Power Individuals: Malaysian Fashion Designer Alia Bastamam’s Personal Approach On Empowering Women Through Fashion

Fashion often resides in the ability to craft not just clothing but also a narrative that resonates with the hearts and minds of those who wear it. Alia Bastamam, a celebrated Malaysian fashion designer, has adeptly harnessed this ability by weaving her vision into every stitch, fabric and thread of her creations. Bastamam’s story is one of relentless dedication to her craft. She has earned her stripes in the highly competitive world of fashion and garnered prestigious accolades, including Designer Of The Year at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week 2017. However, as she humbly reflects, it’s challenging to single out a pivotal moment that propelled her career to new heights. “Perhaps it was when the Alia Bastamam brand name started gaining recognition in the region, motivating my team and me to venture beyond our local borders,” she reflects. “Every step of our journey is pivotal and we humbly embrace each one as a valuable learning experience.” 

For Bastamam, fashion is personal. Her guiding principle is simple: to create clothing that she would love to wear. It’s a philosophy rooted in individuality and self-expression. Bastamam’s designs are an extension of herself, reflecting her island girl spirit and her deep love for the beauty of Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Her Resort 2023 collection, titled Oasis, created in collaboration with The Datai Langkawi, is an ode to the need for solitude and self-discovery in a fast-paced world. “It’s a haven free from limitations, where one can truly be themselves,” she shares. The connection she found with the resort isn’t just a matter of proximity of physical presence; it’s also a deep-seated, almost spiritual, bond with nature.

As she speaks of the lush greenery that envelops the resort, one can almost picture the vibrant foliage and feel the refreshing breeze that she experienced during her visits. “Amid The Datai Langkawi’s main building and villas, you meander through a verdant landscape, where it feels as though everything was meticulously designed to harmonise with the natural surroundings,” Bastamam says. “The enveloping greenery creates a rare connection, especially for those accustomed to the hustle and bustle of fast-paced city life. The experience is nothing short of inspirational and serves as an oasis to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.” Her deep affinity for nature goes well beyond the confines of her creative work and is an integral part of her daily life. In pursuit of inner peace, Bastamam frequently immerses herself in rigorous workout sessions and occasionally treats herself to lengthy getaways. However, her true sanctuary is her workspace. “My happy place is a space where it’s just me, a mannequin and a sea of fabrics. That’s where I begin draping and crafting my designs.” 

After a successful debut in the US fashion scene at Doors New York City, Bastamam continues to share her distinctive style, fusing modernity with the exoticism of Malaysiana to reach a wider audience. Her collections, Odyssey Act I and Odyssey Act II, feature her signature designs, characterised by opulent fabrics and intricate finishings. “My designs draw inspiration from the rich tapestry of Asia and the natural beauty of Malaysia,” she explains. Beyond her fashion creations, Bastamam’s influence extends to motivating women to embrace empowerment, confidence and inner beauty. “Establishing and nurturing the Alia Bastamam aesthetic and identity has been paramount,” she reflects. “I firmly believe that our ever-growing clientele and dedicated following are the direct outcomes of our unwavering commitment to staying true to our brand identity and the enduring values we embody.”

In addition to her personal experiences, Bastamam finds inspiration from a diverse range of sources. She draws creative energy from designers such as Tom Ford as well as Audrey Hepburn, whose cinematic legacy has left a lasting impact on Bastamam’s creative landscape. However, her wellspring of creativity isn’t limited to the glamorous world of entertainment; she maintains a deep connection with the people who surround her, especially women who epitomise strength, beauty and individuality.

“Although some may view power and success as the pinnacle of control, granting boundless freedom to fulfil one’s desires, my interpretation differs,” she says. “To me, power signifies the liberation of creativity, free from the constraints of personal barriers, societal norms and external factors. My power lies in the ability to inspire women to embrace empowerment, confidence and their inherent beauty.

“As for success, it’s not an endpoint where every ambition is met. It’s not about greed. Instead, it’s a continuous journey of learning and growth, even when standing at the highest point. This path is paved with commitment, hard work, and resilience. Power and success should never be easily attained nor taken lightly. They should serve as an encouragement to constantly strive for the better.” 

Alia Bastamam

Alia B.

Illustrations by Tan Eng Huat

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