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Naturally Toi

It was a natural progression for fashion extraordinaire Zang Toi to venture into shoes.
FORGET about Carrie Bradshaw and her manic obsession with her gorgeous Manolo Blahniks. The footwear to check out this season is the brand new line from Malaysian designer extraordinaire, Zang Toi – it’s avant-garde and a lot more affordable.
After 20 years of producing exquisite garments for women (and trendy togs for men – a classic example would be this fall’s black cotton velvet dinner suit, slightly trimmed and worn over a white silk organza dress shirt and tuxedo scarf), Toi has ventured into shoes with his trademark gusto and passion.
Simple in design but unmistakably Toi in the detailing they carry – inconspicuous trims, bows and diamante accents – which transforms an ordinary-looking pump into a glamorous work of fashion-art.
“I think it was a natural progression for me to start designing shoes, as a designer as well as a businessman. Shoes are so important … every woman loves shoes, right?” says Toi.
From four-inch stilletos to ballet flats, metallic sling-backs to casual sandals, Zang Toi shoes will appeal to a wide spectrum of women: as long as they appreciate a little glamour in their footwear.
“You have to have glamour … even if it’s for everyday use; there has to be some glamour. I believe that if you work hard, you have to enjoy it. Love yourself first,” says Toi during a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur. The New York-based designer was in town to launch his first ever shoes collection as well as present his 2008/2009 fall collection at a charity fashion show. The fall line, which “has a lot of American-Indian influences” utilised a palette of rich reds and greens mixed with basic black and white.
Toi describes his shoes as being classic “with a twist to them”.
“They are very signature Zang Toi … with a platinum bow or trims. I don’t want my shoes to be just a collection for display. I want them to fly off the shelves!”
Judging by the response the shoes received at the launch at the Istana Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Toi has nothing to worry about.
“I heard that one lady bought six pairs of my shoes … one in every colour! That’s fantastic,” says a truly pleased Toi.
The collection is entirely handmade and includes several limited edition designs.
The creme de la creme of the collection has got to be the pastel and metallic hued python-skin stilettos with the ankle strap. From its skinny gold stiletto heel (which had tiny diamante detailing) to the wonderful mix of pink, powder blue, pale green and gold snake leather, the shoe is honestly a showpiece that represents Toi at his best: elegance and glamour, with attention to detail.
Another dramatic piece is Toi’s brightly coloured booties. Very trendy, very Carrie. The lace-up booties come in five fantastic colours: turquoise, orange, magenta, red and purple. Definitely not for the inhibited.
“I think my Malaysian-ness shows in the bright colours that I use. You know … the bright local Indian colours that many Westerners are afraid to use,” explains Toi.
Another must have is his red patent leather peep-toe heels (they come in black and white too) and the suede ballet flats in black with a platinum bow.
In Malaysia, Zang Toi’s shoes are distributed and marketed by established shoe manufacturer, Larrie Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd.
“I’m very excited to be in partnership with Larrie … they make beautiful shoes at a level of quality that I can be proud of,” says Toi of his new associates.
Though he has dressed celebrities and socialites from the likes of Ivana Trump, Eva Longoria, Debra Messing, Farah Fawcett and singer Fergie, Toi shares that he just loves making women look beautiful, be it a celebrity or a woman off the street.
“I love designing for people who love dressing up. That, I find most pleasurable … it does not have to be a celebrity. A fine example is my mother. She is in her 80s and still every time I come home with clothes for her I can see the sparkle in her eye. My mum is the most generous lady I know but not when it comes to her clothes! No one can come near her clothes,” laughs Toi who tries to make a visit home at least once a year, “even if it is just for a couple of days”.
Though he is fascinated by France and all things French (his new Upper East Side apartment is very French-inspired), Toi shares that he gets inspiration from the city he calls home: New York.
“I have been living in New York for 27 years now and I still think it’s the greatest city in the world. I travel a lot and I am still so excited every time I come home … each time the airplane touches down on JFK or Newark (airports) I am as excited as a little kid.
“New York is just crazy and full of energy … you just can’t get the same feeling anywhere else in the world,” shares the Kelantan-born Toi.
He also shares that his newfound passion for running has fuelled his creativity further.
“I have just started running recently. I usually run in Central Park and in fact, just before I came here, I ran the whole loop (round the park) … a six-mile run in just under an hour. Yes … I did it in 55 minutes. I find that I now get some of my best work done when I am running!”
Though world famous and much sought after, Toi says he has yet to achieve his goal.
“I want to establish Zang Toi as a truly luxurious fashion house. One of my favourite companies and labels is Hermes. Trends come and go but Hermes is always about top quality. I want my brand to be just like that.”
Toi admits that while he enjoys living a glamorous life, he does not follow trends, in fashion nor in his own lifestyle.
“I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy the best things … to be able to walk into the best restaurants in New York without a reservation, to stay at the Ritz in Paris … I love it and I enjoy luxury. But it is not for show … I do it because it gives me pleasure. But it’s no big deal … what’s most important to me is my family and my close friends. I credit my family for keeping me grounded. I come from a very simple and humble family.”
Zang Toi shoes are priced between RM299 to RM 1, 999, and are available exclusively at Robinsons at The Gardens, MidValley City, Kuala Lumpur.

Zang Toi Charity Show in Kuala Lumpur this 17 July 2008. Catch him live!









A Charity Fashion Show 2008





Hotel Istana Kuala Lumpur, in association with Zang Toi New York will stage a charity fashion extravaganza on Thursday, 17 July 2008 at the Grand Mahkota Ballroom, Lower Lobby Level.


The theme of the show is Zang Toi’s Fall (Adirondacks) & Resort Collections, featuring a winter outlook for the runway and Ballroom.




The Istana will be working hand in hand with Zang Toi Kuala Lumpur, headed by Zang’s brother, Toi See Luon in getting as many sponsors as possible for the show. 


Proceeds from the fund raised will be pledged to 3 charity organizations. In Malaysia we nominate the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) and PAWs (Animal Welfare Society) while in the USA Zang has nominated the Lance Armstrong Foundation,US..   The objective of supporting recipients in different parts of the world is simply to showcase how the fashion industry can go beyond countries’ borders as we work together to improve the quality of life.


Seating plan is theatre style following buyers’ show concept accommodating from a minimum of 500 to a maximum of 1,200 guests.  Tickets will be priced at RM220 nett and RM110 nett (with the +10% and 5% included).  Both ticket categories will include a 50% discount voucher basically for URBAN, the hotel’s modern fine-dining restaurant. However should the restaurant be full on that evening, the 50% discount voucher will also be applicable at Taman Sari Brasserie, the hotel’s coffeehouse.  The discount voucher is only valid on the day of the event. 


It was also agreed that we sell standing tickets at RM60 nett per ticket.


The programme for the evening will include live musical entertainment by renowned local artiste Zainal Abidin and auction of some designer items courtesy of Zang Toi, a return air ticket to London, UK and a return air ticket to Sydney, Australia courtesy of Royal Brunei, among others.


The Cocktail Reception is held from 7.45 pm at the Ballroom Foyer serving all guests  with Zang Toi’s Tea Punch and Canapes.


Message from organisers

My dear friends and family ,
I hope I can count on all of you to help raise much much needed fund for an important cause that Zang is passionate about !
I would appreciate if you could assist in selling some tickets.
Front row RM 220.00
Back row RM 110.00
Standing RM    60.00
Please keep in touch with me (006-012-2082080) or Su Moi (006-012-2197701) for the tickets.
Thank you for the kind support.
seeyen & sumoi

Backstage at Fall 2008 Fashion Show


Backstage at a major fashion show is a riotous scene filled with glamour and angst. Powder is flying, clip boards are clipping and then there is the designer who is desperately trying to act like a swan serenely floating down the river while he/she paddles furiously under the surface.

New York Cool’s Katherin Wermke was backstage at Zang Toi and she got these images. Enjoy.

Zang Toi for Fall 2008



Zang Toi’s fashions are famous for epitomizing romance, glamour and sex appeal. For Fall 2008, Zang designed his line with the inspiration of the American aristocracy who vacationed in “magnificent and sumptuous log cabins [that] were built by William Avery Rockefeller…. [and] personified the romantic notion of roughing it in luxurious and glamour style.”

The line utilized a palette of rich reds and greens mixed with basic black and white. There were rich furs to add glamour; there were no blue jeans walking down this runway. The clothes are pure enchantment for the man and woman who loves to dress up and delight their friends.

As I was leaving the show, one of Zang’s friends stopped me and said, “I think that red dress (the one in our top photo) would look beautiful on Michelle Obama at the inauguration.” Hmm!

Zang Toi
Fall 2008 Mercedes Benz
Fashion Week
The Tents at Bryant Park
February 8, 2008

Written by Wendy R. Williams
Photographed by
Katherin Wermke


Zang Toi’s Discreet Luxury Equals Total Elegance


(Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week)

NEW YORK, Feb 15, 2008 / FW/ — Black, red and white, Zang Toi’s Fall 2008 / Winter 2009 collection is a statement of discreet luxury, something that the New York-based designer had already perfected, yet raised it to another level this season. The result, a very elegant collection that is delicate and tactful.

With talks of recession in Wall Street, New York designers put a united front to against the economic downturn, sending out collections that are coherent and strong. Zang Toi, who is on the spearhead of this movement, added directional to the list with creations that feature his signature style with a very focused theme.

Zang Toi actually presented two collections, his eponymous label and House of Toi, his more youthful secondary line. Because the collections are so focused, you have to be a big Zang Toi fan to know the difference. And because of the blurring of the line between the two lines, it also shows growth for both of them.

House of Toi was created to cater to a younger clientele, who are more avant-garde and more fashion-forward than Zang Toi’s core clientele. Yet, after several seasons, the clients of House of Toi and the main line Zang Toi have started to merge, proving that the New York-based designer truly understands his clientele and has his finger on their pulse.

The main line ‘Zang Toi’ and ‘House of Toi’ are beginning to merge their client base though both lines are still very different from each other. The reason, though in the beginning, the target clients were different and actually widened Zang Toi’s reach, the directional growth of both lines as envisioned by the designer Zang Toi have created a subset.

To understand this, think of two different circles that were far apart in the beginning, the circles being the client base for each line. As designer Zang Toi developed the two labels on a very directional path, these two circles moved slowly towards each other, that now, parts of the circles are overlapping. That overlap is the subset of clients that the two lines share.

And somehow, it is very easy to understand why. Case in point, the all black mini dress and black tights paired with a floor-length white winter coat trimmed with fur. It’s edgy and sportive, yet very elegant at the same time. What’s not to like about it? Nothing really. You just fall in love with it.

Then, there is the all black floor length frock that looked very simple in the front with only the collar in sparkling Swarovski crystals as the only adornment. The surprise is when the model turned around – it’s a low-back gown with a latticework of Swarovski crystal covering the bare back that reaches until the waistline.

Just between these two, it is really hard to make a choice, the first one being House of Toi, while the second choice is from the main line Zang Toi.


Bags fit for a Queen


NEW York-based Malaysian fashion designer Zang Toi has provided a touch of glamour to Federal Hotel Kuala Lumpur and the country’s golden jubilee celebration.  After two months of designing, the celebrated designer has created three limited edition evening clutch bags in lavender, blue and a combination of his favourite colour black and white for the occasion.  Zang’s brother Toi See Luon said: “When it comes to fashion, Zang is inspired by our mother. She is very fashionable and is often seen dressing up in cheongsam and carrying a clutch bag when going out.”  See Loun said women in the 1950s would clutch these small bags under their arm whether to go to the market or to dinners and that Zang had always found it fashionable for women today to use such bags.  Zang has had collections on evening clutch bags before but this is the first time that he is incorporating Terengganu’s songket for his bags.  According to See Loun, the bags can be used both in the afternoon and for evening cocktails.  “The cover of the bag is made of songket bearing the logo of Federal Hotel Kuala Lumpur back then.   “When you take off the cover, you can use the leather bag with the Zang Toi logo for any casual occasion,” said See Loun.  The three designs of the Federal Evening Bag collection designed by Zang Toi were presented to the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah by Federal Hotels International managing director Low Gee Tat recently. 

Also present was Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin. 

Edited from, Friday August 24, 2007


Toi’s pad – The flamboyant designer from the Malaysia’ East Coast sets up home in Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side.

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THE boy from Kelantan has set a new gold standard for himself. Again. “Glamour! That’s it, if you need one word to describe my apartment,” said Zang Toi, who, after 26 years of hard work in New York, finally has a place of his own. 

 Very French-inspired, Toi’s entire 120sq m (1,300sq foot) apartment is decorated in black and white, with touches of charcoal.   It was, according to the designer, a modern take on the Louis XV period.  “I wanted it to look like a gorgeous black-and-white photo of Versailles.”   The 1901 digs was originally the home of the man who owned the Remington typewriter company, who died in the 1960s.   It is located in a posh address at Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a stone’s throw from Central Park. 

Even New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg owned a property located just a few minutes walk from Toi’s pad, and New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer has a home nearby, too. 

 There is a fireplace in Toi’s living room, dominated by two life-sized black-and-white portraits of Marie Antoinette.   The tall windows did not require drapes, Toi said, as he pulled out a little shutter to illustrate his point. 

A magnificent late 18th Baccarat chandelier from Paris hangs in the living room. “It was originally in gold, but I had it stripped and re-plated with silver.” 

Also in his living room is a little photo gallery where he displayed pictures of his family. In black and white, of course. One photograph featured him being conferred an award by the Sultan of Kelantan. 

 Toi’s bedroom features a similar fireplace. The rugs in both rooms are silky smooth; they are black and silver fox rugs, respectively.  His china dinnerware looks quite a prized collection. Toi had them custom-made and hand-painted by Herend of Hungary.   Even the knobs on the white lacquered kitchen cabinet were custom-made. Toi has a collection of silverware from London, too.  

The outcome of his personal decorating has been awesome. A wealthy client of his has since offered to buy his one-bedroom apartment lock, stock and barrel, at any price Toi wanted. 

 “When she saw my place, she asked me if I wanted to sell it exactly as it is, with all the furniture,” he said.  The answer was “no”, at least for the moment. “This is my home now. I have looked over at least 100 apartments before I settled on this one. A lot of love has gone into it. I want to enjoy it for now.”  He spoke of how he had often told himself to buy his own place.  “But I never came across something that I really liked. I was never in a rush, though. I would rather wait for the perfect place.”  Then an advertisement came along, which declared the digs as “Paris in New York”.   “I walked into this apartment and it was like love at first sight. It has great ‘bones’. I knew I could do a lot with this place.”  Before he even began renovations, someone offered him US$2.5mil (RM8.3mil) for the place.  He moved into the apartment almost two years ago, after 10 months of extensive renovation and decorating.  “The height of the ceiling and the way it was decorated ? I thought I was waking up at a suite in the Ritz in Paris,” he said of those early days under his own roof.  Incidentally, his bed is the most indulgent piece of furniture. The mahogany Francois Linke bed, which he bought from an antique shop in New Orleans, was given a new coat of black lacquer.   Toi’s hectic work schedule means that he gets to spend only about five to six months at his apartment as the rest of the year is taken up by travelling and working.  But if he is in town, his routine is to take a long shower in his all-white marble bathroom once he arrives home from work.   During this interview, music from Chet Baker, the jazz singer and trumpeter wafted throughout the apartment. 

“If I want something more upbeat, it would be Coldplay,” he said. 

 Toi loves living alone. “I like my space. My schedule is so hectic that after a long day, I just need that time to myself.”   It is also partly due to his background. Growing up the youngest of seven siblings, he remembered that room-sharing was a common practice until he was about nine, when he got a tiny bedroom to call his own.  

“Maybe that’s why I am just so used to having my own space.”  

 By FOO YEE PING  from Sunday January 6, 2008

For a cause

ZANG Toi isn’t just about making fabulous dresses. When he has time to spare, he is diligently raising funds through his “Team Toi” for the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s fight against cancer.   Late last year, Toi held a charity fashion show, which included an auction that raised US$50,000 (RM165,000).  A limited edition bicycle autographed by the legendary cyclist fetched the highest bid at US$6,000 (RM19,700).  Another lucky bidder was Allan Teh, a Malaysian who works in hedge funds. He won a home-cooked dinner for three, personally prepared by Toi, at the designer’s posh apartment.  About 200 guests bought tickets priced at US$300 (RM990) and US$1,000 (RM3,290) to attend the charity fashion show.   Special guest singer Patti LaBelle thrilled the audience with a soulful rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow(Toi has been LaBelle’s regular dressmaker for the past three years.)  And, of course, Toi’s favourite model (and one of Malaysia’s most well-known), Ling Tan, was present.  “He (Armstrong) is a good friend ? I will always support him,” she said.  Toi began raising funds for the foundation three years ago after reading about Armstrong’s success in fighting cancer.  Since then, Team Toi has raised a total of US$200,000 (RM658,000).   “My goal now is to hit US$213,000 (RM700,000),” Toi said.   (from  Sunday January 6, 2008)

Zang Toi

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Born: Malaysia, 11 June 1961.  

Education: Studied fashion design at Parsons School of Design, New York, 1981-83.  

Career: Production associate, Mary Jane Marcasiano, New York, 1982-87; freelance designer, Ronaldus Shamask, New York, 1988; opened own business, 1989, introduced diffusion line Z, 1992.  

Exhibitions: Fashion Institute of Technology Museum.  Awards: Mouton-Cadet Young Designer award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, 1990.  

Address: 30 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019, USA. 

Zang Toi has the dubious distinction of being a featured designer in a Newsday article of October 1990, “Fashion’s New Kids: On the Block,” and of being a principal in Nina Darnton’s article “The New York Brat Pack,” in the April 1991 issue of Newsweek. In the Newsweek article, Zang Toi had the last word, telling Darnton, “I think women are looking for good prices and styles that are new—not just young people in the same mold as the current stars.” Likewise, in the Newsday article, Toi’s pragmatic and sensible remarks form the article’s conclusion when he says, “There are so many young designers who are eager to be stars right away. But ego can be the worst killer to any young designer. You can’t let the press and the hype go to your head. If the work doesn’t meet the demand and the quality, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Toi’s work resoundingly meets demand and determined desires and styles in the early 1990s. The gifted young designer has demonstrated a color sensibility related not only to Asian textiles (the collection that earned him the Mouton-Cadet Young Designer award was inspired by Southeast Asian textiles, with rich batiks and embroideries) but perhaps equally to Matisse in his vibrant palette. Toi’s color is often and aptly compared to Christian Lacroix’s, but Toi has brought his tinted exuberance to serviceable sportswear separates while Lacroix tends toward almost baroque forms of highly elaborated couture. For Lacroix, the pleasure is in the whole and design by ensemble; in Toi’s work, the delights are in the elements. Even within, his ingenious and extravagant details give punctuation with whimsy. Well-cut jackets, saucy skirts and shorts, spunky sarong skirts with ornament, wonderful vests and trousers provide a sensible dressing from constituents rich in color and texture. As much as Toi loves glamor, he also created a diffusion line, Z, launched in 1992, that luxuriates in denim and less expensive fabrication.

Toi did not set out to be a designer. Growing up as the youngest son of seven children of a grocer in a small town in Malaysia, he loved sketching and drawing but dreamed of being an architect or interior designer. His love of fashion came later and always in conjunction with cuisine and other pleasurable arts. He admits to wanting to combine fashion and running a restaurant. Like many designers, however, a lifetime interest in classic movie glamor and stars such as Audrey Hepburn encouraged his fashion interests. The Malay tradewinds have always brought rich interactions of British colonialism (apparent in Toi’s schoolboy stripes), Chinese, Indonesian, and other converging possibilities. Exoticism and pragmatic synthesis seem to come effortlessly to Toi.

In the West, we have traditionally enjoyed an adulation of the new, and Zang Toi is a new designer. But his merit and interest reside in the fact that his design is distinguished not by novelty but by his intense commitment to color. His fashion draws eclectically and with an absorbing anachronism on history and global fashion, always keeping his international eye for color. His practicality and sensitivity to the consumer are hallmarks of smart design for the 1990s and the 21st century beyond. Infinitely personable and charming, Toi, like many Western designers, is a social mixer and has a gregarious personality. Lauren Ezersky wrote, “I love Zang. Everybody loves Zang. He truly is one of the nicest designers on the scene today. And his designs are as fabulous as his gams, which he displays on a regular basis by wearing shorts.

In a fiercely competitive and fickle industry, Toi has flourished as a high society and movie star fashion designer. His commitment to luxury, beauty, and glamor continued to be evident in his designs, which made him the obvious choice to create a millennium gown for Melinda Gates (Mrs. Bill Gates). Whether the theme is the wild, wild West, inspired by a Montana trip (spring 2001), or “An Asian in Scotland” (fall 2001), his collections are executed in the finest fabrics and characterized by his signature use of color and attention to detail. His fall showing was one of the few to receive a standing ovation and praise from the New York fashion critics.

A favorite of Madonna, Sharon Stone, Ivana Trump, and Kirstie Alley, Toi is reaching out to their significant others by introducing a limited men’s line for fall 2001. “This is really for the husbands and boyfriends of my private customers. They are the ones who pay for the clothes.” Like his women’s clothes, the new line is handmade or hand-knit and uses luxury fibers like cashmere and silk.Zang Toi has held fast to his vision of fashion, despite an era of increasing informality and casual dress. “It is not a separate thing outside you, but something that flows out from inside you. That is why my clothes, my home, and my showroom all reflect a core that comes from the same source—a beauty that I see and feel and which takes its form in the look and feel of my creations and in the space where I live and work.” No longer the new kid on the block, Zang Toi continues to inspire and delight and remind us of what fashion and glamor are really all about. 

Zang Toi:

At the house of Toi, it all starts with color. Lavish hues of chartreuse, red, and hot pink…which, theoretically, should never be seen together. Here they have been combined masterfully with a flair and wit that has won the hearts of both critics and customers alike. Breaking the rules is what I do best. I try not to limit my thinking to the way things have been done before—my customers have come to expect the unexpected. Pioneering in dressing up good old all-American denim—in splashy red and hot pink stitching—and [adding] metalic gold stitching to sexy suits and little bustier dresses is the chicest way to dress.The Zang Toi formula is creating glamorous, tailored, classic sportswear with a dramatic twist; with a surprising mixed palette and signature design finishes. Evening at Zang Toi means haute fantasy with a dash of old Hollywood glamor.It is always a dream of mine to merge my fashion sense with fine food…. Food is like fashion; clothes are just a piece of cloth until you add the decoration and the look, then it becomes fashion. The same with food—once you start decorating it becomes appetizing. My personal philosophy is that beautiful food and clothes should always be a part of life