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“In fashion, don’t limit yourself.” Ruzaini Wan Jamil. Photo by Mahzir Mat Isa.
“Rizman Ruzaini is known for timeless statement pieces. To lose that would mean losing our appeal entirely.” Rizman Nordin. Photo by Mahzir Mat Isa.

The dynamic duo who make up Rizman Ruzaini has seen sweet success and shake-ups through the years, writes Amalina Kamal

ONE claims to be old-fashioned while the other is a playful experimenter.

Meet Rizman Nordin and Ruzaini Wan Jamil, two designers with contrasting personalities.

“Think Batman and Spiderman and you will instantly get an idea of how different our personalities are,” says Ruzaini.

This lack of similarity, however, makes them an unstoppable force when together.

For more than a decade, Rizman Ruzaini has been enthusiastically showcasing designs featuring its own identity.

The colourful and glamorous red-carpet theatrics by the brand regardless of whether they were hits or misses have had a huge impact on fashionable society.

From celebrities to socialites and anyone in vogue, all want to be seen in a Rizman Ruzaini piece at least once in their lifetime.

Intrigued by the world of Rizman Ruzaini, I asked the designers about what happens at the boutique as soon as employees clock in.

Work starts at 11am, but with good reason as Rizman usually goes for a workout before co-leading his team with Ruzaini.

The designers will prepare the necessary materials for fitting appointments and client consultations by 2pm and then take the rest of the day as it comes.

“We spend most of our working hours in the detailing section because that’s where magic happens,” says Rizman.


Dressing the stars; (L-R) Ziana Zain, Siti Nurhaliza and Erra Fazira.

SHARED SENSIBILITIES
Once a designer has a concept, it’s time to start building the pieces. The unique journey of a Rizman Ruzaini piece lies in the duo’s creative synergy.

“It’s not that I don’t have my own designs, but most of our inspirations come from Ruzaini because his ideas are never-ending,” says Rizman, adding that their brainstorming sessions are very exciting.

“I will usually come in to fine-tune the ideas and ensure they are realistic by complementing it with my own design renditions. I think we work well with each other because we allow ourselves to be creative in our own way,” he says.

“In fashion, don’t limit yourself,” adds Ruzaini.

“When going about a particular inspiration, I don’t necessarily plough into the theme to its very core. I just take the essence of an idea and fuse it with another to offer something new. Some designers suffer a creative block because they narrow the parameters of a design they are working on,” he says.

The duo also take into account opinions from friends who attend showcases and observe fashion trends when expanding on their own design ideas.

“It’s about having people with great style insight as part of our design run-throughs to help guide us in the right direction. We are always open to thoughts and opinions to keep the brand alive,” says Rizman.

Ultimately, he adds, it’s about re-inventing. The trick is not to recreate the work of others; it’s better to take your inspirations from the past and make it fresh.


Fazura is Rizman Ruzaini’s favourite muse.

MAKING THE CUT
Despite having done showcases for so long, the duo still get butterflies at the thought of a runway show.

“The stakes are higher and the pressure is more intense. Every little flaw during a fashion show is highlighted in such a big way and that is scary. The fact that many people from fashion enthusiasts and critics to stylists and fellow designers will be looking to judge doesn’t help calm the nerves. But we still love doing it,” shares Rizman.

Ruzaini adds that getting the message behind their creations across to people is very important which is why they are very fussy about the finishing of their garments.

Even if a dress is completed and ready to be released, they have no qualms about starting from scratch again if it doesn’t meet their expectations.


Brides of Rizman Ruzaini; (L-R) Siti Saleha and Izara Aishah.

IN HINDSIGHT
The designers find it hard to single out a favourite design. However, they also admit to having had some cringe-worthy fashion moments.

One “fail” incident was the look they did for Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza for her album release party a few years back.

“Of all people, it had to happen to the most influential singer of our time so you can imagine the publicity we got from that debacle,” says Rizman.

The duo had dressed Siti in an outfit inspired by Rihanna — high-wasted pants complete with a belt and puffs here and there. But it was a fashion faux pas because the material, colour and fit were wrong.

At that time, Ruzaini and I were still new at the fashion game. We were just too star-struck and went ahead with the idea without thinking twice,” he adds.

But that wasn’t the only experience which put Rizman Ruzaini in the hot seat. The futuristic silver jumpsuit featuring the Petronas Twin Towers for Miss Universe Malaysia 2016 Kiran Jassal also got the Internet buzzing with mixed reviews.

“People should give us some credit for this. The outfit was done specially for the national costume round of the pageant which is supposed to be fun and fearless. We based our references on past winners whose costumes had a distinctive originality and appeal. Who can forget Miss Universe Thailand and her tuk tuk outfit?” notes Rizman.


The much-talked about costume inspired by the iconic Twin Towers.

THREAD LIGHTLY
From humble beginnings to becoming one of the premiere fashion houses in the country, Rizman and Ruzaini have remained grounded despite their popularity.

Even negative comments or criticisms have had minimal impact on them.

“We take criticisms constructively. If we have to defend our designs, we use reasoning instead of anger which many players in this industry fail to do,” says Rizman. And will the brand eventually step out of its “design comfort zone” and start a new age in its approach to fashion? Rizman says stepping out requires them to alter the “ingredients” that make up the brand.

“Rizman Ruzaini is known for its timeless statement pieces; to lose that would mean losing our appeal entirely,” adds Rizman.

Ruzaini feels that as designers, they have evolved to become more polished with their looks.

“We have a better grasp of who we are and what kind of style aesthetics we value. This is greatly due to the fact that the world is much more connected and inspirations are easily sourced. Even if we were to change, we will make sure the brand’s DNA is intact.”

While the designers do not disregard the possibility of bringing a creative director into the team in future, they stress that they can manage the brand even without one.

“It will only happen when we really need the extra attention, but that would probably be 20 years from now.

The idea will not become a reality anytime soon,” shares Ruzaini.


Rizman Ruzaini’s SS17 groundbreaking collection debuted at KL Fashion Week 2016. They won the Best Designer Award that night.

FAST FACTS TAKE FIVE

FAVOURITE STYLE ICON?
Rizman: Charlize Theron because she has that classic elegance.

Ruzaini: I am more into rugged personalities like Shah Rukh Khan, Bradley Cooper, Jude Law and the like.

FAVOURITE FASHION CITY?
Rizman: Call me boring but it’s Paris because it’s the fashion capital!

Ruzaini: I love Paris, London and New York but I am also fascinated by Prague and Vienna. I’m desperately trying to persuade Rizman to visit these places and take in the rich inspirations.

HOW WOULD YOU STYLE JEANS OR LEATHER?
Rizman: Jeans with a black T-shirt and loafers.

Ruzaini: Leather and lace.

TIPS ON DRESSING FOR AN EVENING FUNCTION?
Rizman: Make sure the look is clean. Don’t go for anything that is too trendy.

Ruzaini: I would add a touch of colour but it would only be blue — a deep shade of it to give a little life to the look.

ADVICE TO DESIGNERS WHO ARE STUCK ON IDEAS?
Rizman: Take time off to recharge. Once you step away from that empty page, you will imagine ways of filling it. My ideas usually materialise when I’m onboard a plane. I once came up with 16 sketches in less than 20 minutes!

Ruzaini: Inspirations don’t necessarily come from flicking through fashion magazines. You can source for them by being more present in your surroundings.

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