Fashion; whether a practical necessity or a statement of self-expression, we can agree, whether consciously or not, that it plays a part in our lives. Our clothes really are capable of telling people who we are, and in an age where everyone wants to have their voices heard, clothes have become an increasingly popular avenue to represent your identity and your values.
But unfortunately for many of us, we don’t often associate Malaysia with being on the forefront of the fashion world. Instead, we think of Paris, of Rome, of Tokyo and New York and London, to be fashion capitals. Well, one local designer is about to change that.
Meet Kel Wen, the man behind local high fashion label BEHATI, who spoke to WORLD OF BUZZ about what it’s like to be a young creative in Malaysia, and the reality behind the glamour of working as a fashion designer.
What is BEHATI?
So, what does the name BEHATI stand for? Well according to Kel Wen, BEHATI is a word of African origin, which means ‘blessed’. It was chosen to best represent the brand’s values in promoting the local talents, cultures and heritages that Malaysia is inherently blessed with, with a clever adaptation of traditional garments through modern design.
“We wanted to preserve the heritage of design in Malaysia, while creating clothes that are relevant to global fashion trends in an effort to inspire more people to learn about Malaysia’s diverse culture.” he explains.
Established in 2018, Kel Wen traces the origins of BEHATI back to his fascination for traditional Malaysian outfits, and the beauty and stories that are embedded within their history. He points out that while the media has often encouraged trendsetters to look towards Europe when it comes to fashion, it is disheartening to see most of our own Malaysian roots being neglected as a result.
“In Malaysia, we rely on fashion trends from our European counterparts, or simply take existing local traditional designs and present it with new fabrics or colours. There’s no innovation.”
What inspired Kel Wen?
In which case, BEHATI was created to not only bring a modern touch to our local traditional costumes through Kel Wen’s incredibly unique interpretation of them, but also to act as a platform through which a new generation of fashion aficionados may learn about Malaysia’s rich past.
Asides from Malaysian heritage, Kel Wen says that he also references the work and styles of some of the West’s biggest fashion icons in his work. He counts new French designer Jacquemus, American designer Tom Ford, Princess Meghan Markle, and pop superstar Rihanna to be among his favourite inspirations.
How does he create a fashion collection?
But what is it like to create a jaw-dropping fashion show? Is it just like The Devil Wears Prada? Not quite. Kel Wen told WORLD OF BUZZ that every fashion show begins with a concept and an idea, which often takes a lot of time to find. Usually, the process begins in the studying of one part of Malaysia’s heritage, and how it can be interpreted for current trends.
Kel Wen adds that he usually sketches on-the-go, whether it be when he’s on a train or in a Grabcar, as ideas tend to come quickly and fleetingly. He also puts special emphasis on the drafting process, as he points out that it is by far the most important step in constructing his garments.
Some of Malaysia’s biggest names are his fans!
If you think you’ve seen some of Kel Wen’s designs before, that’s no surprise because he has already collaborated with a number of notable faces in Malaysia through his work. Among them include celebrities such as Elizabeth Tan, Noryn Aziz, Rozita Che Wan, local influencer Nia (@sleepyllama), and many others.
BEHATI even went viral for its incredible oversized baju Melayu, which was released for sale last year.
So, what are Kel Wen’s plans for BEHATI in the future? The biggest goal is to have BEHATI reach international recognition, especially among the fashion capitals of Europe.
“My end goal is to bring Malaysia’s craft out into the West, as I believe that our traditional crafts and heritage deserves to have a wider audience beyond regional shores.” he said.
But in the meantime, he will be working on an upcoming Merdeka collection in conjunction with Malaysia’s Independence Day, which brings together all the traditional costumes in the country into a single, cohesive collection.
If you want to purchase any of BEHATI’s collections or learn more about the brand, you may do so through their official website here. To Kel Wen, we wish you nothing but the best on the road ahead, and hope that BEHATI will become the international success that it truly deserves to become!