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Malaysia’s 10 Best Contemporary Designers: Fusing Luxury and Edge

Malaysia’s 10 Best Contemporary Designers: Fusing Luxury and Edge

Picture of Helen Armitage
Updated: 5 October 2016
Multicultural Malaysia is fast becoming one of the design and fashion world’s hotspots. From the innovative, inspired interior designs of paul+pris, the natural, handcrafted decorative items of Jurema Creations, to the internationally renowned fashion designers Melinda Looi and Bernard Chandran, we present ten designers shaping Malaysia’s art and design landscape.


Paul+pris are Pauline and Priscilla Ng, two sisters who share a passion for creating designs that are daring and imaginative. Both Pauline and Priscilla were educated in the United Kingdom and gained considerable experience in architecture, branding, and interior design with firms in both Malaysia and overseas. Upon setting up paul+pris in 2008, the sisters decided to specialize in interior design and bespoke furniture with the intention of creating spaces and objects for commercial and residential purposes that are both relevant and exciting. Their designs have been featured in the magazines Home and Décor and Commercial Concept, and in 2012 their design for DiGi Telecommunication’s office was highly commended in the Office Interior Design category at the Asia Pacific International Property Awards. The inspiring and fun office design featured bright accent colors, faux grass carpet and communal ‘pods’ for relaxing or brainstorming with colleagues.





Fusionwave is a digital creative agency and the brainchild of Luk Chee Chew who founded the company in March 2002. The company’s services include web and interactive design, motion graphics, print media and product development. Team members from Fusionwave are frequently invited to teach multimedia courses in local schools and universities, helping to inspire the next generation of Malaysian designers. In 2010 the company developed Dweey, a product and brand conceived by Chee Chew, which was acquired by toy production company Toy Minister in the same year. Dweey is a cute and fun ‘art toy’ collectible range in a number of eye-catching designs and colors that started life as a cartoon giraffe character. The range currently includes handmade soft toys and practical 8GB USB flash drives. In 2012, Dweey was nominated in the Best DIY Platform Toy category at the USA’s Designer Toy Awards.



Studio Bikin

Established in 2011, Studio Bikin is a multi-disciplinary firm specializing in architecture, interior design and furniture design. Talented founders and company directors Farah Azizan and Adela, who were both educated at London’s Architectural Association and the University of Cambridge respectively, are passionate about the art of design and committed to creating works that mix work and play. Their architectural and interior design projects to date include the stylish yet relaxing Hit & Mrs restaurant in Kuala Lumpur and the futuristic-looking façade of Kuala Lumpur’s Maarof Gallery. The studio has recently developed Kedai Bikin, a line of Malaysian-crafted furniture items, light fittings and accessories created in collaboration with local designers and craftspeople. The Kedai Bikin range includes Mr Gould 2, a relaxing, low-slung chair made with a solid steel frame and rattan weave seating.



Jurema Creations

Jurema Creations is an innovative one-woman operation that creates quirky yet beautiful objets d’art from entirely natural materials. Run by artist and designer Jurema Walendowsky Baker, who is originally from Brazil but now calls Kuala Lumpur home, all of Jurema Creations’ products are made from recycled tropical foliage including palm tree bark, coconut shells, bamboo and upeh, the Malaysian word for coconut tree bark. From these materials, Jurema crafts a variety of decorative items including sushi trays, fruit bowls and candleholders. These items are then lacquered several times to ensure their durability, such as the stunning Palm Frond Sculptural Bowl. Jurema’s designs have been featured in exhibitions at Malaysia’s heritage trust Badan Warisan Malaysia, and she was asked to create palm tray centerpieces for banquet tables at the ninth Sultan of Selangor’s coronation.




Lain is a furniture design company established by accomplished designer Hani Ali, who also provides services including product design and interior planning and design, with a focus on creating unique, simple and beautiful designs. Hani brings a wealth of experience to the company. She trained professionally at the JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design center in Adelaide, Australia, which has nurtured many successful contemporary designers. Her work experience includes a role as interior designer at textile design giant Laura Ashley’s Malaysian branch. The company name derives from a Malaysian word meaning ‘unique and exquisite’ and Hani hopes to reflect in her designs the unique and exquisite multicultural traditions of Malaysia. Among Hani’s bespoke, custom-made designs for Lain are the White Vanity Table, a charming antique feel table emboldened and updated by bright flashes of hot pink.




Ideation, set up in 2010, is a furniture, interior design and production company overseen by industrial designer and company director Zafri Zakaria Merican. With innovation at the core of its design ethos, the company brings together a talented group of designers who have honed their skills through studying prestigious design courses and work experience in the design industry. It is not surprising, then, that Zafri, on behalf of Ideation, was called upon to conduct a talk at the Malaysian chapter of the World Industrial Design Day 2013 event. Working with a range of commercial and private clients, Ideation uses state-of-the-art technology to produce furniture, fixtures and merchandise display units. Ideation are behind the arty, surreal design of the Sculptural Bench, an outdoor furniture item in the shape of a female figure in dark wood, complemented by solid teak seating.



Melinda Looi

It seemed like destiny that Kuala Lumpur-based designed Melinda Looi would work in fashion. The daughter of a tailor, Melinda was catapulted into the fashion world when her graduate design collection scooped the Malaysia Young Designer Award in 1995, earning her a scholarship to Montreal’s La Salle School of Fashion. Since then, Melinda has gone on to win the prestigious title of Designer of the Year at the Malaysia International Fashion Week Awards twice and has established an impressive international clientele, dressing the likes of actors Cameron Diaz and Mena Suvari. Her design collections include couture, bridal and basics ranges and she recently collaborated with 3D printing innovators Materialise Malaysia to present Asia’s first fashion show featuring 3D-printed designs. Melinda’s designs, which were based on the theme ‘birds’, included the Let Her Shine skirt – a stunning swan-like design mixing fashion, art and technology.



Farah Khan

Since establishing her self-titled brand in 2007, fashion designer and entrepreneur Farah Khan has become one of the most important people on not only the Malaysian fashion scene, but also on the international front. Farah creates bold, lavish fashion items for the modern woman that often feature her signature style detail – intricate and beautiful Asian beadwork hand-sewn by local craftspeople using centuries-old techniques. Her eye-catching designs have been featured on the pages of high-profile magazines including Vogue, Marie Claire and Tatler and her styles have been worn by celebrities including Paris Hilton and Selena Gomez. Farah’s Resort 2014 Collection is perfect for the vacation season and features her trademark beadwork in refreshing, summery blues, pinks and lilacs. When she isn’t designing, Farah acts as President of The Melium Group, Malaysia’s leading fashion retailer that handles the Malaysian portfolio for brands such as Hugo Boss, Givenchy and Saint Laurent.


Courtesy of FARAH KHAN



Jarumas, established in 1992 by fashion designer Nor Aini Shariff, is one of Malaysia’s long-standing fashion brands. Jarumas’ styles combine both traditional and contemporary influences in exclusive hand-painted and block-painted Malaysian batik designs, with a ready-to-wear collection and an exclusive service offering personal design and custom tailoring through the Kuala Lumpur-based Jarumas boutique. With Nor Aini’s trademark features, including flowing fabrics, detailed beadwork and vibrant and varied colors, Jarumas stays true to Malaysian culture by creating locally inspired sarong suits, pantsuits, casual smarts and evening wear. Jarumas participated in the 2012 Islamic Fashion Festival, which is held annually in Kuala Lumpur, with a range of African-inspired designs created under the festival’s theme ‘Hakuna Matata’, which combined earthy and natural tones of brown and green with bright oranges and pinks.


Bernard Chandran

Hailed as Malaysia’s King of Fashion, Bernard Chandran’s illustrious career began locally while studying at Kuala Lumpur’s International Fashion Training Centre before gaining a place at the renowned Paris Fashion School in France where he went on to become the first non-European winner of the 1991 Open European Contest for Look of the Year. Bernard has since won a plethora of awards including Designer of the Year at the 2003 Malaysian International Fashion Awards, and has become something of a TV personality appearing as chief designer on Project Runway Malaysia and a guest judge on Britain’s Next Top Model. Bernard’s designs have become a favorite with contemporary pop icons, with Lady Gaga, Rhianna and Estelle frequently seen in his creations. His Autumn Winter 2013-14 collection, shown at London Fashion Week, is a contemporary interpretation of femininity featuring sophisticated silk designs in browns, whites and blacks.



By Helen Armitage