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19 April 2004
Top fashion designer comes to Preston

Bernard Chandran
Bernard Chandran

Guest Feature Writer this week is student Phill Huxley. He sent in this article about an influential fashion designer who recently came to meet some of Preston's fashion students.

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University of Central Lancashire

Bernard Chandran
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Malaysia's '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.

model wearing one of Chandran's design
Chandran's designs draw on Malaysian culture

Bernard 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 Chandran design
A model wearing one of Chandran's designs

Innovation 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 Place, London.

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.

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