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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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