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The future of Malaysian fashion, according to Gen Z creatives

The future of Malaysian fashion, according to Gen Z creatives

The kids are alright

Text: Kelly Lim

Image: Instagram

The future may feel bleak, but all is not lost. Hailing from different facets of the local scene, five young Malaysians share their passions, hopes and how their generation will change the industry (and the world):
The future of Malaysian fashion, according to Gen Z creatives (фото 1)

Batrisyia Razak

Model and content creator, 24

BURO: To start off, what do you do and why do you love it?

Batrisyia: "I'm a fashion model and content creator! I love that these two jobs push me out of my comfort zone and are always putting me on my feet in terms of thinking creatively. Modelling wise, I get to try out anything in front of the camera. Content creating wise, there are simply no limitations to what my ideas can be. With that being said, there's a sense of freedom in what I do."

BURO: What currently inspires you the most about the local fashion scene?

Batrisyia: "I’m inspired by the people behind our local businesses and the creatives who are working tirelessly, adapting through this pandemic and trying to find new and innovative ways to market and communicate their products to the people. Besides that, there has been a surge of small local businesses that centre around ethically repurposing and reworking second-hand clothing by giving fresh and unconventional life to pieces in the coolest ways you could think of. I find myself drawn to this side of our local fashion scene."

BURO: What was your biggest challenge creatively this year, and how did you overcome it?

Batrisyia: "The pandemic has greatly impacted the modelling industry. With restrictions on going to the studio and meeting others, the shift of doing everything from home has impacted the efficiency and timeline of our work. I am thankful to be able to create content from home but it’s not always easy having to churn out new ideas every day and performing it all on my own. It does get overwhelming at times but I remember to take a step back and prioritise my mental health first. When the creative block hits, I try to look at everyone and everything around me for inspiration."

BURO: In your opinion, what sets the local scene apart from the rest of the world?

Batrisyia: "Our fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian culture! Malaysia’s deeply rooted traditional wear and cultural heritage will always set us apart from the rest of the world. I wouldn’t say our consistently hot and humid weather limits the fashion industry, but rather pushes them to be more inventive with the design and style of their work."

BURO: How do you think your generation will shape the creative landscape of Malaysia?

Batrisyia: "In general, I think more people in my generation are starting to be less fearful of making a statement. People do not conform entirely to the social norms and constraints of what is deemed appropriate and acceptable. My generation puts unflinching self-expression and embracing what you love to a high regard and that could potentially get us far, especially because there's not a lot of social limitations like there used to be."

BURO: What are your hopes for the future of fashion?

Batrisyia: "I hope that people start taking a more conscious approach and act with intention and awareness when purchasing clothes in the future, like thinking thoroughly before purchasing from a fast fashion brand and buying clothes that are made to last instead. More often than not, it's normal to feel the desire to shop all the latest trends and being caught up in the Instagram culture of buying clothes for the sake of posting an OOTD before chucking it away permanently. This has inevitably been one of the contributions to the fashion industry being one of the most polluted industries out there. I too am slowly changing my lifestyle and shopping habits to reflect my values, styling clothes I already have to create new and fun looks instead of buying new ones."

Evan Yap

Jewellery designer, 17

BURO: To start off, what do you do and why do you love it?

Evan: "I'm a jewellery designer and creating has always been an outlet for my creativity and self-expression. Seeing my clients express themselves through my designs brings me immense joy."

BURO: What currently inspires you the most about the local fashion scene?

Evan: "Small local businesses and designers are more conscious about environmental sustainability now. For instance, UglyPretty by Daren creates restructured pieces and amazing corsets made out of thrifted jeans, vintage cheongsam and second-hand denim shirt––STAN!"

BURO: What was your biggest challenge creatively this year, and how did you overcome it?

Evan: "Lockdown had a major impact on my mental health. It got to the point where it slowed down the creative forces that drive me. Getting off of social media and spending more time in nature really helps. I feel like I’ve gotten a bigger perspective by being around nature. I also get a lot of inspiration from it, whether it is the form, texture or colour combination."

BURO: How do you think your generation will shape the creative landscape of Malaysia?

Evan: "I would say Gen Z is the most diverse generation compared to previous generations. And I see that especially in the modelling industry here as models are more varied by ethnicity, size and age now. For generations, the modelling world was reserved for women with slim figures and even skin tone, whereas for men it was muscular bodies and symmetrical facial features, who were mostly white. However, in today's generation, we can see how different things are from decades ago. Everyone can be the star of a public narrative through their own creations. We should celebrate the differences and learn to work together because our differences make us stronger."

BURO: What are your hopes for the future of fashion?

Evan: "For people to reinvent their looks in ways that are less harmful and wasteful to the environment. For instance, shopping sustainable pieces, buying secondhand clothing and upcycling old garments into something new are small changes that we can all make. The enormous scale of fashion pollution and waste is a terrifying problem these days."

Ashanth Kithsiri De Silva

Designer, 22

BURO: To start off, what do you do and why do you love it?

Ashanth: "I'm Ashanth and I make fun, dark, super dramatic wearable art to escape the harsh reality we all live in. I love what I do because the possibilities when it comes to creativity is endless and there are no rules involved. For someone who has so many emotions trapped within him, I'm able to express them all through this outlet and also be able to create an experience for those who watch. Lastly, knowing that I'm not the only one that shares the same journey, and that there are a whole lot of us who I get to celebrate, appreciate, and connect with, is what keeps me doing what I love today."

BURO: What currently inspires you the most about the local fashion scene?

Ashanth: "I love how my generation is all about the thrift. Seeing them put their own twist to it, being completely fearless with their choices and creating their own identity is something very inspiring to watch. Watching young brands being very environmentally cautious and also having an appreciation for all our cultural attire while bringing them to the future with a modern twist, making it super inclusive and accessible to many of us is very inspiring to watch as well."

BURO: What was your biggest challenge creatively this year, and how did you overcome it?

Ashanth: "My biggest challenge this year has to be creating my final year graduation collection. It was a homage to my late father who passed away in January due to a brain haemorrhage. Losing someone you love in a pandemic and knowing they won't be around forever is a tough pill to swallow. It definitely took a toll on my mental health and affected me creatively. I was drained out mentally and only had a few weeks left to complete my whole collection. I eventually got myself together with the help of great friends––shoutout to my squad ‘Peanuts’ and my best friend ‘Eldy'.

"I also started meditating and visiting the temple more often and constantly surrounding myself with positive energy hoping that it would cool down my mind––and it did. If there's anything I hope for anyone to take from this is that it's a tough time now and your mental health is serious. Find out what keeps your mind Zen and do it, because eventually we will find the light and heal. Nothing is forever, so start living life the way you want to because baby, life's too short for your tears."

BURO: In your opinion, what sets the local scene apart from the rest of the world?

Ashanth: "We have spice; we serve flavour; we have multicultural molecules heavily saturated in our DNA. We Malaysians are so special and blessed to be surrounded by such a diverse community with such colourful backgrounds, each being so authentic on its own. You can see that Gen Z is embracing that all unapologetically in their work."

BURO: How do you think your generation will shape the creative landscape of Malaysia?

Ashanth: "I think Gen Z is not to be underestimated because we are very unapologetic when it comes to our work and we speak our truth through it. We'll go out of our way to make sure our audience and community are able to hear us and that the message gets across clearly. We have a deep understanding that what we wear goes beyond just pieces of fabric that have been put together, but a tool that can be worn to spread a message regarding the cause we are fighting for and the stand that we are making. With that understanding, Gen Z is going to not just reshape the creative landscape but the whole world by freeing it from all its stereotypes and giving it a fresh beginning."

BURO: What are your hopes for the future of fashion?

Ashanth: "I want to see all brands acknowledge the current issues our generation faces today and see what they can do on their behalf to make the market feel more personal and intimate, rather than being a toxic trend machine. I want to see more representation in products and also in production. Representation should start from the base because it's important to also have the people working behind the scenes to follow exactly what we are trying to sell. That way the product will also be more authentic instead of just being a piece of fabric.

"I personally hope our country and the world is able to have more brown representation. I want to see more brown boys and girls killing the fashion game. People with disabilities should also be included in the chat. I believe our fashion industry should transform itself into a community that cares and makes sure that the audience feels safe and confident at all costs. That's the kind of industry I want to be a part of and I know for a fact that Gen Z is gonna make that happen."

Skye Lai 

Stylist, 21 

BURO: To start off, what do you do and why do you love it?

Skye: "I’m mainly a fashion stylist and I do photography sometimes as well. I’ve always loved fashion since I was a kid and always knew that it was what I wanted to do in the future. It’s just something that naturally sparked my interest and now that I’m in the industry, I just love the community and how it constantly evolves. It’s just my passion."

BURO: What currently inspires you the most about the local fashion scene?

Skye: "Personally what I love about it is how much room there is here for us to grow and push for. I love seeing more and more people boldly dress up to express themselves and the future potential of the fashion industry/scene in Malaysia."

BURO: What was your biggest challenge creatively this year, and how did you overcome it?

Skye: "I’d say the biggest challenge over the past year has definitely been trying to get a stable income as a freelance stylist because of the pandemic. There were many periods (like now) where I couldn’t work at all, which then led me to find and land a full-time job as a stylist in a production house. I would’ve loved to continue on purely as a freelance stylist as it fulfils me creatively but I think we were all put in a situation of a sudden harsh reality. I think we often forget that sometimes it’s okay to pursue stability over creativity."

BURO: In your opinion, what sets the local scene apart from the rest of the world?

Skye: "It would definitely have to be the culture we have in Malaysia and our identities as Malaysians."

BURO: How do you think your generation will shape the creative landscape of Malaysia?

Skye: "I think my generation has a lot more inclusivity, diversity and awareness which is huge progress from what it was. I think that is something we bring to the table and will continue to push for in hopes to make a solid change for our future."

BURO: What are your hopes for the future of fashion?

Skye: "I would like to see more support overall, and a much bigger fashion ecosystem. Where we can find whatever we’re looking for locally and see the community building each other up."

Adiq Rahman

Model, 21

BURO: To start off, what do you do and why do you love it?

Adiq: "I currently work as a site safety supervisor but personally I like working as a freelance model. That's because I get to meet many creative people and gain new knowledge from them."

BURO: What currently inspires you the most about the local fashion scene?

Adiq: "Fashion brands like Kit Woo, Joe Chia, and Tarik Jeans are my biggest inspirations because their designs really stand out from the rest as the detailing and silhouette are really precise with high quality."

BURO: In your opinion, what sets the local scene apart from the rest of the world?

Adiq: "My biggest challenge is that I used to like customising my old clothes into something new. But since I've started working as a supervisor, I haven't had the time to do so. Nevertheless, I've overcome it by balancing my time at work and at home so I can work on my creative flow."

BURO: How do you think your generation will shape the creative landscape of Malaysia?

Adiq: "To me, the batik and the kain songket are some of the most unique fashion garments in the fashion industry although it is shared by other Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Singapore, but we all wear it with pride. Wherever you are in the world, if you see someone wearing batik or kain songket, it surely is a head-turner."

BURO: How do you think your generation will shape the creative landscape of Malaysia?

 Adiq: "My generation is prone to be more environmentally friendly, so I imagine our future Malaysia to be greener and more eco-friendly with more trees, parks and gardens."

BURO: What are your hopes for the future of fashion?

Adiq: "My hope for the future of fashion is to have less fast fashion companies and more people wearing sustainable clothing for a better ecosystem."

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