Spotlight on fashion guru

They wanted the parade of evening gowns and dresses to be the centre of attention.

But at the International Academy of Fashion and Design student show in Sungei Wang Plaza, it was Annie Wong, the academy’s principal, who stole the show. It may have been her red lace pantsuit — Wong is not called the Couture Queen for nothing.

But when you’re known as Datuk Bernard Chandran’s teacher, it’s hard to keep a low profile.

Wong remembers Bernard, her star student, well.

“He came out and faced them and said, ‘You can laugh, but one day fashion is going to make me very rich’,” recalled Wong with a satisfied smile.

Wong remembered having to deal with parents who felt their children were being frivolous for wanting to be in the fashion industry.

“I tell them to look at who is taking up the priciest lots in the Bukit Bintang area.

“In Pavilion Kuala Lumpur and Sungei Wang Plaza, who is at the ground floor and front windows? Fashion!” pointed out Wong.

Her students said Wong is the type to go straight to the point.

“On the first day of class, she wanted us to make an evening gown,” revealed Mohd Farizan Abd Nasir, 29.

Mohd Farizan dreamt of becoming a fashion designer since age 15.

But his family wanted him to be a doctor. He quit before completing his housemanship.

“I am happy now. I love what I am doing. I can stay up all night sewing sequins but it doesn’t feel like work,” he said.

Only three months into his course, Mohd Farizan had produced four pieces for the show, including evening wear.

“In other schools, only the seniors are allowed to take part in a fashion show. Here, everyone gets to join in,” he said.

Sri Nur Suria Atikah Lasim, who showed a bridal dress, said the hands-on experience would be useful for small-time entrepreneurs like her. Suria has a home-based business making wedding dresses in Negeri Sembilan.

She wants to launch her own brand of babywear, baju kurung and baju kebaya after Hari Raya.

“I don’t have time to spend the first year learning history and such.

“I want to learn how to make my clothes in the shortest time so I can make money fast,” she said.

Wong is also a tough cookie, revealed Roshni Abraham, a housewife and mother of two taking classes at the school.

As staff and students worried over her recovery after brain surgery last year, Wong surprised everyone when she popped into work only eight days after the operation.

“I am happy to see my customers look beautiful,” said Wong on what keeps her going.

The multiple award winner continues to conduct master classes at her school.

Students confirm she knows each and every one of them by name.

Every summer, she travels to Paris to teach.

She is also planning to open a new boutique, hopefully in Sunway, and it will carry her signature evening dresses.

She has confessed many times she does not need to work.

Her son is the head of a bank and she is well taken care of. But fashion is her love and her life.

“I never think about retiring. I still think like a young student, you know,” said Wong.

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