Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Designing their dreams

TWINS Putri Azalea Ashram and Putri Yasmin Ashram look set to become Malaysia’s very own Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Yasmin makes the clothes while Azalea designs the accessories to go with them – now how much more compatible can a pair of twins get?

The 25-year-old duo, like the Hollywood wonder-twins, is set to take the local fashion world by storm. At least, they will not rest until their dream come true.

Having opened their first store, PU3, at The Curve, Mutiara Damansara in early 2007, the twins are fast gaining recognition as the young and talented fashion designers to look out for. In December, they opened another store in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.

Putri Yasmin (left) and Putri Azalea Ashram make PU3 jewelleries and clothes at their home studio in Ampang.
“In the beginning, it was only Yasmin who was interested in doing fashion,” Azalea, who instead opted to study International Business, explains.

With a degree in Fashion Design and Marketing from Middlesex University in London, Yasmin was looking forward to help expand their mother’s already booming handbag business.

Azalea was then working for her brother as an accountant and only got a taste of the fashion world when she, too, started to help out in her mother’s business.

“I was fascinated with the things that my mother created and would add my own style while making them,” says Azalea.

An intricate design by Azalea for PU3.
She then realised that instead of just helping her mother out for fun, she could venture into the industry seriously. So, in 2005, Azalea enrolled in a three-month jewellery-making course in Morsley College, London.

When she returned, Azalea found herself ready to create the accessories to go with the outfits that Yasmin makes from scratch.

It was then that PU3 – a play on their name Puteri – was born.

Through their funky, youthful and trendy designs, Azalea and Yasmin have garnered a vast number of fans including local personalities like Sazzy Falak and Nora Danish, who wear their outfits.

“It’s nice to see people supporting a local brand and giving a chance to young designers like Azalea and myself,” says Yasmin.

A chance is also what up and coming designer Jay Lim hopes the public would give to his peers from the local fashion industry. The 25-year-old co-owner of JayLimDesign produces T-shirts as well as the Your Mind Is Your First Enemy brand pillow range.

“It’s quite difficult to get people to trust local brands, but thank goodness people are starting to recognise mine,” he says.

Jay graduated from Dasein Academy of Art in Kuala Lumpur and has been involved in digital design for four years, but only started the business when he met his business partner Vivian Toh. Their meeting and eventual partnership happened through an encounter on an Internet forum. They were introduced through a mutual friend, and later discovered their common interest in art and design.

“I leave all the design work to him, and I suggest words to put on the T-shirts. After that we coordinate exhibitions and do the promotional work together,” explains Vivian.

Though they have yet to open a store, their collections can be found at Headquarter in Cineleisure Damansara, Mutiara Damansara or Radioactive in Midvalley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur.

His latest range features the fictional Cheongsam-clad Miss Hua, who is proving to be a big hit among his fans. Miss Hua’s popularity is pushing Jay to expand the line to China.

“People like the range because it incorporates retro style into the Chinese culture,” says Jay, who proudly adds, “Only a few people in the whole world will wear the same design.”

“I make only a few pieces of the same design because people want their clothes to be more personal and less commercialised.”

That sounds like exactly what Raeesa Syahirah’s designs are like. The 19-year-old designer created the Lady Esah brand and draws on T-shirts and shoes without even planning her designs in advance. This way, her work is definitely personal and one-of-a-kind.

“It’s very hard to duplicate a design because each is unique in it’s own way and there’s no chance in making two designs look 100% the same,” she says about her method.

“Which is why they are only one of each of my designs in the world,” she says with a smile.

Raeesa, who is currently pursuing her degree in Graphic Design in Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, is proud of her unique and creative designs.

Starting off as a street artist (a “passion” she has long given up on), Raeesa incorporates her street style into her designs, making them funky and a must-have thing among her friends.

The eldest daughter in a family of four talented artists, Raeesa cheekily claims to be a better artist than her sister. However, she readily admits that her parents, especially her father, are very artistic and creative.

“I guess I got the genes from my parents, and it’s a good thing that I didn’t let it go to waste,” she adds. Raeesa hasn’t opened her own store yet, but during university breaks, she can be seen around town setting up temporary stalls exhibiting and selling her designs.

Her T-shirts prices start from RM35 depending on the clothing material and the intricacy of the designs.

Jay, on the other hand, prefers to keep his designs simple.

“Too much artwork makes a piece too complicated – my designs are simple but meaningful at the same time,” he explains, adding that teenagers are his target market as they would be able to relate best to his designs.

He doesn’t play with too many designs at one time, and limits his designs to only a handful of colours, which is also the factor that makes his work stand out from the rest of the designers out there.

Jay also says that there are many young designers who are just waiting for their lucky break.

“I don’t see them posing any threat at all. That is because I know that my designs are different and people would still be interested in buying my items because I have a message in each of my work,” says Jay.

Raeesa also feels that she’s different from most of the designers out there because of her passion.

Some of the young designers out there, she says, are only getting into the business because it is a cool venture to explore.

“I know people who print things off the Net and paint them on T-shirts and then sell them as their designs. It is not original and won’t last,” Raeesa says.

She hopes that people actually do more research and put more effort into their designs if they really want to make it out there because people, she adds, do appreciate talent.

She’s speaking from experience because a local film director who saw her work online was so impressed by her designs that he invited her to become the stylist for the cast in his upcoming movie. Unfortunately, her class schedule collided with the movie’s filming date.

“My parents would never agree to me skipping classes just to be part of that movie. It’s such a wasted opportunity but I know that there will be many more to come if I keep on doing what I do the way I do it,” she says.

Azalea, Yasmin, Jay and Raeesa are only a handful of young local designers who are starting to make their way into their industry.

Their works have proven to be unique, edgy and contemporary and surely, these are some of the names that will stick in our heads for many years to come.

Except that, as with any other local products, they need support from the public