'Prince of Fashion', Bernard Chandran came to the University of
Central Lancashire in Preston, to share some of his experiences
with first year Fashion Design and Fashion Promotion students.
Bernard, who has recently opened his first European boutique in
the heart of London has designed clothes for high profile celebrities
which include two former Miss Universe and the Malaysian and Brunei
Royal families. Just last year he was awarded the title Malaysian
Designer of the Year.
designs draw on Malaysian culture
delivered his talk to the students about many aspects of the fashion
business and his own career, before meeting members of the 60-strong
Malaysian Student Society. He also brought along his personal collections
with him, which fuse traditional aspects of Malaysian culture with
a young, modern design.
Bernard Chandran was invited to Preston by first year Public Relation
student Noorazam Hanafi (Zam) who also organised the event jointly
with the Public Relation Department, Fashion Promotion Department
in association with the Malaysian Student Society. The afternoon
started with a short video presentation by Zam, which gave students
a chance to see many of Bernard's designs and some of the inspiration
behind them. Bernard then talked to students and staff for around
half an hour, before taking questions from the floor.
He began by describing his background and growing up in an average
Malaysian family. His father wanted him to become an accountant
and he almost followed this advice, before briefly considering being
a tobacconist, "It's a good career!". At aged 16, he had already
decided he wanted to be a fashion designer and it was just a case
of convincing his father. Given three months to prove himself, he
arranged his debut show, taking the first steps on the road to becoming
Malaysia's top designer. Bernard's father was won over and helped
fund his son's studies, with Bernard soon winning a place at the
prestigious Paris Fashion School.
Bernard is only too aware how important this was in starting his
career, "Everyone must go to a fashion school to understand the
basics of fashion" he told the students, "Not only to learn design,
but the history of fashion too". After graduating, he worked at
the House of Dior for 6 months, before heading back home to Malaysia.
The first 'Bernard Chandran' store was just a small rented shop
with a handful of staff. From there he gradually built up his customers
and staff, soon expanding internationally. Amongst the advice he
gave the students, Bernard stressed the importance of creativity,
confidence and vision. "I believe in myself" he said, "If my heart
feels right then I will go with what it says".
model wearing one of Chandran's designs
is essential to him when he designs, "I always wanted to be a creator
and inspiration is all around. I aim to invent something new every
season - some aspect in my collection that is original" A traditional
family life is vital to Bernard, and he always strives to keep his
feet on the ground with his wife and five children. "I come from
a traditional background - Indian father, Chinese mother. We pray
in the morning. And now, not only do I chant for prayer, but I also
chant for my success."
When questioned by the students, Bernard revealed that his favourite
designers at the moment are Valentino "For his femininity and finishing",
and Galliano "He has a great spirit". If he had to choose one celebrity
to wear his designs it would have to be Kylie or J. Lo and his lovely
wife. After he finished answering questions, Bernard presented the
Fashion School with a limited edition framed Bernard Chandran memento,
in the shape of a traditional Malaysian dress.
In turn, he was presented with a shield of Lancashire by Zam, representing
the Public Relation department. From now on, he will be coming over
to the UK every two weeks to oversee his new boutique in Beauchamp
As a final piece of advice to the students, he recalled what his
Principal had told him many years ago when he was a student himself.
"Most people think fashion is just glamour, but they don't see the
hard work behind the scenes for months, just to get those five minutes
of excitement and success."
With his new London store and list of celebrity clients, Bernard
Chandran is certainly a man who works hard and is now reaping the
rewards. Hopefully some of the young designers at UCLan will have
been inspired by his advice and follow in his footsteps to become
successful fashion designers themselves.
The views expressed on this page are those of the contributor and
the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the BBC.