The final shots were taken outside the designer's fashion design school on a narrow stairway landing. We wanted a bird's eye view shot of Carven, furtively clutching the nude torso of a mannequin and attempting to steal away with it. For modesty's sake we had asked him to please conceal the breasts of the unclad mannequin. So there he was, both palms over her papier mache nipples and trying to do his best Hong Kong heart-throb get-away pose, all for our camera. This is the kind of person Carven is - soft-spoken and shy, and a good old sport.

He started design school in Ipoh right after his SPM and got his diploma six months early. Later at 21 he was invited to teach design and cutting to students in Kuala Lumpur, probably one of the youngest teachers in the industry. His looks belie his age. In his mid-twenties now, he still has that fresh-faced demeanour which is the mark of youth and open-mindedness. He seemed to be an irrepressibly optimistic person and spoke without bitterness of his early teaching days when he had only about 6 to 8 students apprenticed under him.

"When I first started my school in Kompleks Selangor I did not have many students and recommendations were by word of mouth," he recalled. Today, at his school on the Jalan Panggung premises he has more than 100 students enrolled with a graduating class of about 20. And this is not only a testament to his pedagogical skills, it is also the fruit of the amazing rapport he has with his students.

He comes across more as an older brother than the director of the school. The students, mostly fresh out of SRP and SPM were well-behaved and quiet, but in their jesting with their teacher I sensed their glove-like handling of him as if they realised his own quietness commanded their conscious courtesy. We spoke about the demographics of the gender distribution among design students. Eighty percent of his students are female and I commented that most successful designers who have made a name for themselves on the local scene have been male. He agreed that that was true and observed that the young men in his school seemed to have better concentration and were more focused in their creativity.

"Successful designers are mostly men, I think, because this is not the male gender's natural domain. And so if they have consciously chosen this profession, they work harder and usually come in with some inherent natural talent. But really that's just speculation, I really don't know," he smiled and shrugged.

It was an unusually sweltering day when I met him, and over a round of well-chilled Kickapoo, we spoke of the trends this season and the very Courreges-inspired looks seen in the Fall/Winter shows in Paris this March. The look was very stark and strong with chunky, Bakelite earrings and bangles teamed with A-line shift dresses falling just above the knee.

"Yes, I agree. I have always been most drawn myself to the retro look of the 60s and 70s. My 1996 line is very geometric in a 1960s way and I cut it for a Twiggy silhouette. Very much slimmer than what I usually do." The freshness of his new line echoes the youthful, lighthearted, carefree outlook of the designer himself. The little tops with strong black and graphic motifs on the chest, the narrow capri-pants with the tuxedo stripe, and the tiny, short shorts are Carven's reinterpretation of the early sportswear for women in the 1920s and the 1930s. "I used a lot of white to incorporate that sporty, outdoor look. I also put in zips in a lot of my jackets. Zips are more rugged than buttons, I feel," he explained.

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