Style Olympics: OTY Jetsetter Lilian Talks Malaysian Fashion
Welcome to the 2012 Style Olympics, where each OTY contributor is weighing in on fashion in their hometowns and how it has effected their personal style. Don’t forget to stay tuned for more Style Olympics this week!
Growing up in Malaysia, I’ve been surrounded by luscious rainforests, scenic beaches and historical landmarks. In a country where every day is summer, it’s easy to forgo a sense of style and slip into whatever feels most comfortable.
But instead of sticking to a standard uniform like cut-off shorts, tank tops and flip flops, I like experimenting with different textures. I’m constantly inspired by the diversity and culture in Malaysia, which I often try to translate into my wardrobe. Malaysia, comprised of over 28 million people, is a multiracial country namely of Chinese, Indian and Malay descent. Malaysia is also home to a number of indigenous tribes, who mostly live in my hometown – a little city called Kuching located in Borneo, the third largest island in the world.
My hometown has taught me that everyone is different and beautiful in their own ways, and as a result, my personal style has reflected my desire to stand out and not blend in.
In Malaysia, traditional fashion refers to each race’s traditional costume. The Malaysian-Chinese take their traditional costume from their roots, as do the Malaysian-Indians. Therefore, it is common to see Malaysian-Chinese wearing a cheongsam, a body-hugging long dress typically with a high collar/neckline, and the Malaysian-Indians donning a sari during festivals. However, what remains somewhat unique to Malaysia is the baju kebaya- a traditional blouse-dress combination made from luxurious material such as silk and thin cotton often adorned with brocade, intricate embroidery and beading. The baju kebaya is worn with a sarong, a long skirt featuring batik print.
Although Malaysians still adhere to tradition, they are generally fashionable and always seen following trends. This season, Malaysians love peter pan collars, hi-low skirts/dresses, two-toned shoes, and collar necklaces. Never forgetting our roots, Malaysians love mixing traditional and contemporary fashion. My personal favorite is rocking the kebaya top with a pair of skinny jeans.
While Malaysia is proud to deliver famous fashion like Zang Toi, Jimmy Choo and Farah Khan, there are many other local and talented designers in Malaysia. Here are my selected picks:
Fancy having a bag made out of luxurious leather named after an Asian destination? You can look to KLutched to fulfill your bag needs. Originated in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, it’s easy to see why bags from this line are sought after by many Malaysians. Offering purses of all shapes and sizes from clutches to toes, the line is completely self-designed and manufactured in Asia. My personal favorite is the Kameron, a purple oversized foldover clutch made out of bubbled lamb and pleated snakeskin. I can picture this being a standout piece with a nice pair of skinny jeans, a blazer and a tee.
Theresa Thian, designer of Gallo, sure knows how to make every Malaysian woman drool over her designs. She injects her love of all things whimsical into her clothes – as seen in her A/W ’11 collection. A fashion-forward brand, Gallo continues to wow ladies with its playful, one-of-a-kind designs, which are constantly featured in the Malaysian press.
For Muslim Females:
Malaysia, being a Muslim country, needs an outlet where women of this religion can shop for clothes that are not just fashionable, but also retain their tradition of covering themselves appropriately. Started by renowned Malaysian blogger, Vivy Yusof, Fashion Valet is an online shopping site that continues to spoil Muslim women with an abundance of outfit choices. Fashion Valet sources all of their products from local designers and features them under one site.
Although my style has evolved from my travels and having lived abroad, I know a large chunk of it is heavily influenced by my hometown. Malaysia’s heritage, traditions and culture have exposed me to different fashion styles and integrated bits and pieces of it into my everyday attire. Has your hometown influenced your personal style? Do share!