Emel by Melinda Looi Promotes the Spirit of Giving Back
by Intan Abu Daniel
We consider it a real honour to have met Melinda Looi – the multi-award winning Malaysian fashion designer known for her avant-garde style, with many accolades under her feathery belt. The influential designer was in Brunei to introduce the Emel by Melinda Looi collection at Melur Boutique – a collection that featured a colourful palette of delicious fabrics inspired by Raya culture.
Emel by Melinda Looi is a Raya collection with a conscience, and has been annually promoting and raising funds for various causes ranging from children with rare diseases and heart defects to coral reef preservation. This year, the campaign puts the spotlight on hunger, and has partnered with Ben’s Independent Grocer (B.I.G), DS Borneo and The Good Shop to collect funds and food aid which will be managed and distributed by Charity Right – an organization that provides food aid to schools, refugee centers and orphanages.
“Emel was born about five years ago, and it comes from the Arabic word ‘Amal’, meaning doing good deeds and helping people. It’s a collection that we’ve always wanted to have, to sell and donate part of the proceeds to charity,” Melinda explained. “This year with our partners, our combined proceeds will be helping 40 families in Perlis in 2018. Last year, I was reading in the papers about children suffering from malnutrition, and we came across Charity Rights, and learned that they encourage children to finish their education and also help families bring food home. Basically, these children don’t go to school because they have to work to earn money. So in 2018, we will be providing these families food as long as their children go to school regularly, and if they do that, they’ll be bringing food home for their families the entire year.”
In drawing more awareness to raise funds for these causes, Melinda Looi has been known to frequently collaborate with celebrities for her Emel collection. This year, her beautiful designs can be seen on Malaysian celebrities such as Elizabeth Tan, Siti Nordiana and Siti Saleha, sporting her colourful designs in campaign photos.
As for the designs, that feature three unique prints that they created themselves, it’s a Raya collection that is truly inspired by Raya. “The whole thing is about the tradition of Ramadan and Raya. It’s a lot about food and the colourful culture. You balik kampong and the house is colourful and lit up and always full of food! It’s a combination of everything. You can see elements of Nasi Lemak, bunga raya, splashes of colour like how gourmet dishes are decorated with sauces, all in our patterns.”
Geometrical lines are inspired by the ketupat, and flowers signify compassion and generosity, in line with Melinda Looi’s spirit of giving back. Elaborate details, diamantes, embroidered lace panelings and intricate beadings also promise customers a traditional yet funky take on baju kurungs, but what’s important is the versatility of each item of clothing. From loud colours to bold prints to an understated nude, each item is easy to mix and match, and can be worn for informal occasions after the Raya season.
The exclusive yet affordable baju kurung collection also places emphasis on the importance of fabrics. “As a person who grew up in a factory playing with fabrics every day, to me materials are very important. So we started a collection that is affordable and yet nice on the skin,” she explained.
Though not Muslim herself, the fashion designer is a big fan of modest wear. “I’ve done a lot of Islamic Fashion Festival shows around the world, gaining understanding about Islamic and Muslimah wear. I went to Pakistan, I went to Saudi, and they all have different ideas on how a Muslimah should dress. So when I understand the culture behind it, I get to design it even better. Nothing is too fitted, or too low cut, and I really make sure to adapt to these rules. I enjoy designing modest wear, because I always cover up as well! I think modest fashion is very beautiful.”
“As of now, we have rebranded Emel and we want it to not just be a seasonal collection, but a modest wear collection. So we are thinking of doing more than an annual Raya collection but also capsule collections to sell worldwide. Around the world, there aren’t only Muslims who wear modest collections – there are people who just prefer to be covered up! That’s why we want to try and promote the brand to other places as well, rather than just regionally and to Islamic countries. So hopefully, we’ll be adding more and more to our collection, pants and all!”
#F4, 1st Flr, Blk F, Setia Kenangan II Building, Kg Kiulap
Emel by Melinda Looi has partnered up with the following organizations to provide food aid to 40 families in Perlis:
Charity Right provides food aid to families and children in places of education. For more information, check out their website.
Ben’s Independent Grocer (B.I.G.) offers a complete grocery shopping experience, and organizes events to keep food shopping fun, fresh and creative. Learn more about them here.
DS Borneo is a food and beverage brand grower, importer and exporter, which is focused on bringing quality food and drinks that impress our tastebuds, benefit our bodies and nourish our minds. For more information, click here.
The Good Shop is a unique retail space for Malaysian social entrepreneurs (Socents) that runs business to generate revenue in support of a specific cause. Learn more about them here.