Beatrice by Definition
Her World Malaysia|March - April 2020
Couturier and costume designer Beatrice Looi shares with Nadhirah Othman her journey, the state of the fashion industry and tips on finding your personal style.
Nadhirah Othman

FAMILY OF FASHION

Brought up by a seamstress mother, Beatrice started working full-time as early as at the age of 14. “My mother was known as the first fashion guru to set up a store on Jalan Kenanga, this way before it became a fashion city flooded with textile shops and retailers. Back in the day, that place was filled with gangsters!” Beatrice exclaims, proud of her mother’s achievement. Taught from a very young age to sew, Beatrice shares that although she didn’t manage to finish school, that never stopped her from becoming the person that she is today. She’d go around Petaling Street sourcing for fabrics and materials her mother needed, even before she left school.

BE LIMITLESS

“Why are you a costume designer, what made you turn to stage play?” I ask. With a sigh, Beatrice shares that it is because she no longer feels challenged when it comes to designing haute couture or bespoke and Ready-to-Wear.

“You see it all the time, shops and designers are shutting down their businesses. And that’s even worse for our local Chinese designers because they have to compete with Taobao (the online shopping site).”

She continues, “People don’t appreciate haute couture – they don’t value the time and effort you put in their gowns. They’d compare bespoke designs to Taobao. So it’s hard to compete with them (online retailers), they’re smart and always evolving. Their machinery can produce clothes in a short amount of time at so little cost. Clothes are so cheap online, people wouldn’t mind throwing their clothes out after wearing a few times. They don’t feel bad because it’s so cheap, they can just buy it all over again. Our local designers are somewhat affected by this. I really hope that Taobao doesn’t come up with an English language selection feature! Our local fashion industry will really collapse!”

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