By Aida Rashid

It’s not everyday that you get to be in the same room as the man who founded Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week (KLFW). Andrew Tan, the man who was responsible for creating a platform aimed at elevating the local fashion industry, was kind enough to lend us some time for a few questions. We felt that it was important to note what he had to say about the recent KLFW, and also the past and the future of it — as this is the man who was right there when it all began.

We arrived at his small yet conducive office, a combined office for his model agency Andrewsmodels and also KLFW. I felt like I was in the presence of Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada.

“Basically it all began with Andrewsmodels being a model agency, I’ve been in this industry for about 30 years. Andrewsmodels was built up based on promoting models for editorials, for advertisement campaigns and for fashion shows — with that it’s all related to where we work closely with fashion designers both international and domestic. So that’s how andrewsmodels was built and then with that, that’s how KLFW began from linking andrewsmodels and KLFW together at some point.”

Having been in the industry for 30-over years, it intrigued us as to how Andrew actually ventured into this field and flourished wonderfully. Andrew spoke about how one doesn’t necessarily have to be a model in order to be involved in the industry.

“I’ve always had this passion for fashion. There was a time when I was looking at a newspaper many many years ago, it all started by me looking at this model and she was on the runway. And the effect of the whole picture – the model, the clothes, the stage, the light effect. And then to me I just felt like I wanted to know more about it. It was then that I took up a modelling course to understand more about how this picture that i’ve seen – how it could develop into something else and that’s how it all began.”

“From there it was just me taking a lot of risks, and understanding more about what modelling was about in the 80s. I took up a lot of challenges, took a lot of risks, creating my own agency, that’s where andrewsmodels began right up to this stage.”

KLFW has been around for 5 years now, and it has succeeded in bringing our fashion industry to a whole new level, creating a yearly spectacle locals and tourists love to flock to see. People — be it fashion people or not, are often hyped up when the KLFW season comes; from buying new outfits to wear specially for the event, to booking hotel rooms around KL so it’d be easy to commute to Pavilion for it.

“I think being our fifth year, it’s a milestone and you know we have proven to the domestic and our SouthEast Asia neighbours that Malaysia and our city Kuala Lumpur stands on ground with all the other neighboring countries in terms of where the platform is concerned and where we promote our Malaysian designers. It took 5 years to prove to everyone else that we dont stop, we continue, we keep pushing, and I think we’ve gained that recognition where our Malaysian designers are very well respected. and of course the platform itself. so you know i think it is an achievement – we work very hard to this stage, it is totally and achievement to me and my team to ensure that this platform is a proven platform for the Malaysian fashion industry.”

Though KLFW has achieved a significant amount of success throughout a course of 5 years, Andrew felt that there’s still a lot to do in pushing forward Malaysian designers.

“I envision KLFW to basically be able to push our Malaysian designers – working harder in terms of just not for the platform to show because thats an opportunity to give them the profile and branding  – the platform is already doing that for that. But after the show, we wanna see our designers really pushing in terms of marketing their brand, in terms of having more customer getting more excited about their designs. We want to see on the streets, customers wearing our Malaysian designers. I kinda have a tagline that says, buy local look global.”

Its about putting a local fashion designer collection together in a whole total look and have someone going up to to this person and ask ‘where did you get this? Is this from Zara?’ But no it’s actually from one of our Malaysian designers. My 2018 mission is to also push the designers to go global. They need to reach out in the global market, they need to find the right trade exhibition in the fashion industry. Pick London, pick Paris, New York — which is the right trade exhibition focus? that’s where they should concentrate when we’re looking at a global business.”

Andrew believes in our homegrown designers despite the fashion industry being inherently competitive be it domestically or internationally.

“It’s a very expensive business. i think in terms of competition wise between the European and Asian market, i think we are quite good as it is. Our designers are already putting themselves in the global market. So I must say that our designers are pushing themselves quite out there and being competitive with the rest of the world’s fashion designers. So i’m actually really proud of it. I think its challenging but they’re breaking rules already. They are trying to go into those market and some of them are already in those market.

Slightly out of topic, but we were curious as to what Andrew thinks of the modelling industry, and whether or not he thinks that inclusivity and diversity of models is important.

“I’m excited, its a variety. The Asian influence of models is currently the in-thing. I think it has changed, gone are the days when you only have the blonde-blue eyed and Western looking models. Now, I think the Asian influence is very strong, even in Paris, Milan, New York you can find a lot of ethnicity in terms of usage of models. There’s no more only one type of look, it’s very diverse now. And of course people like Tarik Jeans, they are giving you that tradition of looking at your own homegrown talents and I think that’s very special. To me, it excites me and I think it’s good, there is diversity and that’s important.”

Andrew hopes that KLFW will continue to be a platform that’s able not only to benefit our homegrown designers, but also to elevate our local fashion industry. It is high time for Malaysia to be recognised as one of the great forces in fashion.

“I think for KLFW, we are always out there to support our local designers, and to see how we can always to assist them in any way possible. In terms of providing as much support as we can, and of course it’s also to see and push our designers to go on the global market, and thats the mission KLFW wants to do. Its not just about domestic selling, its about global selling and also educating the designers to always think fast and think efficiently that they should know what to do for their brand – thats very important. Also to see how we can assist them in manufacturing support because that is quite an issue right now, because designers – the demands when we have departmental stores and buyers saying we want it, when can it be ready, those are very crucial and those are things we need to look into, thats where KLFW needs to find ways to solve issues like this. Manufacturing is very crucial, the platform is to show and brand but theres so many things behind it to progress each and every individual. Because if not it wouldn’t look good on the brand itself because they can’t cope. So KLFW always find ways to support them in any way possible.”

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