MBFWKL 2018: Talking fashion with Mark Raine of Mercedes-Benz Malaysia
Mercedes-Benz has been involved in fashion weeks around the world, from New York to Beijing, for over twenty years. This is the first installation of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week here in KL. How did this come about?
Mark Raine: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is held all over the world, in cities like London, New York, Paris, Berlin, Beijing, basically all the big fashion weeks. We already have a history of fashion week here in Malaysia for the last ten years in cooperation with Stylo. Our ambition was clearly to be the fashion week in Southeast Asia, mirroring what we do globally. With that, we looked at a new concept, a new approach, and a new setup. Over the past year, we looked at how the other Mercedes-Benz fashion weeks are structured, and we picked aspects that we liked the most. We might not be on the same level as the international fashion weeks just yet but we've got the ambition to build up MBFWKL. For us, it's very important to use this platform to bring international designers into Kuala Lumpur, and to support up-and-coming designers from Malaysia, and the region.
Each of the four nights are themed differently. There's the International Trends Showcase, Connection Asia Showcase, Cutting Edge Malaysia Labels, and Mercedes-Benz gala night. What was the reason for organising it this way?
We wanted a certain structure to fashion week - this event attracts both fashion savvy people, as well as the everyday person, and we thought this was the best approach that would suit everyone. As the youngest fashion week in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, we need to be agile and have a different approach to things. If we were to just cut and paste from the international shows, then there would be no reason to have MBFWKL. We want to be progressive, and to reform the hub of fashion week in Southeast Asia. We have fashion designers from across the region like Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore showing this MBFWKL, making it a platform with credibility. We were approached by quite a few designers from across the region but had to be quite selective in the designers we took in.
The Mercedes-Benz gala night features 'Fashion Futures: The NextGen competition'. Can you please tell us more about that?
That's one of the pillars for us, that we support local talent at MBFWKL. We have a shortlist of five young designers and the winner of the competition will win an all-expenses paid trip to attend one of the international Mercedes-Benz fashion weeks.
Why was Chin Woo stadium selected as the location of MBFWKL?
We want to push boundaries and be avantgarde. A charismatic, heritage building like Chin Woo stadium represents the old KL, and it's in the middle of Chinatown. That, together with the modern element of Mercedes-Benz, is the perfect combination for fashion week. It's edgy and that makes it interesting.
Have you seen anything during the shows you particularly liked?
Yes, I was busy taking photos of certain looks and sending them to my wife. I liked Francis Libiran - he showed some nice trousers that I could see myself wearing with a plain white shirt. I wasn't exposed to him before this, but he's now on my watch list.
Tell us a bit about your personal style?
It's more classic, although I do have a tendency to try some experimental styles. At the end of the day, it has to match the occasion. Now that I live in Southeast Asia, I dress a bit differently from when I was living in Europe or in other parts of the world. Outside of work, you'll find me dressed casually in a V-neck tee, and a pair of shorts, or at night, in a shirt, ripped jeans and sneakers.
What's one thing we'll never see you in?
A Scottish kilt, probably. Men have a better eye for detail these days. They pay more attention to what they wear, but if it's too flamboyant, it's not for me. I'll leave that to the ladies; we should complement, and not try to steal the show.
Who are some of your style icons?
What was the last fashion item you bought?
A pair of Tod's loafers.
Hoodie and sneakers, or Hawaiian shirt with tailored shorts?
A mix of the two - but definitely not a Hawaiian shirt. That's veering into flamboyant territory for me.
What are the parallels between a luxury car brand like Mercedes-Benz and fashion?
Mercedes-Benz is a luxury lifestyle product which people buy because they appreciate the craftsmanship, the whole ambience of contemporary luxury that our cars possess, and the perceived status symbol. We have a distinctive look and a very particular design philosophy, best described as 'sensual purity'. We pursue our claim of modern luxury - our cars are all about design, and appearance. For our gala night on Saturday, we had our dream cars on display. If you look at the sleek lines of a coupe, that's design. That's also what fashion is about; it's about looks, appearance, quality of design, making that perfect impression, and dressing up for the occasion. For me, both industries cater to the lifestyle element, and that's why Mercedes-Benz is the perfect combination with fashion.
At Mercedes-Benz, you talk about the concept of 'modern luxury'. What does that mean to you?
Modern luxury is what we want to stand for. Clean, sleek lines, a modern silhouette. If you look at the interior, it has to have that ambience of contemporary luxury, elegant but not over-the-top. We want to show the craftsmanship of our vehicles, the exclusivity, high-value perception, but not overdone.
Which Mercedes-Benz model immediately comes to mind when you think about the atmosphere and ambience of the Mercedes-Benz gala night at MBFWKL?
The S-Class coupe. It's got that element of timeless luxury and elegance, and the S-class is the pinnacle of automotive luxury. The S-Class is a wonderful car - it's got the ultimate in comfort, luxury and exclusivity. I personally like to drive myself around so the S-Class coupe combines the best of both worlds. It's got the design element of a coupe line, sleek silhouette, combined with the luxury, and high-value perception of the S class. That's perfect for fashion week, and the direction we're going towards.
What can we look forward to at the next edition of MBFWKL?
First of all, we can definitely look forward to the next edition of MBFWKL. We've built this platform and we're here to stay. We will continue to look at new designers and new talents, and link them to the global fashion community. We will also look at what was well-accepted this year; we want to look at what people liked or didn't, because it's supposed to be a lively platform. We're open to feedback and will further develop the MBFWKL platform from there.