By Ian McIntyre

FROM the humble beginnings in chaperoning at public and entertainment events, Ipoh-based entrepreneur Louis Sebastian has often dreamed about having an event which can bring together the fellow Perakians whom he has shares much camaraderie.

He saw the coming together of the state’s fashion fraternity, as one event which can best capture the state capital of Perak.

After all, the Ipoh lasses were regarded by reputation as among the fairest in the land.

On top of it, Ipoh-born beauty queen Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh was already making waves as an international celebrity in Hong Kong and now Hollywood.

Louis can count Malaysia’s first-ever Oscar winner Yeoh’s mother Datin Janet Yeoh, as among those in town, who continue to support Louis in his endeavor.

Louis speaking to the audience at the gala dinner.

He thought that having another pageantry, would not have captured the innovations and design talents which the state had to offer, as it was just about the beauties.

So, he came up with a fashion show, which brought together not just Ipoh’s fair maiden models but the local designers, mass media, marketers and government officials.

“But it should have an international flavour,” he enthused.

Louis Sebastian (second from right) with the dignitaries at the fashion week.

And went people strut on the catwalk, there is a supporting crew of hair stylists, wardrobe specialists, and audio visual system technicians.

It was a tough going initially, as there was a sharp rebuke by some respondents in view that Ipoh has a logistic nightmare.

It is located centrally between the northern region’s biggest economy in Penang and the nation’s biggest money generation centre at the Klang Valley.

Visitors tend to see the former tin mine colony as a place to transit for a few hours before resuming their journey either up north or down south.

And to have an international stature was rather a lofty idea.

But Louis entranced both the tourism planners and the private sector that Ipoh has all the makings of a cottage-size beauty industry, enough to be a crowd puller for the town.

“We just strive on and never took no lying down,” he said.

With his wife Adeline Khan by his side, Louis rode through the chorus of objections and doubters and in the past two-years, his fashion show, which just began as a solitary hi-tea event in a meeting room, is now a mega tourism-related event in Ipoh.

It took close to five years of patience to see the fruitarian of his efforts – his lesson is simply to never give up despite the wonton criticism.

In December, Louis scored another first, as the fashion fraternity from the Klang Valley, who organises pageantry almost every month decided to participate in what is now called the International Ipoh Fashion Week.

Perennial fashion promoter and local judge Francis Yip brought in his team of experts to grace the event where he underscored the importance of each state having their own fashion event styled after the uniqueness of each state.

“It drives creativity and innovation, especially on designs. We have many talented Malaysian designers and tailors so why not just do it in each state.”

Yip paid tribute to Louis unrelenting convictions that fashion can be a buzz not just for the beauty elements but the spillover it can generate for tourism.

Fashion expert, Francis Yip shows his stuff.

The event has become a top-notch glittering event with the Raja Permaisuri Perak Darul Ridzuan Tuanku Zara Salim among those in attendance.

Her Royal Highness also brought an extended entourage of royalties to grace the event at the Royal Perak Golf Club.

The wife of Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Saarani Mohamad, Datin Seri Aezer Zubin was also in attendance as was state tourism, industry, investments and corridor development committee chairman Loh Sze Yee.

The event also raised funds for the Paediatric Department of Hospital Sri Manjung and district specialist hospitals within Perak.

“If you have a closet full of clothes but not a single thing to wear, perhaps you just need some inspiration. The enchanting city of Ipoh, known for its rich heritage and culinary delights, is delighted to once again play host to one of the most glamorous and stylish events on the fashion calendar—the International Ipoh Fashion Week,” said Louis.

Being a founder is never an easy task.

“We started this journey in 2017 and have worked tirelessly to establish ourselves on a global scale. Today, we have followers from 87 countries on our website, which reflects the growing interest in our work. It is not just a fashion event; it’s a celebration of diversity and creativity in the world of fashion.”

For last year, there was a charity black-tie royal gala dinner followed by a public street fashion showcase along Jalan Bandar Timah the next morning and a finale of new fashion at the Lumut Naval Town Waterfront Maritime the next day.

The event attracted also Malaysian veteran crooner Datuk D.J. Dave, who serenaded the audience with evergreen hits.

Loh told the audience that with a two-pronged objective of showcasing Perak’s homegrown fashion talents globally and at the same time welcoming the world to explore the Wonders of Perak, this event has boosted tourist arrivals.

He took the opportunity to invite tourists at the event to take in the state’s culture, food, and popular tourism products.

Perak has many of the right ingredients to succeed in its Visit Perak Year 2024 campaign, he said.