Quality goods, please

SELAMAT Hari Raya Aidilfitri!

Before beginning my article this week, I would like to thank all my fans, clients, friends and family for supporting our emel by Melinda Looi Raya collection, which was a huge success.

Besides selling pieces and getting to know many new clients, we also managed to support a good cause – Rumah Besar Norlina – which was precisely what we had intended to do. Hopefully, next year will bring about a much bigger and better collection!

Meanwhile, for the past two weeks, my head has been swimming with ideas and inspiration for my upcoming export collection. Right now, I’m focusing my creative juices on wearable accessories that will be revealed very soon – so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

I have also been thinking a lot about what I call the “revolution of lifestyle”, by which I mean the shape and form of things that we use daily, like the mobile phone. When the mobile phone was first launched, it was HUGE. Then it got progressively smaller and, now, along with other modern gadgets like tablets, cameras and even headphones, they are becoming bigger again. I think it’s incredibly funny how we get bored so easily with our gadgets and toys that they have to keep changing form to appeal to us.

It is the same with fashion. The trend used to be for voluminous ballgowns made from loads of fabric. Then very slim cut dresses and skimpy cropped tops were all the craze. And, now, we have swung back to excessive, boxy silhouettes. You can expect to see big skirts and shirts over the next two years, so much so that I have been telling my clients to buy at least 4.5m to 5m of fabric for their baju kurung or dress as opposed to 3.5m or 4m previously, because the new styles will require that extra material.

The problem with changing tastes and trends is that it makes us consume more items than necessary. Some of my friends consistently change their phones whenever the latest version comes out – and this happens almost every year! While I think this is wasteful, there is also a grain of truth in the common grouse that things today are simply not made the way they used to.

Marketing people talk about how exciting their products are, but show me quality – new products just don’t last! When you purchase a new electronic item, you usually get a one-year warranty. Why just one year? Because that’s how long the product is designed to last.

I have bought a number of electrical items with one-year warranties which lasted precisely that: one year. A simple oven for my showroom kitchen which cost me over RM300, a microwave, minicombo, mobile phone … they all malfunctioned after a year.

In contrast, items bought more than 30 years ago seem to be still going strong. Dirk’s mother and one of my aunts are still using mixers given to them on their wedding day, some four decades ago.

Why can’t manufacturers maintain that kind of quality? If it’s just a matter of cost, I think there are plenty of people who wouldn’t mind paying a little more for a product that will last. We are all becoming more conscious of the need to save our resources, and one definite way to do this would be to stop manufacturing stuff that has to be thrown away after a mere year of two.

The same principle applies to making good quality clothing. Poor quality pieces items can be found almost anywhere, and I never fail to get upset when I see these on the shelves of shops. I know that people like to change and stay up-to-date with the latest trends, and of course, I believe in that, but it should not come at the expense of quality.

If clothes were made of good fabrics that are durable, we could recycle and re-fashion them once we get bored with them. We wouldn’t have to add to the growing rubbish dump.

So there you have it – that’s what I’ve been mulling over of late.

On a separate note, I’d like to share a really good tip for homemakers. If you’re one of the average householders in Malaysia, you will have the occasional visit from pesky insects, cockroaches included. And if you’re like me, you would have tried many ways to get rid of them, to no avail. Well, I have some good news – try fresh pandan leaves. They smell good … but roaches hate it! A friend at work suggested this to me, I gave it a try and my house is now cockroach free!

Unfortunately, I also have a problem with tiny spiders that have begun to set up camp in my house, and have yet to find a solution to this species. So, if anyone knows of a tried and tested spider repellent, please do share your miracle potion with me.

Now that we can enjoy roach-free homes, let’s get down to the more serious business of visiting all our Muslim friends, enjoying some delish makan (I know I’m looking forward to home-cooked rendang and kuih-muih), and sharing in this time of caring and forgiving.

Happy Raya to all my Muslim readers. May you have a wonderful time with your loved ones.

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

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