Jovian Mandagie's bold ideas for modest fashion
Top Malaysian designer Jovian Mandagie's boutique here will feature 'unique' casual wear collection
His couture outfits have been worn by celebrities and royalty in Malaysia, but he knew that to make money, a ready-to-wear line was the way to go.
Malaysia's top designer Jovian Mandagie was a pioneer in the region's modest fashion scene five years ago, when he launched his first ready-to-wear collection.
Drawing on his celebrity designer status and reputation for ornate fabrics and embellishments, his debut in mass fashion drew large crowds even before the doors opened at First Lady outlets in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Selangor and Singapore.
Singapore is very much part of his plans even as he looks to build a fashion empire beyond the region, Mr Jovian, 31, told The New Paper after his first show at this year's Singapore Fashion Week (SFW)on Oct 28.
A boutique, JStore, is scheduled to open at Haji Lane by early next year - his sixth store and the only one outside Malaysia.
His collections have also been sold on online shopping portal Zalora since 2013.
Mr Jovian, who has over 500,000 followers on Instagram, hinted that customers at JStore can expect a "unique" casual wear collection that is sophisticated and feminine.
"Singapore's style is still very much influenced by the Malaysian designs and style because most Malay Singaporeans go to Kuala Lumpur or Johor Baru to shop. I am trying to bring changes," he added, pointing out that his collection at SFW, which showcased fur capes and sequinned denim, was "daring" compared with the other modest fashion designers.
His move is well-timed as the modest fashion market is expected to boom.
According to the "State of the Global Islamic Economy Report", Muslim consumers spent an estimated US$243 billion (S$331 billion) on clothing in 2015, a figure expected to reach US$368 billion by 2021 - a 51 per cent jump.
In terms of modest wear, purchases by Muslim women were estimated to be at US$44 billion in 2015, or nearly one-fifth of the total amount of consumer spending on clothes.
And modest wear, which can also be described as clothes that are not revealing, is making its way into the mainstream.
Popular modest fashion designers in the region, such as Indonesia's Dian Pelangi, made their debut at this year's SFW in collaboration with local modest fashion online shopping platform MODESTyle.
There were three modest fashion shows, each featuring five designers.
In February, London hosted its first Modest Fashion Week, and well-known brands such as DKNY and Nike have also started including modest designs in their collections.
I believe if you want to shine in fashion, you just have to be crazy, so I became a crazy designerDesigner Jovian Mandagie
Mr Timothy Chen, founder of MODESTyle, which was established last year, said modest fashion wear is increasingly being embraced beyond the Malay Muslim community in different territories, including Singapore.
"In the past, there was an impression that modest wear is about covering up, but this is not a representation of modest fashion," he said.
Mr Jovian came to mind when Mr Chen was looking for a headliner for SFW.
"He is prolific, and he stands out because he is daring but without crossing the boundaries," Mr Chen told TNP.
Mr Jovian, who first made a splash in the Malaysian fashion scene when he was 23, agreed that his bold ideas are a key reason for his success.
Whipping out his phone, he showed TNP a photo from his 2011 runway collection, which featured a model walking with a "cage" surrounding her.
Counting the late Alexander McQueen as his "biggest idol", Mr Jovian said: "You cannot always be doing the same things or you will not shine. I believe that if you want to shine in fashion, you just have to be crazy, so I became a crazy designer."
Mr Jovian, who is married to Malaysian entrepreneur and socialite Nina Sabrina Ismail Sabri, 30, described her and his mother as his inspirations.
His wife, who recently gave birth to their first child, is his most honest critic.
"I always go back and (ask) her what she thinks of every single collection that I produce, and I listen to her input because she knows what works for the modern women," he said.
His mother, a celebrity beautician, initially opposed his switch from architecture to fashion design.
Mr Jovian, who now has a team of 150, said: "Ten years ago, it was not the best career to pursue as the fashion industry was not that big in Asia.
"My mum was afraid that I would turn into a girl.
"(But) she saw my enthusiasm and that I was tenacious about doing fashion. She eventually became very supportive, and she has always been my biggest cheerleader."
Singaporean image and brand consultant Wahyu Rahman thinks that Mr Jovian's entry into the mass market five years ago was a "brilliant move".
She recalled how people "went crazy" when he launched his ready-to-wear line in 2012 just in time for Hari Raya.
"I knew people who would carry a second outfit during visiting, just in case they ran into someone who was also wearing a Jovian," she said.
Despite his status, Mr Jovian is well aware of the increasingly tough competition.
He said: "I still love couture, and I think it is the only way you can express your creativity through fashion, but ready-to-wear is the only way to make money out of fashion, so I keep (both businesses) balanced.
"Fashion is about human bodies, it has to be put on a person and fit their personalities."