Future of Fashion in Malaysia

Tasked with overseeing the up-and-coming Melaka fashion hub, renowned fashion designer Bill Keith gives his take on the future of fashion in Malaysia.

Bill Keith is credited with the unconventional – but being unconventional is admired in the fashion design world. It’s what makes you stand apart from the crowd and makes your creations one-of-a-kind. Take for instance, his unique reinterpretation of the qipao (known as cheongsam in Malaysia) – its unconventional design earned it a place at the renowned Beijing Qipao Museum.
And uniqueness is what Bill is looking for when it comes to fashioning a fashion hub in Melaka for which he’s been tasked to oversee. He shares the same vision with Dato Leong Sir Ley, the Managing Director of FashionTV, Malaysia (originates from Paris, France) – that of making Melaka a fashion hub in the likes of Milan.
Bill knows that it is not easy but he’s confident that it will take off – time will tell but as he quotes Dato Leong, “everything is being reset now and things can happen overnight just like how the pandemic has hit us out of the blue and suddenly virtual offices, face masks and gloves have become essential”.
He adds: “The success of the hub is not an overnight thing; it takes centuries for a city to be built. But we need to start off with a dream and believe in it, and we need to start now,” Bill stresses the urgency.
“In the case of the Melaka fashion hub mooted by Dato Leong, we plan to bring together all the fashion designers in the country; mentor the young and up-and-coming ones and when they become successful, a lot of people will take notice and from then on, the hub will start attracting people including tourists,” he says, adding that what they need now is to think out of the box.
And thinking out of the box is what Bill does best – a designer’s creative mind knows no boundaries yet is constrained by what’s defined as beautiful which paradoxically might not fall within the box of conventional beauty. Still, with his works acknowledged internationally, Bill is the man for the job.
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Local Flavours

Elaborating on his role, Bill envisions seeing local models donning unique collections created by local fashion designers using local materials, and walking down the catwalk against the backdrop of the most historic city in Malaysia. “Some of these models and fashion designers will eventually get a chance to go to Paris where they can get international exposure,” Bill, who’s also a Partner of FashionTV, Malaysia (originates from Paris, France) anticipates.
“At the moment, we are talking to designers and looking at their collections,” he says, adding that they are looking for something different. “We have even gone to East Malaysia to seek out native designs and we have discovered so many unique native or indigenous collections out there that have not been exposed to the world; not even in West Malaysia. This shows Malaysian designs are inherently unique due to our diverse culture with many crossover elements present.”
Bill and his team are also keen on reviving the batik for the new generation, the ‘future batik’, so to speak. “These are all part of the future of fashion in Malaysia although the basics are never out of fashion,” he reflects.
At the same time, Bill is coordinating with the textile industry which has agreed to support and collaborate with the designers in coming up with the materials needed for their creations. “Every stage of the supply chain has to be local, from the locally-sourced materials to the handiwork.
Everything has to be produced locally in order to support Malaysian individuals and companies under the ‘Buy Malaysia’ campaign,” explains Bill.
“This is how we can move forward, go big and grab attention. This is how we can help local designers to go to the next level,” he adds. Engaging government bodies is also part of the endeavour en route to reaching fashion hub status.
In the pipeline is the 20,000 sq ft fashion gallery in Metra Square Melaka which will showcase the collections of the fashion designers as well as providing space for fashion shows. The collections include not just clothing like dresses, gowns, and the likes, but include the entire range like handbags, shoes and accessories.
Bill will also mentor young or up-and-coming designers as part of the deal. “The designers under my mentorship will create something very exclusive and extraordinary,” he says with his usual optimistic flair.
Once the designer clothes are ready, then the FashionTV Academy Malaysia (headed by former beauty queen, Betty Anne Brohier), which is affiliated with FashionTV Paris, France, comes into play.
“FashionTV Paris, France, is very important because it will
help brand us overseas at a faster rate,” Bill shares. He recalls that years ago, he received orders from all over the world after his collections were featured on the TV show. FashionTV Paris, France, is an influential international fashion and lifestyle broadcasting television channel started since 1997. It is watched by millions of viewers around the world.
“Once the ball starts rolling, it will create a chain of businesses ranging from designers holding fashion shows, to jobs being created for models, makeup artists, hair stylists, event organisers and many more. That’s how we blend fashion and lifestyle into the corporate world,” Bill shares.
“Furthermore, a fashion hub in the new era is not just about clothing but entails lifestyle elements such as the food you eat and the image you portray. This is the new trend moving forward.”

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