Tonight, I put on one of my favorite hand painted Malaysian designer gowns and attended the Islamic Fashion Festival (IFF) organized by the Malaysian Tourism Board and the Embassy of Malaysia. This is the same show that has been shown in Kuala Lumpur, New York and London with great success.
Her Excellency Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, wife of the Prime Minister of Malaysia and patron of IFF, was the special guest for tonight, all the way from Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile the Manila organizing committee was headed by the wife of the Malaysian ambassador and she had as her Philippine team members Doris Ho, Fortune Ledesma, Tina Ocampo and Tingting Cojuangco.
The project was started by Dato' Raja Rezza Shah after 9/11 as a means of countering the "Islamophobia" (to quote the IFF) that swept the world. He strongly felt that the world needed to see the vibrancy of Islamic culture -- and what better way to do this than via its most cutting-edge fashion?
The organizers of tonight's event
Last Saturday, I happened to be at dinner with the Malaysian Ambassador Dr. Ibrahim Saad and his wife, and Madame was diagonally across me at the long dining table at the residence of the Ambassador of Indonesia. We were talking about tonight's event as Madame was clearly excited about it.
THE BEST OF ISLAMIC FASHION
"What's Islamic fashion like?" I asked her. She gave me a smile then and said mysteriously: "You'll see on Thursday night."
Well, tonight I walked into a full ballroom and took my place at one of the tables right next to the walkway for a very good view of the models. What gorgeous colors and what beautiful designs. Everything was a blaze of artistry, albeit with the characteristic modesty of Islamic designs. Nothing revealing anywhere but nevertheless so beautiful to look at and so feminine. And almost every piece was wearable and elegant.
TOP DESIGNERS IN TODAY'S SHOW
There were a total of seven designers: three Malaysian designers, one Italian designer based in Bali and three Filipino designers. KL designers Melinda Looi, Syaiful Baharim and Tom Abang Saufi are great favorites of the fashionable set in Malaysia; while Milo Migliavacca, who is based in Bali, is known as the King of Batik Couture.
Representing the Philippines were JC Buendia, Jun Escario and Veejay Floresca.
And in between fashion numbers, we were all entertained by Stephen Rahman-Hughes, a well-known performer in London's West End, who has starred in a variety of musicals including Bombay Dreams.
I was fortunate to sit beside some very interesting people and we had a lively conversation all night when we weren't admiring the fashions. I recounted to them how I always buy at least a handful of dresses and gowns when I'm in Kuala Lumpur, and how I get the most amazing compliments every time I wear one of them in Manila. This has made me a fan of Malaysian fashion for life. I'll never visit Malaysia without buying a suitcase full of clothes.
I really like how their clothes are so graceful and elegant, and not at all revealing; but you don't feel prissy either.
They had really cool men's fashion too
Now tonight, everything was wearable and really refreshingly beautiful. There were a lot of headscarves; but, of course, as I'm not a Muslim, I won't be wearing the headscarf. But I could imagine myself in many of the dresses and gowns, especially the long flowing ones with intricate designs.
A LOVELY SURPRISE
Later on I saw the Ambassador's wife and I said to her: "What a lovely surprise to see Islamic designs so beautifully done."
If you've been reading this blog, you'll know that I'm a big Malaysia fan. And tonight I was so happy to see so many friends from KL including the honorable Minister of Tourism Dr. Yen Yen and the Tourism Malaysia team. Seeing all of them and the beautiful fashions tonight made me want to plan a trip to KL sometime very soon. And just in time too, as Travelife is planning a tour to Malaysia this May 18-20, 2012. Do join us for a weekend!
TRAVELIFE MALAYSIA TOUR
together with the Malaysia Tourism Board
Enchanting Malacca & modern Kuala Lumpur
May 18-20, 2012
US$650 per person
Call Meg at Travelife for more details
WE TALKED ALL NIGHT
Finally, one of the highlights of the evening was a long conversation I had with a top hotel executive from a very aggressive international luxury hotel. I kind of know everyone in the industry but for some reason, I'd never met him before. Well, tonight we just couldn't stop talking and he had about a hundred fascinating stories to tell about his one hundred lives.
We've also hatched a couple of projects tonight in that very short time of dinner. The way we were thinking up projects, you would've thought one of us was joking. Or tipsy. But no wine was served tonight so it certainly can't be the latter.
"And I mean what I said," he told me, after discussing the last project. And I guess he meant that this wasn't just some social conversation for him -- wherein people talk about doing things and then never do them. I liked that as that's exactly me too. So I replied: "That's the same for me. I don't ever say things I don't mean."
He then looked at me and said: "Why has it taken me seven years to meet you?" I had to double-check whether he'd sneaked a bottle of wine onto the table when he said this. But all I saw was water and iced tea. Anyway I just smiled and said: "See you when I get back from Myanmar."
More on this and our very interesting conversation in a future blog. Gotta pack for Yangon and get some sleep now.
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