A RELATIVE NEWCOMER TO THE FASHION SCENE, THE AFFABLE JONATHAN LIANG DISCUSSES HIS MANY AWARDS AND HIS NEWFOUND PARISIAN IDENTITY OVER A CUPPA WITH DESMOND LIM ZHENGS.
“Nue is my fashion label based in Paris,” explains Jonathan Liang, the Malaysian designer who is a recent Parisian transplant. “Nue means naked in French, and the clothes possess an effortless, stylish, French aesthetic. Sheer materials and nude color is the Nue signature; you will see that in all my collections.” The French theme is a key one as, despite being back in KL to show his collection, the 24-year-old now calls Paris home.
This graduate of Raffles Design Institute started his journey with the winning of the Who’s Next design competition in KL and followed that success by participating in Prêt à Porter Paris, one of the most prestigious trade shows in Paris. This was an opportunity that undoubtedly changed the course of his career, and while relocating to that fashion capital seems like a calculated move, Liang argues otherwise.
“I bought a one-way ticket to Paris to escape the KL fashion scene and basically got lucky,” he says. “Lucky” is something of an understatement. Luck alone doesn’t suffice; talent and hard work clearly played a major role too. His participation in Prêt à Porter Paris paved the way for him winning the prestigious Who’s Next International competition and the Carnet de Mode award in Paris, the latter of which subsequently led to an invaluable internship in a well-respected, recently revitalized French couture house.
As one would suspect, moving to Paris has affected Liang’s design aesthetics. “The French like accessibility and wearability,” he explains. “I think I am adapting to the market there, will also be available online at the Carnet de Mode website, which will give him international exposure. Plans are also in the works to bring his pieces to the streets Hints of humility pop up throughout the interview, especially notable when asked on what will be next for him. “My next step would be to master the French language and learn to deal with buyers better,” he answers. Not exactly words worthy of a rising star: you would assume he would be intent on conquering the universe, but he does follow it up with, which goes for a ‘look’ that is effortless, and seeks clothes that are well made and unique. My collection has definitely matured.” Maturity, in the fashion sense, implies being able to strike a balance between design and commercial viability; fashion is a business, after all.
Surprisingly, Liang’s initial passion was not fashion. “I went to The One Academy and majored in Fine Arts,” he admits. “Fashion used to be an interest and hobby while art was my passion, but now art takes a back seat and I am focusing my energy on fashion.”
Although having an exacting eye and sharp artistic values does help tremendously, Liang insists that his background in fine arts has not influenced his design process in a big way, although it did come in handy while translating sketches and in mastering the technicality of garment construction.
His artistic skills may have come into play more than he lets on, however, as prints make an appearance in his Fall/Winter 2012 collection. His Spring/Summer 2012 collection, which he showed days prior to the interview, juxtaposed femininity and masculinity and was chock full of outfits with superb tailoring and proportions.
His sensual yet minimal aesthetics stand out in the sea of batiks and kebayas so prevalent in the local Malaysian fashion scene. Liang doesn’t believe in generic aesthetics, and appreciates being different and being recognised for it. “The Malaysian fashion scene is growing rapidly and there are more new designers and models,” he says. “Malaysians appreciate personal style more than ever, demand for new talent is higher, and there are more investors, too.” An extended stay in Kuala Lumpur due to overwhelming response from media and buyers after Liang showed his collection at the Malaysian International Fashion Week (MIFA) is proof of that.
Despite having now added the Most Promising Designer Award at MIFA to his Carne de Mode glory, Liang still considerthese awards as simple recognition for himself and his team. “I am not fazed by awards, although I’m happy to see people appreciate my work,” he says, citing the people behind his team, his family, and his friends as his motivation. “They are the inspiration that keeps me going more than anything.”
He brings that motivation to the Ultra brand he founded with Tengku Syahmi, Anita Hawkins, and Tengku Jamidah. This sustainable clothing line incorporates interchangeable and utility pieces, replacing leather with salmon skin and using recycled polyester and tencel from wood pulp as materials. Liang regards his involvement with Ultra as his good deed to society.
Eco-conscientiousness and sustainability aside, the work from this boyish designer (although he would prefer to eschew that description) to date is illustrative of bigger and better things to come. Exposure to the Parisian fashion scene is evidently an invaluable experience and one that translates in to the success of his clothing line. His Spring/Summer 2012 collection had been popular with buyers both locally and abroad, and will be sold in St. Tropez, London, and Hong Kong. Liang’s products will also be available online at the Carnet de Mode website, which will give him international exposure. Plans are also in the works to bring his pieces to the streets of his home town.
Hints of humility pop up throughout the interview, especially notable when asked on what will be next for him. “My next step would be to master the French language and learn to deal with buyers better,” he answers. Not exactly words worthy of a rising star: you would assume he would be intent on conquering the universe, but he does follow it up with, “and then just wherever the wind takes me.” His small smile and humble shrug exudes a come-what-may attitude, a youngster poised to take whatever the world has to offer.
So is Jonathan Liang the next big thing? Watch this space.
Source: Senses of Malaysia July-Augt 2012
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