At the tender age of 26, Jonathan Liang has quite an impressive repertoire of skills and achievements under his belt from managing his eponymous fashion label, Jonathan Liang (formerly known as Nue) based in Paris, sitting as the creative director of Dude and The Duchess to winning designer awards in Malaysia and procuring two qualifications for fashion and arts.
We managed to sit down and talk to the fashion prodigy, between his busy schedule in Paris and Malaysia, to talk about his journey from being an artist to becoming one of the most celebrated fashion designers of Malaysia.
A journey from arts to fashion
The Penang-born and KL-raised designer started off his journey at The One Academy where he studied the Advanced Diploma in Fine Arts. During that time, he delved into the world of Japanese comic art and was widely known through the Internet for his outstanding Copic marker art under the pen name 'toounit'.
While he was truly outstanding in his artwork, many had noticed what made Jonathan unique and sought-after was his impeccable drawing of outfits within his artworks. Even when he was still in the arts program, one could definitely see Jonathan joining the fashion industry in due time.
Jonathan says, “I reached a point in my life where I wanted to go to the next level in arts, and I decided fashion could probably take me there. It did then, and it continues to do so.”
Indeed, the inevitable happened when Jonathan took a leap of faith and joined Raffles College to pursue an Advanced Diploma in Fashion upon his graduation from his arts program.
Even when he was still in school, the Malaysian fashion industry was already closely watching Jonathan’s progress.
It became clear why there was so much interest in this young emerging fashion designer when he made his debut in the ’10 Rising Stars’ competition at the Malaysia International Fashion Week 2009 and immediately gained a horde of supporters when he was awarded the Most Promising Designer 2009 for his amazing collection.
Jonathan agrees, “It’s a little overwhelming, especially when the industry is constantly looking at you every season. I suddenly get this invisible pressure to hit a benchmark every year. But naturally, I’ve always wanted to improve myself with every collection I create.”
After winning the prestigious award, Jonathan didn't slow down and continued to hone his skills for the impending graduation in 2011 where another big twist happened.
Jonathan Liang Fall/Winter 2014 collection - God of Wonders
The big move to Paris
In 2011, Jonathan did what most young emerging designers dreamt of doing – he moved to Paris. While it might seem crazy to most for an emerging designer like Jonathan to move to the fashion capital to compete against the designer powerhouses, he mustered up his courage and took the first flight available to Paris.
Looking back on that day, Jonathan says, “Almost randomly, I wanted to get out to find a new atmosphere and a different lifestyle. I wanted to be in the centre of everything that is happening in the world of fashion and Paris is exactly just that!”
And certainly it proved that the move was not a mistake when he made his Parisian debut in the Carnet de Mode competition, a joint effort by online portal, Carnet De Mode and famous French fashion publications, Madame Figaro and Fashion Daily News.
Even after gaining so much recognition from the industry, Jonathan never felt the need to boast and he is always searching for ways to improve himself, which lead him to bigger things.
He says, "In the past five years since receiving that award, there have been many memorable moments for me, but I have to say the proudest moment comes when I bump into a complete stranger wearing an outfit of mine."
Jonathan Liang x Dude and The Duchess Capsule Collection
Leading the Dude and The Duchess
From that day on, the momentum has constantly been on a rise for Jonathan Liang. He once again made headlines in 2014, when he was named creative director for Dude and The Duchess, a high street fashion brand.
It’s a wonder how the man himself manages the two different fashion collections without losing its brand DNA and identity. Perhaps the key to his performance is to identify the women who wore his designs.
Jonathan says, “Right now, the biggest challenge for me is to separate the identity of Dude & the Duchess and Jonathan Liang. I want to present two completely different styles with a good variety for all existing customers.”
With the creativity of Jonathan, it could be seen as the same woman who dresses in both fashion collections for different occasions - the street cool after-work look for Dude & The Duchess and a stylish luxury street look with Jonathan Liang.
The designer explains, “I’m inspired by my wonderful friend, our model Charlotte Ley. She’s been modelling in our look books and campaigns for two seasons now in my own label and Dude & the Duchess. She’s got this doll-like face that is full of grace, mature yet youthful beauty - and an amazing personality.”
He adds, "Knowing my clients choose to wear my creations is like their own way of trusting in my abilities to make them look amazing."
At the end of it all, Jonathan still talks like an artist, where money and status doesn't matters and all there is to his passion is for his creations to be recognised, no matter the field and work he was in.
He says, " No matter what the platform or genre, I’m always an artist. I still love drawing just as much as designing, and I’ll never lose that part of me. It’s most certainly the basis for everything I am now."
(Photos: Jonathan Liang, Dude and The Duchess)
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