ANN/THE STAR – Revamping the attire for Chinese New Year to infuse it with a trendy vibe is not always a simple task, but certain brands have managed to do so with success.
The present festive collections skillfully blend traditional and contemporary designs, reflecting the outcome of meticulous thought and creative ingenuity.
Local label Maglifestyle utilises unconventional fabrics and silhouettes to appeal to the younger crowd.
“Elements like the frog buttons and high collar are there, but the cut is modern,” said co-founder Shirley Wong.
“We use tweed fabric for our cheongsam, an unusual choice given that brocade and silk chiffon are the common ones.”
Wong said blending modern designs and traditional wear is important to meet local needs.
“We pair shorts with cheongsam-style blouses. The combination is especially designed for Malaysians, as it can get very warm here during Chinese New Year,” she explained.
Maglifestyle’s current collection also mixes elements from different cultures.
There is a scallop mandarin bolero and body-hugging cheongsam-shaped tube dress, for example.
Then there are versatile pieces with detachable mandarin collar that can be added on to different designs. Another trendy look is the sequinned bralette paired with high-slit skirt.
Wong said the preference for traditional or modern Chinese New Year clothes may be influenced by a person’s age.
“When I was younger, I seldom wore the cheongsam to celebrate,” she noted.
“Now, I feel like we really must preserve tradition, so I regularly put on a cheongsam for the celebration and make it part of my Chinese New Year collection.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Actor Kahoe Hon said dressing up for a festivity is important to all Malaysians, not just for Chinese New Year.
“I feel it’s a way for us to understand and embrace our culture even better. It will certainly bring about a different mood,” he pointed out.
“It is the only few times of the year that we get to dress up, so why not?”
Kahoe appears in the Levi’s festive campaign, where he is seen wearing appropriately bright colours.
Personally, he reveals that it is his mother who will decide on the family’s “theme” for the year.
“Sometimes we would go with traditional pieces and sometimes, we tend to dress up in a more modern way. But for me, I prefer traditional pieces,” Kahoe said.
“My fondest memory has to be the way my mum wanted us to dress up in a certain way. Usually we have sort of a family ‘uniform’ or thematic colour of sorts.”
Designer Melinda Looi jokes that her children never said no to her designs.
“They are pretty cool kids, and they know I will make them cool stuff to wear,” she relates with amusement.
The Melinda Looi Chinese New Year collection this year sees the inclusion of batik.
According to Looi, she always makes sure to infuse her collections with some local flavour.
“I like blending in all the elements into one to make it truly Malaysian. I feel this will also help remind the younger generation to love traditional craft and fashion,” she said.
It is the familial ties that inspire Looi. She comes from a creative family, some of whom are in the fashion business too.
“I also made sure that I am honouring my dad’s legacy with his pleats elements in the collection. This time, I played around with sunray pleats, which my brother Louie is good at.”
VERSATILE AND BOLD DESIGNS
Other Chinese New Year designs from local designers also play on bold colours and easy-to-wear cuts.
Khoon Hooi’s lineup is carefully curated to captivate different generations of customers. It is even introducing crop top – a first for the label in two decades.
The brand’s campaign narrates the story of a family matriarch awaiting the return of her three children.
Her eldest daughter has a penchant for traditional dressing but with a modern twist, while her son is a stickler for heritage when it comes to what he wears.
Then, there is her youngest daughter who has just returned from studying in London, and has a cool, eclectic style.
Keith Kee’s collection also entices with both traditional and modern accents.
The designer included into his offering, younger looks like cheongsam-style short dresses.
These come with pockets, as well as flared skirts, asymmetrical sheer panels and statement sleeves.
There is also the use of modern embellishments like fringes, feathers and large bows.
One thing is for sure – whether traditional or modern, there is no running away from eye-catching fashion and happy colours when it comes to celebrating Chinese New Year. – Bervin Cheong