Hot London fashion, despite the cold

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IT’S been grey, wet and cold in London. Not exactly the most conducive weather for fashionistas to dress up in their favourite clothes; however, this is the Fashion week – and all the storms in the world could not stop the fashionably creative and creatively fashionable coming out in full force!

We just finished the Pure London Fashion Trade Show (held from last Sunday to Tuesday) at the London Olympia – simply an amazing experience for my team and I. We were placed under the Agenda area (the premier area) and managed to find new stockists and potential customers from Britain, Ireland, Middle East and Portland. Although we didn’t see any Asian buyers, whom we had initially been targeting, I’m glad to know that my designs are beginning to appeal to new markets. It was very encouraging to receive special requests and enquiries, providing us room to explore and grow.

Out of all the brands exhibiting at the Pure London under the Agenda area, I do believe we were the luckiest. The organisers picked the most outfits from our collection to showcase on the runway. As a result, we had many buyers, stylists and press coming to see us after each show to ask for info, check out the collection and comment on our pieces. Not only has this been a learning curve for us, we have also made new friends from the local fashion industry as well as exhibitors from Germany, Hong Kong, Korea, Spain and Greece. I, for one, enjoyed the opportunity to exchange ideas and contacts with both manufacturers as well as sources. I didn’t expect the exhibition to bring about this many new friendships but it just goes to show that life is full of pleasant surprises!

Other brands from Malaysia present at the Pure London included Meesha Sukira (a batik resort-wear brand) and Sakura Malaysia (a bag and accessories line using Malaysian heritage materials). Given the strong Malaysian presence, our Malaysian Trade Commissioner and his assistant from Britain came by to visit us, and were very helpful in answering all sorts of questions about the trading process and related matters. Thank you, Matrade!

Right after the trade event, my PR agency arranged a ‘Meet & Greet’ session with the media at a posh department store called The Liberty. We enjoyed a nice English afternoon tea with yummy scones and cakes, during which I introduced the brands under my umbrella. They absolutely loved the current Autumn/Winter 2014 collection, my couture collections, the accessories I’d made and my very talked-about 3D print collection, which is still travelling around the world for shows. The media were genuinely excited to meet us as we’re one of the few Asian designers to be showcased in Britain in the recent past. Some of the stylists actually expressed the hope to see our 3D printed collection to be back in London for fashion shoots. As you can imagine, this really made my day!

In the meantime, we are also working on our new 3D printed collection for this year, and I do hope to be able to write about that soon … with similar reports on positive responses from the press.

As I write this column, I feel very excited as I have another week in London. I’m thoroughly enjoying the London Fashion Week, trying to cram in as many shows as possible. Due to the size of the event, shows are being held at different locations. I was at Somerset House, the main venue, for the J. JS Lee and Haizhen Wang shows … Bravo to them, they had such amazing ready-to-wear collections. I really enjoyed the shows as well as just observing the unique fashion sense of Londoners – there was no limit to fashion and innovation through their styles of dressing! Sometimes I wish that we could see more of the same zany styles back home in Malaysia, where most people tend to play safe. I sincerely believe that Malaysians are creative; we just need to express our creativity through fashion more!

At another venue – Fashion Scout in the Freemasons’ Hall – I attended ‘Ones to Watch’ by four young designers: Sarah Ryan, Carrie-Ann Stein, Hiroko Nakajima and George Styler. I quite like Hiroko’s knitwear – very easy to wear and innovative. The others were super creative and avant garde. I took my friend, Ping, for a night show by Pam Hogg, a rock star-cum-designer. Befitting her artistic temperament, her models were not professional models but friends who strutted the catwalk in neon-coloured leotards with printed taglines such as “this collection is not for sale!” and “pussy riot”. There were brides with translucent leotards and tulle mesh tops with dramatic head veils. It was extremely interesting, but not something we will see any time in the near future in our local fashion shows!

I was also lucky enough to bump into two of fashion’s most influential critics/writers – Suzy Menkes (fashion editor, International New York Times) and Hilary Alexander (The Telegraph’s former fashion director).

Menkes still remembers interviewing me in Kuala Lumpur last year, and mentioned the most recent New York Fashion Week, saying she thinks Alexander Wang is the best of all, and that most of the designers seemed a bit lost this season. I’m really looking forward to reading her pieces on these shows. Alexander was in her signature fur hat and bold accessories, it was impossible to miss her! But definitely one of the most talked-about figures at the Fashion Week was a cosplay latex lady, who was totally covered with latex with only her eyes and mouth exposed. She came in a different colour theme everyday, even her hair was made of latex. Salute! But I’ll have more on fashionista styles, and the differences between the London, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks, in an upcoming column.

Freemasons’ Hall was also hosting Bernard Chandran, Sorapol, Napsugar Von Bittera, Mimi Fasi Nuvo Couture, Anna K, Krasilnikova, Lara Quint, Lera Leschova, Paskal, Yasya Minochkina, Jamie We: Huang, Hema Kaul, Ashley Isham and so on. It’s my aspiration to hopefully enter this show … let’s see!

After the show, Ping and I had a girls night/Valentine’s dinner at a Korean restaurant. We made excellent ‘dates’ for one another as we are such good friends with much to catch up on.

Now that the London convention is over, I am planning the next leg of this journey – to beautiful Italy. I plan to take a few days off before the White Milano trade fair starts, and to visit Venice, definitely one of the dreamiest places on earth. I will be exploring Venice alone … and just hope it doesn’t rain as much as it has during my time here in London.

Floods in Venice are quite something! Regardless of the weather, however, I’m sure it will be a fantastic experience, and being the foodie that I am, I cannot wait to taste authentic Italian cuisine.

Italy, here I come. Buongiorno, Italia!

 

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

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

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