Emerging Malaysian designer Gurdip Kaur embarks on a daring fashion venture fuelled by passion

The founder of GypsyKorn Atelier is navigating challenges and breaking stereotypes to carve her unique niche in the industry.

Gurdip (second from left) when she won the Best Fashion Designer title at New York Couture Fashion Week 2023 in Kuala Lumpur (Photo: Wanta Kere)

Fathers have a huge influence in shaping their children’s musical preferences and, more profoundly, their identity. Emerging fashion designer Gurdip Kaur’s love for rock and punk music instilled at a tender age by her dad, continues to echo through her creative output.

Reflecting on her upbringing, she reminisces: “My father, Jaspal Singh Bakshish Singh, was a guitar instructor. As a child, I would often accompany him to band rehearsals in garages, soaking up the vibrant sounds and contagious energy of the music. My mornings [spent with him while he researched or practised] were filled with the melodies of iconic artistes such as Michael Jackson, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga and more as we finished our daily chores or shared a meal.”

Naturally, the distinct styles of these musicians deeply resonated with her, igniting her fascination with the expressive potential of clothing and accessories. Gurdip explains: “Drawing inspiration from my favourite artists, I began to experiment with my own aesthetic, crafting a unique fusion of influences. As my journey in fashion unfolded, the synergy between music and design became increasingly apparent. Infusing the rebellious spirit of rock and punk into my creations, I sought to fashion bold and daring pieces that mirrored my individuality and passion for both realms.”

At first, fashion was just a hobby for Gurdip. “In high school, I would design clothes for my family tailor to sew. But, one day, the tailor suggested that I venture into the fashion industry. I was hesitant at first, but decided to take a chance and see where it would lead me. I was 23 when I pursued fashion designing.”

Her journey as an independent designer began after she graduated in 2021 and founded GypsyKorn Atelier. “I didn’t have any formal business background or connections in the fashion industry, but I had a passion for design and a vision of what I wanted to create. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I was determined to make it work,” says the 31-year-old Penang-born lass.

“I established this business based on personal need [and a gap] that I identified within the Malaysian market. As a passionate advocate of punk culture with a distinct aesthetic sensibility, I constantly face challenges when searching for designs that truly reflect my style preferences. The limited options in terms of size, colours and authentic punk-inspired designs compelled me to delve into the untapped potential of the market.”


Punkature – An Ode to Queen ‘V’, the winning collection for New York Couture Fashion Week (Photo: Mazacane Mazani)

Her goal was to address this gap with a diverse array of clothing and accessories that authentically embody the punk lifestyle and cater for customers like herself who share a passion for punk culture and crave unique, edgy designs that express their individuality. Gradually, her designs began to gain traction. They were worn by Maruxa Lynd at the Northern Music Festival 2022, Late Night Frequency at the Anugerah Industry Muzik 2023 and Kven Davé in his Fantasy music video.

“In 2023, I made the bold decision to participate in a prestigious competition — despite having only one month to prepare and learning of my mother’s cancer diagnosis — to unveil GypsyKorn Atelier on a larger platform. With no expectations of winning, I was humbled to receive the Best Fashion Designer title at New York Couture Fashion Week 2023, held in February in Kuala Lumpur. This win presented an extraordinary opportunity for me to represent Malaysia in New York City this year.”

The debut collection she presented was named Punkature — An Ode to Queen “V”. It was inspired by the Victorian era, the Industrial Revolution and a tribute to punk fashion icon Dame Vivienne Westwood and the late Alexander McQueen, “whose bold and unapologetic attitude reminds us to never settle for the norm and always strive to break boundaries”.

GypsyKorn brand ethos can be encapsulated in the mantra “Dare to Be Different”, embodying the essence of freedom of expression and creativity. Inspired by the nomadic and unconventional lifestyle symbolised by the term “gypsy”, its designs infuse a sense of individuality and adventure.

“At the same time, the word ‘Korn’, inspired by the mythical unicorn, symbolises strength and resilience,” she explains. The creature is also the logo and face of the brand, representing the magical and transformative power of fashion. The capital initials G and K are a reference to the founder’s name. Central to the GypsyKorn brand identity are metal studs, spikes and cog elements.

“Our pieces are meticulously crafted to make a statement, whether it’s a custom gown, ready-to-wear ensemble or striking accessory. Each creation is like a suit of armour, designed for longevity and versatility. Its modular designs allow our customers to mix and match different pieces, making them sustainable and avoiding the waste of a single-use garment. By breaking down clothes into interchangeable parts, we also make it more affordable for customers to get specific pieces they want without having to purchase an entire outfit.”



As an artisanal re-up label, it prioritises sustainability by reworking and upcycling garments to give them a renewed lease on life. “Our ultimate goal is to instil a sense of magic and confidence in those who wear our creations, empowering them to boldly express themselves. We are not content with merely following trends, we strive to create our own.

“By stepping outside the box and pushing the boundaries of what is considered ‘normal’, we hope to inspire others to do the same. We believe everyone has the power to make a difference, to challenge conformity and spark a fashion revolution that will change the world.”

Gurdip feels fashion is a powerful medium for self-expression and storytelling. Each of her pieces reflects her personal journey and experiences. “For me, fashion is more than just fabric and thread. It is a way to communicate who I am and what I stand for ... From the colours and patterns to the cuts and fabrics, every detail is carefully chosen to convey a specific message or emotion.

“I see fashion as a form of art that allows me to express myself in a way words cannot. Through my designs, I am able to share my story with the world and connect with others who may have similar experiences or perspectives. I want to use fashion as a means to promote self-expression, individuality and authenticity, and encourage others to embrace their own unique stories and journeys.”

While fashion is all fun and glamourous, the blood, sweat and tears that go into the making of it often remain unseen. For someone like Gurdip, who has no connections in the industry or background in business, establishing a network meant attending events and music festivals, personally approaching artists to promote her brand and designs. Given the niche market and her newcomer status, she embraced the mantra of “do it myself” to carve out her place.

Although daunting at times, especially amid those she looks up to in the industry, she realised the importance of shamelessly advocating for her work to gain recognition. Navigating financial aspects also posed a significant challenge to an independent designer from a modest family background.

Being the only Punjabi fashion designer in Malaysia added to the unconventional nature of her career choice, particularly in a society where fashion is not always esteemed as a viable path. Overcoming stereotypes, judgements and community perceptions, exacerbated by her tattoos and piercings, was another hurdle. Balancing her mother’s cancer journey and her own battle with anxiety disorder further compounded the challenges. “Seeing my ageing father still working to support our family has been difficult to bear. I have witnessed first-hand the sacrifices he has had to make to ensure we are taken care of.”

Despite the emotional and financial strains, Gurdip finds solace and purpose in the design process, viewing it as a form of both therapy and self-expression. Though the journey can feel isolating and overwhelming, she draws strength from a supportive network of family, partner and friends, while managing her anxiety to pursue her dreams relentlessly.

This article first appeared on Apr 15, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.



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