Von Jolly riding high

SARAWAK FASHION: (From right) Aaron, Sarawak Fashion Hi-Tea models (Chloé, Pamela, Ayu Chan, Sun, Dayana Abu Bakar, Anita Aziz, Syakila and Kimmy Kok) and Raymond.

SARAWAKIAN fashion designers – Aaron George Von Jolly and Raymond Jolly – are no strangers to the local and international fashion scene.

Within eight years of opening their fashion house – Von Jolly Couture – in Kuala Lumpur in 2004, they have not only won a slew of world accolades but also created several firsts for Malaysia in the world of high fashion.

In 2011, for the first time ever, Malaysian batik was represented at the Miss World Finals in London through the efforts of Von Jolly Couture. And this year, the KL-based fashion house also made history by introducing the application of pua kumbu – an Iban hand-woven fabric, acknowledged as one of the finest in this region – at an international beauty pageant.

“So far, we are the only Malaysian designers to have couturised these exquisite weavings and won ourselves recognition – the Top 4 World Designer Award – at the Miss World Finals in Mongolia in August this year,” Aaron told thesundaypost.

VON JOLLY SHIRTS: Wearing shirts designed by Von Jolly, (from right) former Miri City Council (MCC) mayor Datuk Wee Han Wen, former Pujut ADUN Andy Chia, former Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Dr George Chan and Assistant Minister of Communications Datuk Lee Kim Shin sharing a light moment with the MCC mascot.

He said one of the three outfits, worn by Miss Malaysia World, Lee Yvonne, had emerged as one of the top four designs for the Miss World’s 2012 World Fashion Designer Award.

Von Jolly Couture was also among the first few Malaysian designers to have collaborated with renowned fashion houses such as Chanel in Como, Italy, in 2006 and Polo Ralph Laurens in New York in 2007.

How it started

The Von Jolly foray into high fashion started within the Jolly family in the state capital when Kuching-born Aaron, 49, and his uncle, Miri-born Raymond, 52, made evening dresses for the friends of Aaron’s mother, Doris George.

FERRARI CONNECTION: Aaron, the fashion designer and spokesperson for Ferrari in 2010.

Their business took off as the quality of their works spread far and wide through word of mouth.

In 2005, Von Jolly Couture won the fashion category grand prize for the Piala Seri Endon. They went on to pick up many local and international awards as well as collaboration deals with world famous designers.

Von Jolly Couture were voted the Top 3 Designer of The Year in 2006 by Media Prima, the Top 3 Designer in Malaysia in 2007 and the Top 4 Designer for the World Fashion Designer Award in 2012 – apart from being dubbed the Fashion Princes of Malaysian Contemporary Batik by Fashion TV UK.

The award-winning trend setters and couturiers have had the privilege to dress and style the rich and famous.Their designs have been paraded on the catwalks of high profile events in Kuala Lumpur and other world fashion capitals, including London, Vakko Istanbul, Milan and New York.

The many prizes include the International Show Parade in Guilianova, Italy, in 2008, the 79th Annual Academy Award in Kodak Theatre, Los Angeles in 2007 and the Tag Heuer Polo Event in New Delhi, India in 2008 (with Asha Gill of Lonely Planet and the famous Datuk Shah Rukh Khan).

Von Jolly Couture were also the official fashion designer-judge for many major events such as Miss Malaysia World 2011 and 2012; Miss International Finals in Kuala Lumpur; AIM-14 and Akademi Fantasia Seasons 4, 5 and 6, and Miss Malaysia Global 2011. They also designed the outfits of Miss Malaysia at Miss World Finals 2012 in Mongolia and Miss World 2012 in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.

PROUD MOMENT: Raymond (left) and Aaron (right) and their Von Jolly girls (from left) – Thavapriya Rajamanickam, Harnesh Kaur (Miss Malaysia Indian Global 2012) and Dhivya Dhyana. – Photos courtesy of Von Jolly Couture and Miri City Council.

Among local celebrities who had donned their multi-hued creations were popular actress Sazzy Falak for the 16th Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM) 2009; actress Corinne Adrienne; singer Jaclyn Victor; broadcaster Wan Zaleha Radzi and beauty queens – Miss World Malaysia 2011 Chloé Chen, Miss Malaysia World 2012 Lee Yvonne and Miss Malaysia Indian Global 2012 Harnesh Kaur.

In Miri, Von Jolly Couture were the official designer of the anniversary outfit of the Miri Port Authority. They also designed the apparel for the elevation of Miri to city status in 2005.

Interestingly, Aaron himself was the fashion designer-cum-spokesperson for Ferrari in 2010.

Asked which of their awards were the most satisfying and prestigious, he said: “Actually, every award is very meaningful but I would say winning the Piala Seri Endon 2005, being dubbed the Fashion Princes by Fashion TV UK and making the World Top 4 in Miss World Finals 2012 are the best recognitions we have had so far.”

Raymond concurred the Piala Seri Endon 2005 was the one crucial event that helped shape the Von Jolly’s name.

“It opened many doors for us, including requests from celebrities and official designers of events like the Miss World Finals 2012 in Mongolia and the Miss World Earth pageant in the Philippines,” he said.

Future direction

A FIRST: Winner of Miss World Malaysia 2012 Lee Yvonne donning a pua kumbu outfit from Jolly’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection. It was the first time the Iban hand-woven fabric was featured on the world stage.

Asked whether their current Spring/Summer 2013 collection of pua kumbu was part of their new market strategy, Aaron replied: “It’s not a new strategy but rather an effort to recognise our roots in conjunction with the 50th Year of Independence of our homestate of Sarawak next year.”

Raymond said for Von Jolly Couture and even other fashion houses, the future direction should be to continuously strive to maintain and promote Malaysia’s cultural heritage such as pua kumbu and batik internationally.

“To me, we should look at the 1Malaysia Concept. Regardless of our different backgrounds, we should think as Malaysians, maintaining and promoting our rich cultural heritage on the global stage. And next year, we are planning a major fashion show for the people in Sarawak.”

To Von Jolly Couture, taking part in local and international contests and fashion shows is important to remain competitive and relevant.  And to promote a local event on November 17, they made a special appearance at the Sarawak Fashion Hi-Tea Pavilion, Concorde, in Shah Alam.

During the function, there were eight sets of outfits for the Finale Special Preview of Von Jolly Couture (Spring/Summer 2013) collection, featured by Miss World Malaysia 2011 Chloé Chen, and Miss World Malaysia 2011 runner-up Pamela Tam.

“Getting invited as a special designer for the Finale slot is certainly a privilege and a recognition from the organiser – the Sarawak Heritage Association,” Aaron beamed.

Among other Sarawakian designers taking part were MO Studio, Jyeik Couture, Erwan Asbor Collections, Q.ADAMSHA and PrOpaganda Boutique.

On the possibility of Von Jolly Couture opening an outlet in Sarawak since their products are well accepted in the state, Aaron said: “We love too but for the time being, we are a little short-handed and, of course, as the time goes by, we will think of something for the local market.”

Von Jolly Couture now have a total of 25 retail, office and workshop staff, iincluding their two designers – Aaron and Raymond.  Their label which has been around since 2004, carries haute couture and ready-to- wear apparels – from casual to evening outfits for both men and women.

Passion for fashion

EYE-CATCHING: Dayana Abu Bakar in an attractive pua kumbu outfit from Von Jolly’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection.

Von Jolly Couture have established their clientele not only in Kuala Lumpur but also overseas, including in Milan and London.

“There are no secrets for our success. As in most businesses, the essence is to live your business as a passion. We take everyday as a learning process,” Aaron explained.

For Raymond, a business administration graduate from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, passion also tops the list, followed by factors like dedication, the right business partners, marketing strategies and good time management

“Fashion is my passion. I don’t have any professional training but if something is with you since you were young, you will read, sketch, draw or do anything to achieve it – and be successful in it. I’m more a corporate person – more into the classic and the elegant,” he confessed.

Raymond who is also a private secretary to Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan, the Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry and Baram MP, said he left a well paid job as general manager of a logistics company for an oil and gas corporation in Kuala Lumpur because of his passion to preserve Malaysia’s rich cultural heritage.

Like Raymond, Aaron also left a secure career as operations manager in an American company based in Kuala Lumpur to pursue a similar passion.

Aaron holds a degree in travels and business operations from Mara University of Technology (UiTM) in Kuching.  He later studied arts and designs, graduating in 2001, and was quickly hired as a fashion stylist.

Aaron and Raymond, both of Eurasian parentage, learned the rudiments of tailoring from the women in their family, including Aaron’s mother Doris, (former general manager of Sports Toto for East Malaysia) and his sister, Sharon.

“What distinguishes us from the other designers is that we incorporate local elements – in this case, Malaysian contemporary batik – into high fashion ware. I have to emphasise that everything has to be personalised right from the start because we have our own batik factory that does abstract batik works from start and finish in the production process,” Aaron said.

Raymond chipped in: “I think we were chosen as official designers for major events because our works with batik and pua kumbu are very much in line with the Malaysian theme which the organisers are looking to promote.”

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