Ong Chin Huat speaks with fashion maven Melinda Looi and finds out the inspiration behind her latest collection titled Cruise 2020.
Quirky and unconventional, Melinda Looi eye-catching creations have established her as one of the pre-eminent fashions designers in Malaysia, worn by royalty, socialites and celebrities alike. Her fashion career started when she won a scholarship to La Salle School of Fashion in Montreal, Canada and she began designing costumes for the theatre, film and TV.
Having a couture and ready-t-wear line under her belt, last year saw Melinda branch out into interior design, where she exhibits her flair for colour, proportion and textures in upscale homes and commercial projects.
LM: Tell us a bit about your designing background and how you got started in fashion.
ML: Being born into a family, which has been in the fashion industry long before I was born, I grew up working in my parents’ company sewing, ironing, and basically learning everything that was involved with it.
Back then, what I really wanted to pursue was graphic design, but my parents felt it was not a safe career option, so I went into fashion design instead. This was when I discovered the “art” of couture and truly fell in love with fashion. I could still pursue my dreams of being an artist, with the only difference being that fabric is my canvas, and I am using needles, thread, and scissors instead of a paintbrush!
LM: What got you interested in becoming a fashion designer?
ML: I like art, painting and sculpting, and anything that requires hand skills. I like to challenge myself with new ideas but unfortunately, I was not given the opportunity to continue the desire that I’m interested in. Instead, I explored the fashion field as I grew up with sewing machines, fabrics, buttons, and so on that’s related to fashion. For me, fashion design is art, only using different materials.
LM: Tell us about your different labels and what markets they cater to.
ML: Melinda Looi Couture is the first in line under the Melinda Looi name. Catering to customers looking for a unique and bespoke piece of dressmaking fit for the red carpet and black tie events.
Each piece of Melinda Looi Couture is tailored with intricate details and treasures such as fine embroidery, crystals, semi-precious stones and beads. Melinda Looi RTW is a ready-to-wear collection with the same high standards of fine dressmaking but presented in a collection of womenswear for festivals such as Chinese New Year and Hari Raya.
LM. How does the designing process begin for you?
ML: Well, I like to find a story to tell first before I begin to design. Then I will look into the fabrics and materials I want to work with. Usually, I come out with my own prints for the collection through the inspiration of the story. Then the silhouettes and structure of the look.
Following this, I will draw out things I like and try out the cutting first too. I can design better when I am under stress. For clients, I can design fast and I would do it for them on the spot when I meet them and discuss the design with them.
LM. What inspires you when you create a new collection?
ML: I follow my intuition. I get inspiration in the most unexpected moments and often, there is a story behind my collection. I need to be stimulated to stay creative and the best way is to try something I’ve never done before. I like to challenge our ability to produce better products from year to year but at the same time, the cost to produce the product gets higher.