WHILE the majority of fashionistas are embracing the monochromatic trend this season, going for shades of cream, ivory, beige and nudes, fashion designer Syomir Izwa Gupta prefers vibrant bold prints and clashing colours.
“I love colours!” exclaims Syomir. “In each and every design I do, there is a story behind it. The colours, elements and patterns must match the story and theme.”
In each and every design I do, there is a story behind it
Syomir’s distinctive palette for vivid colours and patterns stem from his upbringing; Syomir grew up in a multicultural family (his mother from Indonesia, father from Calcutta, India), having exposed to the beautiful ‘clashes’ of heritage and culture as a child.
“My family is the type who is ‘kaki bersiap’ (love to look fashionable), including my grandmother! Even when she was unwell, she would wear ‘kain batik’ and goes out with heels!
“My father’s side is the same. When I attend Bengali weddings, the women will be all glammed up with their sarees and clutches. Just look at their hair buns! Every woman at the wedding will not have the same kind of adornments on their hairs! This is why I’m so inclined towards fashion,” says Syomir.
Growing up with two other brothers, Syomir was exposed to a wide array of Western movies; his favourite being Disney films. He would spend hours copying drawings of princess characters, and their dresses, from the movies.
“One day, I became bored of copying those Disney princesses so I started to adjust their dresses. This was when my mother noticed my talent and suggested that I become a fashion designer.”
“It was a thrilling moment for me to know that it was possible to have drawings become real dresses!” says Syomir.
At 15-years-old, Syomir was already adamant to pursue a career in fashion. He attended vocational school in Home Science the next year. While he sat for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations, he got himself enrolled at design school Raffles College in Kuala Lumpur, even before getting his SPM results.
“In college, I was exposed to many styles because I had a good mix of local and international lecturers. It was also during this time I started designing party dresses for my friends.”
“After graduating, I worked at a men’s apparel company for two years, but the company closed down. It was a matter of survival, I had to take my samples back home. This is when I started my own fashion line and business ‘Syomir Izwa’ in 2002.”
“Who were my clients back then? They were the same friends who hired me to design their party dresses during my college days. Some of them were getting engaged or married. So, they hired me to design their bridal gowns. By word of mouth, my business started to grow,” says Syomir.
Syomir ran his business from his apartment bedroom in Keramat for four years before opening a small boutique near where he lived. Later in 2011, at the encouragement of a friend-turned-business partner, he opened a boutique at Publika Shopping Mall in Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur.
Around 2015, when everything seemed to be going uphill, Syomir was shocked to find out that he had no rights to the company nor his eponymous label. Both were registered to his business partner.
This is a lesson for designers and those from the creative industry, that is to read what you sign and know what your partner is doing
“It was something you never thought would happen to you. It was my mistake. I just signed everything that was given to me without reading,” Syomir says with a tinge of regret.
“The deal between us was supposed to be a 60:40; my investment is my existing clients, aesthetics, branding and designs. She put in the money. However, she registered everything under her name. She owns the company solely.”
“She was my friend and I trusted her. After I found out, we managed to come to a settlement and close the company.”
Syomir was hurt deeply but in hindsight, the experience taught him to develop better business acumen. “This is a lesson for designers and those from the creative industry, that is to read what you sign and know what your partner is doing.”
Syomir counts himself lucky to be able to ‘bounce back’ from the incident, with support from friends and family, and continue to pursue his dream in fashion.
His label, formerly known as ‘Syomir Izwa’, was rebranded ‘Syomirizwa Gupta’. Today, he proudly displays his designs at an elegant 3200 square feet boutique in Lorong Maarof, Bangsar – an affluent neighbourhood where many of Syomir’s clientele come from.
The career breakthrough moment, he says, however, was when he dressed singer Yuna at the Anugerah Juara Lagu 25. Yuna went on stage with a hooded jumpsuit to receive two major awards; instantly raising Syomir’s profile in the industry.
“The word ‘hijabista’ didn’t even exist then. No one saw anything like that. This was around 2011 and at that time, it was quite hard to find a fashionable hijab-wearing person.”
“I wanted to elevate this (hijab) market. So, during KL Fashion Week, I put a hijab-wearing model next to a bikini one. I did this because I believe my brand is for everybody,” says Syomir.
Sixteen-years in the industry, critics would consider Syomir as one of the foremost Malaysian designer, having also dressed celebrities Sheila Majid, Marion Caunter, Sarah Lian and Aishah Sinclair.
“Fashion is an art piece of your life. But for myself, I wear a lot of white shirts lately. The designs I do is an art, like painting, but using fabrics,” says Syomir.
The designs I do is an art, like painting, but using fabrics
At 42-years-old, Syomir says he feels younger now compared to when he was in his 20s. He does Crossfit, a high-intensity fitness program, every morning to stay healthy and motivated.
There’s still so much more to achieve, says Syomir. His near-term goal? To create a new fashion line catering all types of sizes by end of this year.
“I want to create designs for everybody. Usually, my fast-selling products are the ones that are sized from L to XL. I will have another line which is dedicated to these group!” says Syomir.
Moving forward, Syomir hopes to travel more, and ultimately, open up a boutique in London and bring his brand to the global stage.