Cheongsams aren’t just for skinny girls, says Khoon Hooi

The fashion designer suggests an Oriental-style top paired with jeans or shorts if one isn’t keen on a cheongsam. — Picture by Hamsiah Abu Bakar
The fashion designer suggests an Oriental-style top paired with jeans or shorts if one isn’t keen on a cheongsam. — Picture by Hamsiah Abu Bakar

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 30 — With Chinese New Year just around the corner, all things Chinoserie are popping up everywhere.

And then there is the eternal question of what to wear. Now that rules are all but forgotten, not many women wear the traditional cheongsam to welcome in the new year.

Also most of us think cheongsams are only for skinny girls. But designer Khoon Hooi disagrees.

“Cheongsams aren’t about whether you’re skinny or fat — it’s about your figure and it’s about balance.

Old meets new encapsulates Khoon Hooi’s cheongsam designs this lunar new year. — Picture by Hamsiah Abu Bakar
Old meets new encapsulates Khoon Hooi’s cheongsam designs this lunar new year. — Picture by Hamsiah Abu Bakar

“Some ladies have a straight body, so a fitted cheongsam won’t look good on them... in that case, a flared skirt or a relaxed shift cut could work,” he advised.

Khoon Hooi knows a thing or two about cheongsams. He first launched his Chinese New Year collection in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since.

For 2018, his Qi Pao collection which was launched in mid-November last year had to close for pre-orders before Christmas. About 400 pieces have been booked and latecomers will have to wait till after Chinese New Year to own one.

His range of qipaos are made to measure. — Picture courtesy of Khoon Hooi
His range of qipaos are made to measure. — Picture courtesy of Khoon Hooi

“I’ve always admired ladies in traditional wear, be it cheongsam, sari or baju kurung. The cut always makes ladies look elegant,” he told Malay Mail.

Starting at RM1,500 up to just below the RM3,000 mark, clients will get the ultimate made-to-measure treatment to achieve the best fit.

“It’s not that expensive, bear in mind it’s custom-made to fit your body.

“If you don’t want to wear a full cheongsam, you can make it into a top and pair it with shorts, pants or jeans to make it more casual and still have a festive look,” he said.

There is a cheongsam for every body type, says Khoon Hooi (left). A rich brocade skirt paired against a sleek deep blue bodice (right). — Pictures courtesy of Khoon Hooi
There is a cheongsam for every body type, says Khoon Hooi (left). A rich brocade skirt paired against a sleek deep blue bodice (right). — Pictures courtesy of Khoon Hooi

Khoon Hooi, best known for his embroidery and use of beads, says this year’s collection boasts a variety of cuts; from figure-hugging to flared skirts and tasteful contrasts like a Chinese brocade skirt and deep blue top.

While the 46-year-old is a stickler for tradition, he loves experimenting with different fabrics.

Elements like metal peony buttons, floral glass buttons and gold trimmings bring a touch of unexpectedness to Khoon Hooi’s vision of old meets new.

For those on the hunt for the perfect cheongsam, Khoon Hooi has a few pointers.

“If it’s your first piece, go for something traditional because it brings out a certain charm. If you already have a lot of cheongsams, I would recommend something a little playful but still have that Oriental feel,” he said.

Asked how he felt about the cheongsam being modernised, Khoon Hooi said nothing can replace tradition.

“If you keep on modernising and changing something as traditional as the cheongsam, it will lose its charm,” he said.

And what does a household fashion name wear to usher in the lunar new year?

“I’m very simple, just T-shirt and shorts because my hometown Parit Buntar gets really hot,” he said.

“I follow the feng shui colours every year and this year, I can wear white, black, orange and yellow but no blue.”

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