Sheng Tai International Turns Melaka Into Fashion City With Straits Gala

What a way to kick off 2023. In January, Sheng Tai International – the property developer behind the ambitious RM6.5 billion-gross development value (GDV) project of The Sail Melaka, hosted the inaugural Straits Gala. This unique and large-scale fashion event brought together a constellation of 30 fashion designers from near and far, with 13 home-grown names, seven international designers and also eight emerging talents from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) among the lineup.

A rendering of The Sail Melaka, an integrated development comprising nine towers and a one million square foot mall.

On the night, a turnout of approximately 1,000 guests arrived at The Sail Superdome – a giant marquee pitched at the site of the upcoming The Sail Melaka. At this glitzy black-tie affair, guests were welcomed by an incredible catwalk, extending halfway into the dining hall. All around, giant screens showed the action onstage and around the room, building up the guests’ anticipation for the night ahead.

For Sheng Tai International’s founder and chairman Dato’ Leong Sir Ley, the motivation behind staging an event of such a scale is inspired by her own journey as a developer. “After three years of living under a worldwide pandemic, I recognised the emergence of a ‘new language’ that revolved around initiatives such as art and culture, wellness, fashion and artificial intelligence (AI).”

Sheng Tai International founder and chairman Dato’ Leong Sir Ley at her opening address.

“It inspired me to gather international business owners from around the world, who through these initiatives, would come to The Sail and help us start new businesses, create job opportunities, facilitate the import of talent into the city and showcase Melaka on the international stage.”

This fulcrum of property tourism, allied with a fashion component is what Dato’ Leong hopes will catapult Sheng Tai into the stratosphere – with the integrated development’s wholly unique proposition appealing to those attuned to arts, culture, wellness, fashion and also AI. Indeed, the number of nationalities among the guests would certainly support this position, with invitees comprising visitors from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, China, Dubai, Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore, the Middle East, Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom and more.


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“With Melaka once being a key cosmopolitan port in Southeast Asia during the golden era of trade in the 15th-century, I felt that this is the right place to gather people from around the world and cultures across the world to enjoy Malaysian hospitality, food and culture, especially the unique diversity of Melaka,” Dato’ Leong continues. The fashion component, for her, is allied to her dream to turn Melaka into a ‘fashion city’, with The Sail functioning as the nexus to attract the attention of fashionistas, becoming a gathering place for them to express their creativity and for fashion designers to sell their designs. “Ultimately, these designers will need more fashion shows to showcase their work, which brings us to the Straits Gala,” she says. One of the nine towers at The Sail will also function as a fashion tower, which Dato’ Leong hopes will also attract the likes of other designer fashion brands that have established crossovers into hospitality, the likes of Armani, Bulgari and Versace.

At the Straits Gala, FashionTV Academy Malaysia – a collaborator with Sheng Tai International – was present to evaluate its trained models who stood a chance to participate at international events by FashionTV Paris. Bringing another level of excitement to the room was the megawatt power of Malaysian songbird Jaclyn Victor, Kenny Low – a first runner-up on China’s hit singing competition The Voice, as well as violin virtuoso Megan Mei.

Malaysian songbird Jaclyn Victor with a crowd-rousing number.

The ensuing fashion showcases offers the ethereal style of Japanese designer Motoko of Auratier, whose garments mirror the enchantment of ryusuimon – Japanese ink dropped onto the surface of water. There was also the ornate couture of Filipino designer Gina Frias as well as the opulent elegance of Thailand’s bridal and pageant couturier Myriad Grand Monde and its designer and founder Thinthananpachr. Anchoring the stream of fashion shows was Bill Keith, a household name for fashion who served as the fashion director of The Straits Gala.

The ethereal style of Auratier and its creative force Motoko.

Keith has also been appointed by Dato’ Leong to manage the Straits Designers’ Gallery – set up in 2020 to offer retail space for fashion labels to be showcased in a supportive space. “The gallery was created to help gather fashion designers locally and internationally – where we hope the local brands will have a chance to crossover with luxury fashion brands.”

Left: Pink is the favourite colour of the new collection by Malaysian fashion doyenne Gillian Hung. Right: Fashion meets pyrotechnics.

As the night drew to a close, the crowd were ushered outside to witness an incredible fireworks display, a music and light extravaganza by Pyrotex, the United Kingdom’s most-awarded fireworks display company, a fitting way to mark the inaugural Straits Gala fashion event, and to herald the incoming reality of Sheng Tai’s ambitious designs to grow Melaka as a fashion destination in this part of the world.

Sheng Tai International

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