Dayana Zaleekha Azhar has always had a passion for fashion. After completing her studies in fashion and public relations, she did PR and communications for an international company that sent her all over the world on assignments. On her travels, the business-minded Dayana bought clothes to resell in Kuala Lumpur and made contacts with suppliers. Her business, named Deez daily (a play on Dayana Zaleeka), was born as a platform to resell items sourced from abroad. After five years, she quit her job and joined her father’s construction and development company to do PR.
Dayana did not feel content and thought about what else she could do. “During the transition, I decided I wanted to start selling my designs. I had already been designing my own clothes. I would go to my tailor and tell them what I wanted. People asked, ‘where did you buy your baju?’ and I would say I made it myself,” she says. Her parents told her to pursue what she loves so she decided to rebrand her company. She wanted to keep the name catchy and decided to call it Deez. “It’s good branding. Don’t forget to wear Deez, and Deez is it,” she smiles.
The new Deez released its first collection of men’s batik shirts in early 2016. She got the idea from an encounter during her travels. “I was in Indonesia and I passed by this guy who was wearing shades and Air Max shoes with batik, but the batik looked like a Versace shirt, like something Bruno Mars would wear. That’s when I got the idea,” she says. Working closely with batik suppliers and keeping in mind her idol for men’s clothing, Pharrell Williams, Dayana created trendy clothing for men that aimed to dispel the notion that batik is only for older people.
“When I started, I launched 200 pieces and they were all sold out. I wanted it to be unique, I did not want everyone to wear the same thing and that is why we change the designs or colours every quarter,” she says. Selling her wares at bazaars, such as Riuh, Dayana designed a basic, classic and premium range, with sizes that went from extra small to 5XL. “After the first bazaar, I amassed some followers and people found out that I do made-to-measure as well. That’s how I got a wider range of customers,” she says. She now also sells her designs on Instagram.
After handing over the day-to-day running of Deez to her operations manager, Dayana felt it was time to take the next step by creating something she would wear. ”I love wearing kaftans, I could wear a kaftan every day. I wear it everywhere; Sundays for coffee dates with friends, in Bangkok while I’m shopping, in Bali on the beach and even in London during summer. Wherever I travel, I chuck a kaftan in my bag,” she admits.
“I wasn’t sure if kaftans would sell well here, because the Malaysian mentality about the kaftan is that you wear it to sleep. I thought, maybe I can change that perception,” she says. In December 2016 Deezmiss was born, selling beautiful, flowy kaftans made from materials Dayana had sourced while on her travels or through suppliers. She admits that sometimes getting her tailors to produce her envisioned designs can be challenging, but she works closely with them to make things perfect. “Sometimes people say ‘kaftan je’? But it’s not only for resorts or Hari Raya, you can wear it everywhere. It’s a lifestyle kaftan. You can style it as you like.”
One of the highlights of Deez and Deezmiss is that they cater for your emergency clothing needs. “I am the type of person that if I really want something, I want to wear it tomorrow. I totally understand that people want to wear something the next day or even over the weekend. If you don’t want us to post it, we do cash on delivery to your home. It’s Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm and there’s no minimum order. If you want to buy and wear it the next day, you can,” Dayana says.
Her future plans for the business include exciting new lines for the next quarter and she hopes to open a bricks-and mortar boutique. She is also working on collaborations with other local designers. It goes to show that following your passion can bring you a whole new sense of peace and purpose. “At least I am now doing something that I love very much so I don’t stress,” Dayana adds joyfully.