In an exclusive interview with MEGA, we had the privilege of sitting down with Khoon Hooi as he makes waves in the global fashion scene
The global fashion landscape is witnessing a transformation, and it’s not just limited to the established fashion capitals of Paris, Milan, New York, and London. Asian designers are bursting onto the scene, and their unique perspectives are redefining the industry.
In the heart of Malaysia, where cultures converge and traditions thrive, a fashion luminary is making waves in the global market. His name? Khoon Hooi. This creative force unveils the remarkable journey of a designer who has not only conquered runways, but also transcended borders.
The designer’s Fall/Winter 2023 collection takes a nostalgic journey through the Old Glamour of Hollywood, drawing inspiration from the golden era spanning the 1950s to the 1970s, where icons like Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly reigned supreme. It’s a tribute to a time of unparalleled elegance and celebration. When asked about the inspiration behind this choice, he revealed that his brand essence revolves around occasion wear, making Fall/Winter the ideal canvas for celebrations. It’s a season for parties, and what better way to celebrate than by channeling the glamour of Hollywood’s most cherished years?
Every masterpiece has its genesis in a meticulous creative process. As we delve deeper into Khoon Hooi’s world, we discover that crafting this collection involved a journey spanning five to six months. It’s a journey filled with countless discussions, collaborations, and tireless dedication to detail.
As we gaze upon his creations, it’s evident that his designs are bridges between cultures. Growing up with a rich heritage in Malaysia, he draws inspiration from his Chinese roots and the vibrant world of colors that surrounds him. “Colors—that’s [what] I think really gave me inspiration. So I think the colors are a very strong influence in my collection.” Moreover, his garments boast 3D and 4D structures, giving them a unique and captivating presence that nods to his Chinese heritage. In addition to his main collection, he has a separate line dedicated to traditional Malaysian attire, including the iconic cheongsam, qipao, and kebaya.
Despite the challenges faced by Asian designers in the global fashion landscape, there’s an undeniable optimism in the air. Like a weight upon his shoulders lifted and with a sigh of relief, he acknowledges that the international market is becoming increasingly receptive to Asian designers’ contributions. However, the designer points out that financial support remains a significant hurdle for many Malaysian fashion entrepreneurs. It’s a testament to their resilience that they continue to thrive in an industry where profit is elusive. He can rest assured now that he can be recognized for there is room for someone like him.
Paris Fashion Week, the pinnacle of fashion events, is a dream come true for any designer, and his journey to PFW began in New York, where he was scouted by a Singaporean representative. His success in the Big Apple eventually led to a move to Paris, where they discovered that the global fashion community congregates to witness the latest trends. Paris remains the ultimate destination for fashion aficionados, and Khoon Hooi only knows how lucky he is, despite the fact that his own blood, sweat, and tears paved the way for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It may not only be luck, but its his own strength that reaps his rewards.
Fashion is a form of self-expression and a platform for sharing ideas. While the designer’s personal style is minimalistic, his creations are all about celebrating the elegance and beauty of women. “Doing occasion wear, that’s how much I like to see women dress up into elegance.” Khoon Hooi believes that women deserve to dress up elegantly and feel beautiful, which drives his work ethic to ensure every detail is perfect.
When asked if he compares himself to other Asian designers trying to leave a legacy, he mentions every designer has a unique journey shaped by their cultural heritage and environment. In this case, Khoon Hooi’s love for colors and a profound understanding of fabrics sets them apart. His garments are designed not just to be worn, but to also be admired and cherished. Collaborations are becoming increasingly common in the fashion industry, and this designer is no stranger to them. From partnerships with automobile giants like BMW to cosmetics brands, they are open to new opportunities. His story is a testament to the endless possibilities in the world of fashion.
To aspiring designers, Khoon Hooi offers words of wisdom: follow your passion, never give up, and embrace challenges as part of the journey. “We’re passionate about fashion, so continue [and] never give up. And of course, run through the problems.” Fashion is a labor of love, and those who persevere are the ones who leave an indelible mark on the industry—Khoon Hooi is a living embodiment of that.
Fashion is a powerful tool for cultural celebration, and Asian designers like Khoon Hooi are at the forefront of a global revolution. They are not just designing clothes; they are weaving stories, connecting cultures, and inspiring the world with their creativity and dedication to the craft. The future of fashion is undoubtedly bright, and it’s being shaped by Asian designers like him—a testament to transcending borders and building bridges.
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Photography KIM SANTOS