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Thursday, 7 December 2017 | MYT 6:00 AM

Fashion designer Syomir Izwa Gupta speaks about his life and inspiration

Despite his humble beginnings, Syomir's designs now drape the shoulders of high-profile celebrities. Photo: The Star/Ong Soon Hin

He first founded his label from within the walls of his own house. Today, he dresses big-name Malaysian celebrities like Sheila Majid, Marion Caunter, Deborah Henry and Sharifah Amani.

Yes, Syomir Izwa Gupta has indeed come a long way from his humble beginnings. Yet the 40-year-old designer never forgets his roots, and is always thankful for the opportunities that he has received.

“From the boutique in my house, then to a small shop I rented on the ground floor of my apartment block, I started really small. It’s humbling to think about it now because it’ll always remind me of where I started,” he states.

“But I have to say that it was one of the happiest times in my career. It was all me. I did everything by myself. That period of time will always remain with me as a sweet memory.”

Syomir’s current boutique however, is located in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. It offers a retail space that spans two storeys, with offerings of both his ready-to-wear and bridal lines.

Syomir Izwa Gupta
Syomir’s two-storey boutique is located in Bangsar, KL. Photo: The Star/Ong Soon Hin

“As a kid I loved drawing, and it was my mother who suggested that I think about going into fashion design. Before that, I didn’t even know such a job exists,” he recalls.

“I was just 11 years old. I was amazed when I found out that someone could actually draw and produce something tangible from the drawings. I’ve never looked back since.”

A Long Journey

According to Syomir, he started his fashion business about 15 years ago. He says that it was in a time where fast fashion retailers had not yet gained a foothold in the market here.

“My friends didn’t have much choice when it came to fashion compared to now. So they looked to me for party dresses.

“This same group of friends, they grew up and eventually they wanted me to do their wedding gowns.”

Syomir completed his secondary education at a local vocational school before receiving his diploma in women’s wear at the La Salle International Design School in KL.

Back in his early years, Syomir listed international fashion designers the likes of Gianni Versace, Carolina Herrera and Valentino Garavani as his major sources of inspiration.

However, as his fashion sense and style continued to mature, he found that his search for inspiration took him closer to home – to the rich colours, shapes and designs of the East.

“It used to have more of a matured aesthetic. Now it’s bolder and younger. I now include clashing prints and colours in my designs.

“I was older when I was younger, if you get what I mean,” Syomir notes.

“To know what’s relevant – that plays an important role in my designs. Even if you don’t follow trends, you need to know the trends. If you don’t, how do you know what trends to not follow?”

True To His Vision

On his heritage, Syomir explains that his dad is from India and his mother, Indonesia. He was born in Kuala Lumpur, but sees his heritage as a beautiful mix that incorporates different aesthetics.

“I think it has played an important role in shaping my design principles and ideas. But I don’t want it to be just a fusion. So I try to express my views in a more contemporary way,” Syomir points out.

“So you will see a tailored version of a sari, for example. Or a fusion between a British suit and sari. Things like that. It’s difficult to find a balance but I think I’ve gotten better with experience.”

Syomir Izwa Gupta
Prints and colours come beautifully together in Syomir’s designs.

When asked, Syomir says that one of the highlights of his career was meeting his idol Sheila Majid. He actually cried when he finally had the chance to meet and speak to her.

“I’m a big fan of Sheila Majid. She’s the first Malay singer whose cassette I owned. She’s also someone I identified with when growing up. I have long fallen in love with her style.”

Sheila probably draws a parallel to the woman that Syomir designs for too – someone of which he describes as “not a princess or very girly, but is always straightforward and bold”.

“The woman I imagine is always like that. She can do CrossFit but she can also go for a ballet show or attend a gala. She’s well balanced. My label is about empowering women. So it’s about dressing a strong woman,” he concludes.