Heart of PipsBy PATSY KAM
SOME people are born lucky. They are literally dropped into the fashion scene, especially if their family name happens to end with Versace, and they get to inherit a fashion legacy to boot.
Most of us, though, have to do it the hard way and work our way up. Well-known haute couturiers like Bernard Chandran and Michael Ong will tell you how they had to pay their dues before they were recognised for their creations.
But British-born Bryan Marsden, formerly an electrical engineer, is trying to beat the odds. He figures you can launch a designer into the fashion scene overnight if you have the right smarts.
He plucked four young Malaysian designers out of obscurity and made them his core designing team at his six-month-old fashion company, Pips Fashion.
“You know, when I started putting Pips Fashion together, many discouraged me. Many said I am crazy to go into something totally different from what I have been doing all these years,” he added. Previously, Marsden was involved in projects for the KL International Airport in Sepang, and KLCC in Kuala Lumpur.
When asked why he picked almost fresh graduates, Marsden said he did so intentionally as he wanted to tap their fresh ideas and new outlook, which would be quite different from that of an experienced designer who has been in the fashion line for a long time. The company plans to export its commercial line, Baji, to the United States, Europe and other parts of the world.
Pips’ exclusive line under the label Ronney Baji, had its maiden showing during the Pips Inc Convention held in Hawaii last month.
Taking a shot at fame is Sarawakian Ronney Henry, 27, who heads the design team. Henry was picked along with three other aspiring designers after a few round of interviews.
“I have been lucky thus far. I had nothing to show, no track record, no name, but Pips saw my work and took me on as their lead designer. The CEO is a visionary who saw the creativity in me,” he explained. Henry was formerly working with department store Metrojaya as assistant buyer. He feels the West is ready for a new wave in contemporary fashion design with accents on Malay and Indonesian motifs and embroidery.
Milla Chee, 25, who used to work as a fashion coordinator with a department store in Kuala Lumpur, has been put in charge of designing casual and career wear for ladies.
“Ronney gave us the outline of what he had in mind – a mix of East and West. I was inspired by the image of an Asian warrior princess concept – someone who is feminine yet edgy in her dressing. I spent some time researching and then we all came together with our ideas and worked on them collectively, as we didn’t want the clothes to come off looking too individualistic,” he said. Chee who is from Kuching, Sarawak, admitted that he wasn’t sure how the Western audience would receive their designs. He took a gamble and was surprised at the positive response.
Datin Norleila Abdul Rahman is responsible for designing the fashion accessories. All her creations accentuate eastern elements.
“Though we follow trends, we want to create our own identity and this is where the Malaysian identity comes to play,” commented Norleila, 25. She was working on her own line of accessories in her mother’s boutique before she joined Pips.
All three designers were graduates of the LaSalle International Design School in Kuala Lumpur.
The most experienced of the team is South African Melanie George, who has worked for a bridal and evening wear boutique back home in Cape Town, and later a lingerie company in London. George is in charge of the eveningwear range.
Added Marsden: “We are delighted to host the American debut of Ronney’s designs at this exciting fashion-conscious city. His distinctive style and creative inspiration are sure to find a receptive and enthusiastic audience in the United States as well as Europe. Our next stop will be Britain later this year before we take on all corners of the world.”
He also intends to franchise the Ronney Baji label and hopes that it will lead to the opening of more Baji stores. Ambitious to be sure, but Marsden stated that his was no ambition-driven dream, but purely a business venture.
The commercial collection is being produced in Hong Kong and will be sold at their Nilai showroom when it opens this Friday. They are targeting a customer profile that’s similar to Spanish label Zara.
As to whether Marsden’s gamble will pay off, we can only wait and see.