met them personally, I look forward to supporting them more keenly by following their progress in the international arena.

Naturally, we can’t wait for our Malaysian heroes to “show off their new stripes”. This will happen on July 23 in Glasgow, Scotland when the XXI Commonwealth Games begins; and then later in the year, at the Asian Games which is scheduled to take place at Incheon, South Korea from Sept 19 to Oct 4.

Why do I refer to our athletes as Malaysian heroes? Because to me, they are modern-day warriors, dedicated individuals who train hard every day in order to represent our country in the global arena. I am impressed by their discipline and perseverance in overcoming the pressures of having to perform at an exceptional level on a daily basis. They truly make me feel proud to be Malaysian.

Thanks to this project, too, I’ve come to understand the needs of different athletes, and as a result, made some alterations to our original designs. For example, we changed some round-necked shirts to V-necks because the increased movement around their shoulders is better for the athletes on their battle field. We were also thinking of including zipper openings in the Polo T-shirt designs, but then decided against it, as we realised it would be too distracting and inconvenient, and have settled on traditional buttons instead. I’ve also learnt what materials are best for performance.

This has been a really educational experience for me, and one that I’ve enjoyed. It has also inspired me to think about branching out into swimwear so I can help design these for our athletes too.

Anyway, please support our “Wira Malaysia” at the Commonwealth and Asian Games and do try to watch the opening ceremony on TV to check out our team’s new baju kurung, baju Melayu and their official tracksuits. As for our Malaysian heroes – make us proud! Malaysia boleh, so we hope to hear of your many victories shortly!


Award-winning fashion designer Melinda Looi tries to marry consumerism and materialism with environmental consciousness. She believes her greatest creations are her children. Send your feedback to

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