What have society and faith got to do with business? Well, they are the major drivers in fashion business! That was the point discussed at a forum on Society, Faith and Fashion in Australia and Malaysia, organised by the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.
Insted of the usual corporate topics, I attended the event to understand more about fashion and society and was not disappointed at all. The panellists, Karen Teh, General Manager, Chopard; Glynis Jones, Curator, Museum of Applied Arts and Science; Aheda Zanetti, Founder & Designer, Ahiida and Calvin Thoo, Calvin Thoo were excellent in sharing their views on how societies influenced fashion and the emergence of "modest fashion" inspired after the Abrahamic faith shared by Muslims, Christians and Jews communities. In fact Calvin did very well in explaining why Muslim ladies need to cover themselves and how he blended those requirements with his designs.
Aheda shared her experience in designing the "Burqini", as a choice for ladies who want to remain modest while still enjoying the carefree lifestyle of Australians. In fact, 40% of her customers now are non-Muslims and her designs, which comply with her faith, have provided comfort to women who are inclined towards modest fashion, irrespective of their beliefs. She, again and again, emphasised that modest fashion is a choice, which works well in societies which are less judgmental like in Australia. Calvin, on the other hand, explained that in Malaysia people are more judgmental and one need not only pleases herself but her host and other guests. That makes modest fashion designs in Malaysia more complicated.
|Me and Aheda|
One interesting point which was discussed was on the influence of online and social media on fashion. According to Calvin, online sales in Malaysia exceed offline. One of the artiste who has done this well is Neelofa who has her lines of head cover and is promoting them via her Instagram account very well. Karen shared that even the high end brands do have online channels which are contributing to their overall sales quite well.
Glynis walked the audience through the evolution of fashion in Australia which according to her was still new. She also sees modest fashion as a segment of a larger choices which Australians have and that segment compliments the choices which Australians could make when deciding what they think suit them.
The Nasi Lemak design was raised by one of the audience and Calvin was very firm on his view about how much that design lacks taste and quality, even from the technical point of view. He is willing to sponsor a better design, something which will make Malaysians proud.
Looking forward to more life events, away but still connected with business.