Syomirizwa Gupta’s bold and vibrantly-patterned Raya collection is a celebration of female friendships

Francissca Peter’s 1987 hit called 'Oolalla Tropika' inspired the brand's festive ready-to-wear collection.

The 10-piece collection is a mix of traditional and contemporary baju kurung, baju kebaya as well as dresses (All photos: Syomirizwa Gupta)

In many instances, music has proven to be an effective memory trigger, as it can evoke autobiographical recollections. You can easily travel back in time when you listen to a song that holds special meaning for you.

Francissca Peter’s 1987 hit called Oolalla Tropika was what transported designer Syomir Izwa Sen Gupta back to the 1980s, inspiring him to produce a highly anticipated Oolalla Tropika Ready-to-Wear Raya 2024 collection for his eponymous label.

“It is a childhood song that I used to listen to a lot and the designs in this collection are drawn from cherished memories and moments I remember of Raya back in the day.”

The Kuala Lumpur-born designer, who has been in the industry since the early 2000s, worked on the blueprints for a month. “We kind of had to rush things a little because Raya is now getting closer to other festive seasons like Christmas and Chinese New Year. So, we have to roll out the products fast,” he says.


Syomir has been in the industry since the early 2000s

One thing Syomir felt certain about the collection was he wanted to put the spotlight on Malaysia’s tropical climate. “Lately, it seems that designers have come up with clothes made using thick fabrics. It is obviously not suitable for our humidity. Why are we not appreciating our tropical weather when we make garments?

“Traditionally, clothes were smartly created to match the environment. Designers used to look at the silhouette and details like the sleeves to ensure they fit a particular function. I want to capture all that in a versatile manner.”

Made using mainly silky satin and blends of rayon and crepe, each of the 10 pieces in the collection — a mix of traditional and contemporary baju kurung, baju kebaya as well as dresses — is named after tropical flora: Bakawali, Jasmine, Dahlia, Laurel, Mussaenda, Kantan, Orkid, Begonia, Neela and Teratai. Syomir’s favourite is Dahlia, a short, fitted classic kebaya with embroidery detailing paired with a front pleat pencil skirt in contrasting print.

“Although the clothes are sold in a set, you are free to style them however you want. You can mix and match the top and bottom with existing outfits.” For instance, Bakawali, a high-neck, long top with waist tulip cuffed sleeves, which comes with a front fold skirt, can be worn as a short dress on its own.


Bashra in vibrant orange

Many years after the launch of his namesake label, established in 2015, Syomir’s penchant for vibrant and lively designs continues to be seen in his work. The Oolalla Tropika cherishes the brand’s DNA, as it comes in 10 variants with different silhouettes and colours to suit a wide range of needs and styles. Some of the easily spotted shades are blush pink, cobalt blue, royal blue, turquoise, orange, green parakeet, black and white.

“I wanted to show ways to create harmony between contrasting pieces. That’s why you can see that some combos boast very distinctive patterns between the top and bottom,” he says.

In the past, the label offered XS size but dropped the option for Oolalla Tropika, as Syomir observed that his patrons are largely local and XS is often not suitable for a modest look. “Most of our customers are big-boned anyway, so we want to support them lah.”

The collection is intended to celebrate female friendships and the great feelings you have when you are with your best girlfriends. Having said that, the brand targets those from their mid-20s to 60s for its Oolalla Tropika pieces. “Sometimes, mother and daughter wear the same design but they style it differently and that is very interesting to see. On top of honouring friendship, we hope these clothes can also highlight mother-daughter relationships because our mum can be our good friend too.”


The pieces are made using mainly silky satin and blends of rayon and crepe

Besides ready-to-wear items, the label is also making custom deluxe garments for its Raya Lux Bespoke collection called Nizwa. Nizwa, an ancient city in Oman, was once a centre of trade, religion, education and art in the country.

During his 20-day exploration trip to Oman, Syomir was mesmerised by its beauty, and every corner triggered his creative juices. From the majestic dunes of the desert to the intricate architecture of palaces and forts, he incorporated these elements that make up one of the world’s most beautiful countries into his creations.

“Exploring Oman, especially Nizwa, was transformative experience for me. I wanted to capture the essence of this charming land in my collection, offering clients an opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of Omani culture while celebrating the joyous occasion of Raya,” he explains.

The Nizwa collection comprises seven meticulously curated looks, each paying homage to the Bedouin heritage, breathtaking landscapes and the rich history of Oman. Materials such as French lace, crepe chiffon, heavy crepe satin and intricate embellishments have been thoughtfully selected to reflect the essence of luxury and elegance synonymous with Syomir’s designs.

This article first appeared on Feb 26, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.


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