IT is barely a month since Sultan KL, Serve All Mankind and Cheesedenim Works made their debut at Isetan Suria KLCC.
Their shared retail space at the premises seem small but to these homegrown menswear labels, it is a huge platform towards achieving their dream to become the next big guns in the fashion industry.
For small and independent fashion entrepreneurs, getting a showcase at a different retailing atmosphere particularly at international departmental stores such as Isetan is not easy.
But to Konsvltan, nothing is impossible for the local homeboys as long as there is a dream.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Konsvltan Sdn Bhd is a team that consults, facilitates and provides a platform for local menswear brands to grow.
“We’re the people behind the scene. We’re the outsiders looking in. We observe the community, the fashion movement and as a result of our observations, we try to push local ideas to the global audience,” says Konsvltan founder and chief executive officer Rashdan Rosly.
The company is made up of eight men from diverse background and individualistic fashion sense. Besides Rashdan, the other team members are Sauffi Roslan, Ammar Abdillah, Hafidz Fazly Zaharin, Zahlan Zain, Shabir Ahshrup, Hasnizam Mohamad and Hasri Abd Rani, all aged between 26 and 44.
Konsvltan is a continuation of Sultan KL, a brand that Rashdan created in 2011.
“It all started with a vision that I had 10 years ago of a conglomerate among close friends who share the same interests and a dream to produce practical, long-lasting men’s clothing.
“Isetan is like the go-to mall during our younger days. So, from buying goods there to placing our own brands, it is a dream come true.
“It’s a benchmark for local players like us,” says Rashdan who sold premium T-shirts branded as Bhajoo in 2005.
Konsvltan stepped into the picture due to the lack in originality in the local independent fashion scene.
“Fashion is tied to cultures and subcultures. Unfortunately, we’re not well-versed in the culture itself.
“It reflects on the way we dress up. We tend to jump on the latest trend bandwagon and become mere trendfollowers or imitators because we lack understanding or don’t understand the essence of the culture that we follow.
“Fashion is not about personal taste, artisanal appeal or philosophy anymore, but what famous people wear or what is ‘safe’ to wear as accepted by the norm.
“It’s like you wear a Metallica T-shirt but you don’t listen to the band. You wear it because it’s trendy. Or you don’t dare to wear a baju Melayu on a Tuesday simply because other people don’t,” he explains.
“In terms of brands, it’s hard to find one that stands out nowadays. The scene is saturated with half-baked brands copying other brands, or those which launch so-called limited editions or streetwear collections, without a thorough understanding of streetwear culture.
“And that’s why we came into the picture. We want to curate quality brands that offer something unique or can inculcate a culture in which the people are confident to be different.”
Apart from non-comformist styles, the brands selected by Konsvltan share one thing in common: They truly value cultures and the art garment-making.
Kuala Lumpur-based denim maker Cheesedenim Works has carved a niche in the industry for 10 years and is known for finely crafted custom denims made out of age-old denim-making know-how.
Sultan KL takes pride in bridging the gap between traditional and modern wear by infusing various Malaysiana or Malay archipelago influences such as batik or single stitching of benang emas (golden thread a la songket style into its collections.
With nu-vintage as its forte, Serve All Mankind produces vintage-inspired pieces with the same workmanship in the old days, using vintage machines.
“Serve All Mankind is our in-house brand that gives a modern touch to pieces inspired by the good old days.
“We change the silhouette, fabric or styling, but we keep the way it is done intact,” says Rashdan.
“We don’t compromise on the quality of fabrics and materials.
“We source fabrics and materials from Japan, the United States, Thailand and Indonesia.
“We’re very selective and we choose only the ones choose that can be turned into garments that can last longer or can be passed down to the next generation.
“And we make sure all the brands that we curate speak the same language when it comes to standards.”
Konsvltan is getting more local brands to join the departmental store landscape.
“We’re launching another in-house brand, Gedio (active wear) soon. We’re also helping SangatStyle (a big player in the independent fashion scene) in rebranding and raising its standard to prope it to a greater height,” says Rashdan.
“Business-wise, we want to play our part in combining as many entities as possible to offer the best of Malaysian-made products.
“But ultimately, we want to change mindsets with regards to fashion.
“We want to groom a community which truly understands the culture and appreciate the art and creativity behind each piece that they wear.”
DIFFERENT BALL GAME
BOOSTING the presence of homegrown fashion brands at its retail space is not something new to Isetan Kuala Lumpur.
Last year, for instance, Isetan dedicated a pop-up space at its store in Suria KLCC for selected local designers in conjunction with the Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week.
Recently, the Japanese retail giant created another space at Suria KLCC for five menswear brands (including Serve All Mankind, Cheesedenim Works and Sultan KL) crafted by our home boys.
Adrian Wan Yew Zho, buyer for men’s division at Isetan Kuala Lumpur, says the move to engage more local brands is to get new customers.
“Our customers are mainly regulars and, in terms of men’s fashion, our core market is those between 28 and 35 years old.
“We want to attract new customers, especially those younger than our core market, through these local brands.”
In addition, the departmental store presence serves as a platform to help the labels to promote their products to a different audience including tourists.
“A space in a departmental store can also offer customers add-on value in terms of enjoying a real shopping experience at a brick-and-mortar store, which they can’t get via online shopping.”
What does it take for a local menswear brand to be a retailer at a departmental store?
“It’s a different ball game altogether,” says Adrian. “Unlike a boutique catering to a niche market, local players have to keep up with the fast pace in supplying to the mass market if they are keen to retail at a departmental store,” he says.
“They have to be efficient and consistent in supplying merchandise. And to ensure efficiency and consistency, we look for a brand that comes with a team rather than a one-man-show label or labels manned on a part-time basis.”
Design-wise, the products must be ready-to-wear and cater to frequent seasonal changes. Price-wise, it cannot be too high or too low.
“Most importantly, the products must be unique and of high quality and workmanship.
“The designs shouldn’t be too over the top,” he says.
Isetan Suria KLCC is considering a few more local menswear brands to fill up the pop-up space.
STYLING DOS AND DON’TS
KONSVLTAN has the following tips:
1. Make sure you are comfortable with what you are wearing.
2. Wear something that fits (Note: There is reason why skinny jeans are called skinny).
3. Keep experimenting with styles. But what looks good on the guy next to you does not mean that it will lookgood on you.
4. Don’t get into a culture just because it is a trend.
5. Get a woman’s opinion on your style. Men dress up to impress women anyway.