TOPIC ASIA MAGAZINE

Avant Garde Fashion

Think of billowing chiffon and gothic inspired dresses. Think avant garde and vintage design. Malaysia isn’t the first place to come to mind for such creations, but this is where Melina Looi was born and still lives and works. She is an award winning fashion designer who has superstars and socialites around the globe lining up to be dressed in her signature style.

Melinda was born into fashion with a mother who was an illustrious tailor in Kuala Lumpur. Growing up she had her heart set on becoming an artist, but her parents weren’t encouraging of this and so as the next best thing she agreed to go into fashion design.

In 1985 Melinda won the Malaysia Young Designer Award and the prize was a scholarship to study at the well known La Salle School of Fashion in Montreal. She studied there for three years and in 1988 returned to Malaysia and worked for her parent’s business before then venturing out independently.

She quickly became known for her love of beauty and detail, each piece being tenderly put together with rich fabrics and innovative style. She is particularly keen on the flapper era and bases many of her ideas on fashion from the 1920’s and 30’s. However, drawing on her own roots, some of her creations use the chongsom and kebaya as an inspiration, which are especially popular with foreign buyers. She often describes her style as ‘modern with a traditional twist.’

In 2000 the designer formed Mellooi Creation and this is when her designs really took off. She now has three distinct brands: Melinda Looi Couture, Melinda Looi Pret-a-Porter and MELL. They are all sold in her store in Bangsar, Kualar Lumpur as well as throughout Australia, the Middle East and Europe.

Melinda Looi Couture is a top of the line collection with made to measure clothes using materials such as French lace and chiffon. It has recently extended into bridal gowns which have been snapped up by the rich and famous all over the world.

Her collection of ready to wear evening dresses falls under the category of Pret-a-Porter and is popular with celebrities in the USA. This year the line offers young, trendy and stylish ready to wear bridal gowns.

MELL is a more relaxed and casual collection for men and women which are made to mix and match and have a fun twist. It also includes MELL eyewear which is a selection of fashionable optical frames.

Her gowns have amazing added details such as organic flowers and petals sewn into hems and pleats. Melinda has a passion for theatrical and costume couture which comes to the fore in some of her more unique pieces. In 2006 she won the Designer of the Year Award for the second time at the Malaysian International Fashion Week, showcasing avant garde designs in a gothic style.

Currently she is working on collaborations with brands such as Swatch, L’Oreal and LEVI’s as well as being more and more involved in eco-friendly events. She is still based in Malaysia, from where she draws so much of her inspiration but travels widely and frequently to share ideas, show collections and meet clients personally.

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