Made in Malaysia: Is fashion the country's next big thing?

Malaysia strives to become a force in fashion
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    Malaysia strives to become a force in fashion


Malaysia strives to become a force in fashion 02:35

Story highlights

  • Malaysia's fashion scene is emerging from manufacturer to designer
  • South East Asia is starting to see a lot of young, emerging fashion designers
  • Kuala Lumpur held its first Fashion Week three years ago

(CNN)The word Malaysia usually brings to mind tropical beaches, steamy jungles and spicy food.

It hasn't traditionally been deemed a center of fashion. One enterprising young designer is hoping to change that.
    Malaysian Cassey Gan earned her degree in chemical engineering, but she followed her love of design all the way to London. It wasn't long before the fashion elite recognized her talent. In 2012, four years after studying at the London College of Fashion, Vogue Italia named her one of the top future talents to watch out for. She has taken that title, and returned to her home in Malaysia, where she has launched her own eponymous fashion label.

    Hometown challenges

    Compared to London, she says, where fashion is "a bit crazy", Malaysia is a lot more toned-down and strict. Trying to get Malaysians to be more experimental and venture out of the mainstream, she adds, hasn't been easy.
    "I am naturally not a really crazy, out there kind of designer," admits Gan. "I want people to wear my clothes and feel good in my clothes. It's always been a fine balance between wearability and design."
    Malaysia is a Muslim country, mixed with a large Chinese and Indian population too, and Gan has to take different cultures and religions into account when designing clothes for her varied audience.

    Fashion forward

    Luckily for Gan, KL Fashion Week was launched three years ago and it was her springboard to get noticed by the media and fashion buyers.
    "I think it's a really good platform for young designers," she says.
    Unlike other Asian fashion capitals like Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur has been slow to emerge on the fashion scene.
    "I think now a lot of people are starting to realize that there is value in art and design," cites Gan.
    Malaysia has often been thought of as a hub for manufacturing clothes, but not designing them. This has worked to the advantage of Gan and other young designers.
    "It's very easy for us if we want to outsource production. We don't really have to travel so far to like, China, for example, to produce our clothes. We cut our costs as well."

    Made in Malaysia

    The whole of South East Asia is booming in the fashion world, says Gan.
    "I'm seeing a lot of designers, young designers coming from Thailand and Indonesia, and their work is really good as well."
    Besides Malaysia, Gan's clothing is currently sold in a couple shops in Singapore, Taiwan and a pop-up shop in Beijing. Gan admits her company would love to reach Hong Kong and Japan, too.
    But for the moment, she has her feet firmly planted in her home country of Malaysia.
    "From the beginning I've always thought I wanted to design something that is designed in Malaysia, and also made in Malaysia," she said.