Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

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.
By S. INDRAMALAR