domingo, 15 de septiembre de 2013

Fashion in Malaysia: Gynn Ling

Chinese, Indian, and Malay, all underneath the same roof. Traditions clash, and identities merge, all coming together to define Malaysian fashion. Based in Kuala Lumpur, Gynn Ling graduated from Raffles University, and has now found her way into fashion merchandising. Still trying to gain more experience, this young fashion graduate is one day hoping to change the way people dress back in her hometown.

Gynn Ling with a collection she made
for L'Aperitif Fashion Competition.
Gynn and I met on Skype for a two-hour conversation. Her microphone didn’t work, so I decided to see her face and read her replies through the chat function. A year has gone by since she graduated in fashion design from Raffles University and settled into a merchandising job. Dressed very casually, Gynn was sitting in her room wearing her red tinted hair up, and a one-shade tank top matched with colourful shorts. She was extremely friendly and enthusiastic, with expressive gestures, quick movements and a cheerful smile, she kept doing OK signs with her hand to let me know she understood.

Can you describe the fashion scene in Malaysia? Her face was serene for a moment and a bit hesitant before she started to answer, “Actually, fashion scene in Malaysia is not as colourful as the other countries, maybe. We kind of have like a group of fashion people, like a community, it's small, but it’s growing. Still, not a lot of Malaysian are really conscious about fashion, they are more into comfort.”

Not being able to talk was a bit frustrating for her, so she paused, and as I saw her laugh, she wrote, “I really want to talk.” Soon after that, conversation spread around the room and she started chatting with her friend about Malaysia’s fashion scene. She kept on explaining through the chat what they were discussing, “we have like local designers, which are Malays, Chinese and other races, our interaction does mix around. Local designers like mixing tradition, classic fabrication, with modern cuts and style.” A main problem for Malaysia seems to be the market, “actually, is kind of hard for us to grow in Malaysia. For the more avant-garde designers, the more conceptual. The Malay designers who base their designs on more classic traditions grow easier. The one’s like Rick Owens or Jill Sander have a more limited market due to my religion and culture.”
Most of Malaysia’s population is Islamic, which means women dress with Hijabs. In that context, it is difficult to have a business unless you sell traditional garments. Even though this seems to be a necessity in the fashion market, I asked Gynn if she got taught at school how to make Batik, a popular dying technique that characterizes Malaysian’s clothes. “Batik, no”, she answered.

Among the limitations that Gynn mentioned, is the hot weather: “we really have limited materials and layers that we can play with.” So, is it a respected profession to be a fashion designer? “They would be impressed by the ‘designer’ position, but mostly they still won't really appreciate the work. Cause still being really brand-conscious, the first priority still goes to the name of the brand and not the designs. There are people that appreciate local upcoming designers, just that the community is still small.”

Malaysian Fashion Week features many young designers who have launched their brands in recent years. Most of the designs look very fresh, commercial and with a European flavour. Islamic fashion has also taken a spot in the runways by having a segment in Fashion Week. It seems that Malaysia’s fashion is being tugged by two sides at the same time: the face that the country wants to portray of their fashion and the reality within their own markets. On the other hand, fashion education has also found a way to spread itself. At least seven fashion schools have opened their doors to teach fashion design in Kuala Lumpur, giving plenty of choice to the design students looking for a degree.

“I love the fashion community here, but not the industry. We have really passionate people in design, art and fashion, everything, but the industry has a really limited platform for them.” Gynn graduated from Raffles University, a school that gives designer enough exposure and encouragement to participate in fashion competitions. Gynn’s graduate collection was called Manimal, inspired in the animal personality that everybody has.

A look from Manimal's collection
For the moment, Gynn chose to work in merchandising because of the stable incomes. How are the job opportunities? “The job opportunities in fashion industry here is quite a lot, but the pay is not that high compare to accounting and other jobs.”  Malaysia’s government is aware of the income that the fashion industry provides. As a result, The Malaysian International Trade and Industry Ministry has been promoting exports, and is looking to step up the development in this sector.

Laughing again with her friend Gynn explained the reason behind her career choice:  “Cause I lived in a small town in Malaysia, I always felt like: why don't anyone dress up nice here?! I want to change the scene here. I would like to see people dressing up nicely and fashionable like in Europe!,” she smiled. At twenty-two Gynn accepts her love for designing, but knows that she needs to learn more and she is not setting up anything of her own, at least not for the time being.

 All pictures courtesy of Gynn Ling

Licencia de Creative Commons

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