Malaysia hosts first international kebaya design competition

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Kebaya beauties (from left to right) Manvin, Taanusiya, Wee, Ong, and Kash. — Malay Mail photo

KUALA LUMPUR (July 7): Women of all races were dressed in their kebaya best at the launch of the Kebaya Heritage Design Competition as it got off to a glamorous start at the Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex yesterday.

Hosted by the International Conference on World Cultures, the event was officiated by Tourism, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan with designers, diplomats, celebrities and government officials in attendance.

“Being the host country of Kebaya Heritage Design Competition, I am honoured to have us all under one roof united to achieve the goal of recognising the significance of our culture and protecting it,” said Khairul in his speech.

“I appreciate everyone coming together to participate in the KHDC as it casts a wider net for the Malaysian market on tourism, arts and culture.”

Highlights of the launch included a traditional Malay dance by students from the Sekolah Seni Malaysia and a kebaya fashion show by reigning beauty queens Miss Globe Malaysia Manvin Khera, Miss Global Malaysia Taanusiya Chetty, Miss Star Malaysia Kash Bhullar, Miss Eco Malaysia Tisya Ong and Carolyn Wee, finalist of Ratu Wanita Malaya 2023.

The Kebaya Heritage Design Competition which began its run on June 15 has so far seen about 100 participants from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines submit their sketches and drawings.

The last day of submission is July 30, after which judges will narrow it down to 50 semi-finalists who have to produce a prototype kebaya before the deadline on August 30.

The 50 semi-finalists will also have to do a presentation on the details and cultural significance of their design.

A gala dinner will be held on September 9, where judges from all the five countries will select 25 finalists who get to showcase their designs in a fashion show on the same night.

Only three of the finalists will be declared winners and have their designs auctioned off for charity to support local designers.

The first prize winner will receive US$5,000 while the second and third prize winners will receive US$3,000 and US$2,000 respectively.

“As you know, we are doing this to support the listing of the kebaya as a tangible cultural heritage in Unesco,” said ICWC president Azmi Mustapha at the press conference.‘

“We want to show the world the kebaya is here to stay, it’s not something that will go away.”

He also added that they hope to send the winner of the competition to Cannes, France for a fashion show.

Kebaya ambassador of ICWC 2023, Wanna Ali, head judge Juita Jalil, and competition coordinator Asfarena Samion Mon were also at the press conference.

“We hope to reach our maximum target of 500 entries before the end of the month,” said Asafarena. “The kebaya is worn by people from all the five participating countries. So, it’s a symbol of tradition and heritage of not just Malaysia but a big part of Asean.”

“As ambassador, I will promote kebaya heritage by of course, donning it and by being the face of the competition and getting as many participants as possible,” said Wanna who looked radiant in an elegant white kebaya.

On what she wants to see from competitors, Juita said: “Show us something we’ve not seen before but still has culture and tradition steeped in it.”

She added that with all the women looking beautiful in their kebayas at the event, there’s no way kebaya is not trendy and not stylish or sophisticated.

“Give us something that will excite us enough for us to say to the world hey, the kebaya is here to stay.” — Malay Mail