According to Malaysian top menswear designer Bon Zainal Harun, the value of proper dress sense in Malaysian society still leaves much to be desired.
The highly experienced connoisseur of fashion and style says that these days, Malaysians are putting more care and thought in what they wear, but it is essentially the etiquette of dressing which requires improvement. “A lot of Malaysians relate dressing well and looking good to high fashion and designer labels. This is the wrong mindset. You actually don’t have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to dress well,” says Bon Zainal.
Bon is not advising people against purchasing branded clothes. For him, if you have deep pockets then, by all means, go ahead and splurge on Ermenegildo Zegna, Hugo Boss, etc. However, one should develop their effortless elegance (or called “sprezzatura” in Italian) rather than relying on the designer label or the latest fashion trends.
Finding Your Inner-Style
Before going out to look for the right clothes for you, one should first look within oneself. “You have to know yourself first before deciding on how to express yourself, ” says Bon. This means a conscious effort must be made in understanding yourself better in terms of what you like and dislike as well as knowing what works for you. Only through this self-searching process would one start developing their own sense of style.
A simple way to ‘discover’ who you are is to look at it in various perspectives. Style has a lot to do with attitude so it’s best to ask yourself where you stand in terms of interests, ambitions and even socially, financially and politically. It’s also important to know your limits. Not everyone is bold enough to wear sockless shoes, slim tie or a pink blazer.
With power dressing, what you choose to wear should not only project who and where you are at the present time but also where and who you want to be in the impending future. So in establishing your self-style you have to ask yourself where you want to be heading in view of social, financial and political status.
Power Dressing for Malaysians
One of my personal dilemma with this country is the lack of reasonably priced menswear clothing. Relating this predicament to Bon, he says “There are actually quite a lot of choices out there. You just have to put more time and effort looking for it.” Being a regular guy that I am, I’ve always dreaded the hassle of window shopping unless it’s for stuff of real importance (i.e. car, motorcycle, guitar, LED TV etc) but, according to Bon, the rewards for time spent looking for articles of clothing are well worth the while. “Whether we like it or not, clothes speak for us.
Never underestimate the power of what we wear. After all, there’s just a small bit of us sticking out, at the cuff and at the neck. The rest of what the world sees is what you hang on the frame (body). Dressing is one of the few areas left in life that is still under our control. So why not do it with style and class?” says Bon.
Having a good sense of dressing and style also wearing the right attire to the right occasion. You can have the most expensive Armani suit on but you’ll only look like a fool if you’re sporting them at a beach in Penang during midday. We live in a tropical setting with only two seasons (actually three, if you count in the haze spells) so a trench coat over a three-piece suit is certainly a big fashion faux pas.
Bon also emphasizes his point about dressing according to the person you are. “We are Asians and Malaysians, and in our case, Malays, so we should really project at least some of these cultural and national elements in our clothes,” says the charter member of GQ Magazine’s Reader report. Bon strongly believes in this outlook that in his latest collection of formalwear, he incorporates elements of batik design where silk batik is used as the inner lining of his blazers and suit jackets.
Fashion Changes… but Style Remains…
Though fashion and style relate to each other, they are actually two completely different things. The simplest way to understand style is to reflect on the dictum: “It’s not what you wear but how you wear it.” To Bon, style is a state of mind, a discipline and an attitude. “You can be at home wearing something very casual but you still can look good in it because you have a great dress sense even for casual wears.” says Bon.
Keeping yourself in good shape also plays a major role in how you look and feel. Bon says working out and staying healthy makes a lot of difference since it makes you feel good about yourself and this, in turn, would radiate through your attitude and behaviour. The clothes you wear would also drape well over a toned body.
Bon lays further emphasis on aiming towards being a gentleman as a basis in developing your individual sense of style. “Dressing is the outward expression of a man’s state of mind, and it is his attire that tells the world what he thinks of himself, ” he says, stressing that dressing well is a skill that requires knowledge and a certain amount of practice.
Even as a fashion expert with almost two decades of experience in the industry, Bon humbly admits that he’s still learning about style. “Few are born with a sense of style, taste and the knowledge of what looks good,” he said.
To Bon Zainal, the lack of style or good taste is a problem that is far from hopeless. It can be easily corrected through education and know-how when it comes to dressing.
Bon Zainal Boutique
D-0-10 & D-1-10, Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, Taman Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
03 6206 1883