In the hot and sunny cultural melting pot that is KL, urban financiers sway together with pseudo-punks in crowded trains, yuppy jazz bars operate alongside foot reflexology centres manned by Burmese immigrants, Cosmopolitans readily available beside coconut water – one haram; the other halal.
Therein lies visual excitement within the push and pull of third world aesthetics and the burgeoning desire to catch up with the rest of the Instagrammable world.
Traces of colonialisation and migration from centuries ago is apparent in much of Malaysia’s urban landscape, and this DNA is still trickling down into a lot of the work that we do here in the capital, creating a design identity that blends tropical heritage with modern life.
The sense of duality also exists within the past/present; the traditional/modern; the religious and secular – infusing duality into contemporary local ideas: wood carvings from an old stilt house repurposed into a new boutique hotel, adding multilingual scripts into street art, weaving traditional fabric into “Spring/Summer” collections.
Nostalgia chic, tribal threads, equatorial elegance – buzzwords to be (re)discovered, and opposing elements to be merged, mixed and realised, rojak-style.
(For those wondering, “rojak” is a widely used term for the amalgamation of Malaysian society. The word is a metaphor derived from a local salad of the same name, which consists of a mixture of fruits tossed together in a sticky, nutty, pungent sauce – a hotchpotch of different tastes and textures. Yes, we at Epigram KL get excited when we talk about food, but that’s for another time…)