By Ashman Mahfudz
The year was 2009. It was at the launch of a new shoe designer that I met this towering figure, Afiq Mohamed. Since then I have worked and share the best of fashion moments with him. Listed as one of Elle’s brightest stars for Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2015, Afiq M’s pieces have grace many magazine covers, fashion spread and red carpet events.
We sat down with the 26-year-old recently and discussed his journey.
What is your story?
My story is probably the most typical fashion fairytale you ever heard. I always wanted to be a designer since I was very young. I still recall the early memories of paying so much attention what women wear back in my hometown in Rembau, Negeri Sembilan (Malaysia) especially during festive season. It fascinates me.
Later, I get to know the work of Rizalman Ibrahim and it caught my eyes. There, I decided to be a fashion designer and to have my own brand. Currently, I am designing for Afiq M. and Afiq M. Bridal. Before, I have worked with various brands such as SUSS and Syaiful Bahrim.
Growing up, was your surrounding a creative one?
Maybe. Some of my family members involved in music and my dad was a dancer, I am the first in the family to choose fashion. I grew up in a small village in Rembau, and as you can imagine, there is not much exposure or access to fashion there, but I really appreciate what I can get my hands on at that time – especially through magazines, tv and from what I can see on the streets.
How would you like to describe your brand’s style?
I always want my pieces to be versatile, strong, bold and feminine; this is the identity of the brand. Although very often, I have to relook at my design to suits the local scene and culture, I still try my best to remain true to the identity of the brand.
This identity, do you carry it in all the brands that you worked with?
Yes I do, its in my blood. But I have to find tune for each brand and marry the identities. I have more freedom with my own brand.
You’ve been in the industry for almost 6 years now, what are the current challenges that you are facing as a fashion designer?
6 years is still very new. I’d like to describe the journey as slow and painful; but very rewarding. Patient and passion keep me going.
Fashion is more than creativity and runway pieces; most importantly it is a business. The awareness towards local fashion brand is slowly growing, so does the demand toward our products. We have to think of ways to ensure that the business is sustainable and always relevant. It is a great challenge, especially when you have a very small team.
How do you find inspiration for your designs? What’s your creative process like?
Inspiration comes from any forms; sometimes you don’t need to do anything and it just comes to you. But usually, for each collection, I’d pick a muse and their style to be inspired from.
How would you describe your creative space right now?
It’s a huge mess, but I know where to find what I want. I work in my studio apartment overseeing the busy expressway and it’s quite a scenic view. I always have guests (especially on weekend) so it is also a ‘creative nest’ where great ideas and silly jokes are discussed!
What is the best thing about being a designer?
I enjoy every moment of creating a collection from sketching to showing it on the runway. It is nerve-wrecking process, but the moment when you are at the backstage and the models are all dressed up in your creation – that is the best moment. At the same time, that is the time you start thinking about your next collection!
Although it is tough and some might describe it as ruthless industry, I have made great friends with some of the most amazing individuals; fellow designers, models, photographers, fashion editors, bloggers and stylists. It is a great feeling to be surrounded with these creative people.
What do you aspire to be as a fashion designer?
I would like to go international; I think it is every designer’s dream to make it in the international scene. We all know it’s not easy, but I hope my dream will come true one day. I want to make sure I am successful at my own country as well.
Do you have any fashion designer that you look up to?
Locally, I admire all my fellow designers. I feel we have lots of great talents here. Internationally, Ricardo Tisci for Givenchy is at the top of my list and his work felt close to my heart. I also adore Raf Simons and Altuzarra.
Do you ever consider quitting and do something else?
Yes, things can get very tough sometimes. But it’s always just a thought.
If you not a fashion designer, what would you be?
Maybe it’s still something in the creative fields. But honestly, I can only imagine myself doing this. I have no plan B – which is scary!
What is your advice to young designers out there?
I am not sure if I am the best person to give advice. I am still learning, but I would like to say it is a tough business; you have to be strong and stay true to yourself and your designs. People can’t ignore great work.