Malaysian Designer Zang Toi, Inspires Elegance in New York

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This post was written by Desmond Lim Zhengs.


Amidst a sea of contemporary fashion designers, it is rather refreshing to see a New York Fashion Week collection that is still rooted in old world luxury. Worthy of a glamorous snowy vacation, Zang Toi’s Fall/ Winter 2012 collection is an allusion to the high flying lifestyle of the women he dresses.

When the lights went down at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and the first model strutted down the runway to Adele’s Set Fire to the Rain, it seemed pretty evident that Malaysian designer Zang Toi takes pride in knowing his customers well, clearly defining his brand as synonymous with timeless elegance, “ladies who lunch,” celebrities, and the international jet set crowd.

Decadence, a true signature of Zang Toi, is a far cry from his humble beginnings. This Kelantan-born designer swapped the quaintness of a sleepy village for the glossy high-society landscape, and he is showing the fashion world that this kampung boy knows his style.

Whether tempted by the prospect of frolicking on the slopes in a black and white striped fur coat or enjoying apresski in embroidered pant suits, it was clear to customers that this fine show was rooted in the identity of the House of Toi. The colour ivory dominated the collection, aptly titled “Glamor at Gstaad” in an ode to the snowy ski resort town in Switzerland notorious for its famous visits from royalty, politicians, and Hollywood stars. With coats in a luxurious design and texture, body-fitting silhouettes, and evening wear crafted to bring drama and glamour to any occasion, Toi showed that it is European aristocratic elegance that underpins his approach to sophisticated dressing.

High-quality materials such as wool boucle, cashmere wool and silk blend, wool angora, silk velvet, and silk gazar were meticulously chosen to complement the capelet coats, beaded body-hugging sweaters, shift dresses, slouchy pants and cardigans, and fur-trimmed suits. Basic colours of cream, grey, and black gave way to a jolt of bright red come nightfall. Classic evening gowns in brilliant brushstroke print-and-ruffle trims, and the designer’s fond use of floor-length satin, resonate alongside modern tailoring to mark the heritage of Zang Toi. Embroidery appeared throughout the collection, with the most stunning version being rendered in French lace on a skirt suit ensemble, both in contrasting black and ivory.

Even the gents are well-suited with a floor-length, lamb-collared, wool felt coat paired with white t-shirt and pants. For the more dapper, a black suit with ivory stitch trim and a white satin bow tie, and a brushstroke silk satin smoking robe over a velvet dinner suit with oriental fastening are superb options, and both are black tie ready.

Asia’s first supermodel and Zang favourite Ling Tan was mingling in the crowd of socialites and long-time Zang Toi clients that have, over the years, become close friends. Among the celebrity fans were supermodel Petra Nemcova and former America’s Next Top Model judge Nigel Barker, both of whom are front row regulars.


Gstaad, perhaps thanks to being named “The Place” by Time Magazine in the 1960s, inspired Toi’s work right down the models’ retro curls and bright red lip combination, and the aesthetics were reminiscent of something that would be glimpsed in a vintage photograph of Jackie Kennedy Onasis lounging in a ski lodge with a cuppa in hand.

And in that moment, as the luxurious fur coats and embroidered satin evening gowns shimmied down the catwalk, I, too, fantasised about white fluffy snow and ski-ready mountains. Isn’t that what fashion is about, after all? A fantasy or a dream that is attainable… if perhaps only by a lucky few.


View the Zang Toi collection on


Source: Senses of Malaysia Nov-Dec 2012

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