Langkawi: The island life, luxe hotels and its own fashion show
Cruising around in style
Sometimes it's easy to overlook the things closest to us. Langkawi may not be as glamorous as the Bahamas but it's a tropical gem that shines brightly on its own too. Glittering turquoise waters, warm sandy beaches and lush jungle-clad hills, the island is a natural beauty with a treasure trove of cultural heritage, rich history (and fabled stories), and things to do.
It's a glimmer that does not go amiss as more people are starting to take notice of Langkawi as a premium holiday destination. After all, more luxury hotel names like The St. Regis Langkawi and the newly opened The Ritz Carlton Langkawi have made its mark on the island. In addition, the international airport will see upgrades with more flights to be added, as Dato' Haji Azizan bin Noordin, Chief Executive Officer at Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) told me in our brief meeting. Another effort made to raise the island's name is something called Langkawi Cruise Line, their very own fashion show featuring upcoming Malaysian designers.
While Cai Mei and Joan were away for Fashion Week(s) in September, I made my way to Langkawi for a fashion event with a different style: Malaysian-inspired cruise wear. Celebrating its 5th installation, Langkawi Cruise Line 2018 was even bigger than before with a whopping 16 designers all ready to impress and excite. "September in Langkawi for the last five years has always brought fashion, food, friends and fun. My hope is that September becomes an annual lifestyle platform to share the beauty of Langkawi," said Faisol Abdullah, Chief Executive Officer of organisers Alfa Baru who incidentally owns the boutique shop at The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi and The Danna Langkawi.
From one end of the island (The St. Regis Langkawi where we stayed) to the other (The Danna Langkawi where the fashion show was held), it was a scenic drive highlighting much of the untouched natural landscape. Upon arrival, The Danna Langkawi stood tall and proud, glorious in its colonial-style architecture. The vast pool area is exceptionally charming with swaying tropical trees, cream umbrellas, sun deck chairs and an uninterrupted view of the sea. Alas, I was soon whisked away upstairs to the front row seats of the Langkawi Cruise Line 2018 show.
Most of the designers and their collections look promising. The inspiration is clear. The stories, though vary, conclude with an appreciation and admiration for the Malaysian culture and scenery - both through the eyes of one who was born and raised in the country, and one who came here and fell in love with the place. Thai designer Prapassorn Petchwilai of the label Sorn, for example, moved to Malaysia, adapted to our ways and soon fell in love with our traditional arts. Her resort collection, aptly called The Shape of Kebaya, is thus inspired by Malaysian kebaya but married with her skill with delicate lace. The result is an array of bespoke pieces that are both classic yet desirable.
Then there's homegrown Langkawi label Keddepo (an abbreviation of Kedah Department) and their My Sarong collection where each piece takes it structure from the folds of a sarong. "The collection describes the independent woman who takes her beach breaks seriously. They're easy to pack with the fuss-free ability to both dress down for the beach in the day and dress up for the night," said co-founder Deena Kamarudin. Indeed, a certain tangerine skirt with a folded train - they named it Leret - caught my eye with its sleek movement of the fabric as the model strut down the runway.
When it came to accessories, Bunai's one-of-a-kind bags tickled most people's fancy. "There's only one of every item and they're all handmade in India," said founder Nupur Kapoor when I spoke to her after the show where everyone had set up booths to meet with potential buyers and perhaps sell a piece or more. I personally had hoped to bring home the rainbow-checkered box clutch but it was among the first few to be snapped up. This was just a test run as Kapoor hopes to bring in more pieces and properly set up the brand with her mother. She revealed the next collection will feature designs inspired by Langkawi's land and sea scenery, detailed by sequins and/or beads.
It's good to know that batik is still vibrant amongst Malaysians and there are designers who see its allure, with some of them injecting their modern visions into the art. Luxury batik house Pink Jambu is one of them. All of their fabrics are custom hand-painted and the quality - the touch and feel - is remarkable. What's even more commendable is their dedication to the environment as well where they use a combination of 100 percent natural dyes and eco-friendly chemical dyes, which is then applied to pure, natural fibres.
Since there was still time before dinner, we decided to pop by The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi for a quick preview. But not before indulging in some ice cream by Langkawi Creamery that was highly recommended by the locals. They weren't wrong. Look them up the next time you're there.
A ten-minute car ride later, we were at the gates of The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi. The property is even bigger than you can imagine and because they were careful to build it around the existing environment, it almost feels like you're in a forest reserve. No complaints there. My favourite site is definitely the Spa with its cocoon-shaped pavilions facing the sea. Next door is Hai Yan, the award-winning Chinese restaurant with a breathtaking 180° view of the Andaman Sea. Those are reasons enough to make me want to stay overnight there. Soon.
The next day, with work duties out of the way and splendid weather, my itinerary was stripped down to a dip in the pool, lazing in the hotel room and a delectable brunch at Kayu Puti, the over-water restaurant at The St. Regis Langkawi, and a casual detour to the beach before heading back to pack my things (with a heavy heart). I'll be back, Langkawi. Mark my words.