Internationally renowned Malaysian fashion designer Bernard Chandran is famous for his unique aesthetics and style. His creations have earned him many faithful clients, among them the Royal families of Malaysia and Brunei, as well as international stars Lady Gaga and Tori Amos.
Chivalrystyle met up with Chandran to gain an insight on his inspirations and views about the Malaysian fashion industry.
When you were growing up what prompted you to pursue a career in the fashion world?
Generally, I love beautiful things. My mum is a very neat lady and she dresses herself in the latest trends…the same goes for my father too. They were my source of inspiration. I was also influenced by fashion and music videos.
After studying in Paris, you came back and started your own label. Was that the original plan or were there plans to start off in Europe instead?
Of course leaving Kuala Lumpur was a bit tough as my family and friends were all there to support me. Anyway, my wife and I decided to study in Paris, so I thought I probably would want to continue working there once I’ve graduated.
But then you realise your country needs you. Something told me to go back and be the first Dior and Coco Chanel. Unlike the French, we do not have that kind of history and culture…so I thought why don’t I create fashion history in Malaysia and be the best in our country first.
What were some of the problems or challenges you had to face when you first started up?
Like any business there were of course problems because this was not a business my father or grandfather were involved in. As such, I have to start everything from scratch and I relied a lot on my experience in Europe.
A fashion house isn’t just a place you tailor clothes. It is about my journey, style and aesthetics. That has to be interpreted through what I do. I have a certain style and woman that I continuously update. The problem is people might think the style is too ahead of its time or it’s too expensive.
Back then, we have a certain price for local designs. People don’t actually hold the clothes and appreciate the quality and work that goes into the clothes…the aesthetics. So I always have to believe in what I do and convince people that my designs are different. I believe I have managed to convince my customers and they now have that trust in me, hence my designs are a success.
You are married with five children and you have a label of your own. Life must get a little hectic at times. So how do you juggle between family and work?
I think only busy people have time. I’ve always wanted a career like this. It’s like a sport or hobby which I really look forward to. I always wanted to be a young father too, so I keep myself really young and trendy by doing sports and listening to new music.
Of course, there is a fine line between me and my son, for example, as we are different. I actually have meetings with my children every month. We find a time where we are all free and try do something together. We don’t compromise our workouts and try to have a meal or spend sometime to play together.
To be where I am today I have to be disciplined and work for it. This is not an overnight success. I wake up every morning and I need to remind myself what I want. When you plan things you do gain more time.
During Fashion Week, besides designing what is your role? Do you have a say in the music or the lights?
Of course, it’s not all about designing the clothes. We have to think about the makeup and what hairstyles the girls would be donning and so all these ideas go to the mood board.
I am not a designer, I am a creator. I like to invent and whenever I want to do something I would like to do something that you would have not seen before. We are not only talking about the cut but it could be the lining or finishing so I am constantly trying out new techniques. I also draft the patterns and drape with the team as well.
For the music, we get the DJ and he works on the music. Then we show the mood board with our ideas to the makeup artists and hairstylists and a few days before Fashion Week we do the test together.
More young Malaysians are aspiring to be fashion designers. If you had one advice for them, what would that be?
First of all, find your aesthetic and find your own style and story. Then keep believing in it and keep reworking it and eventually you will become successful. cs