He created and produced designs for the likes of the Hollywood elites and socialites; Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, and Paris Hilton were just the few names that we could manage to crack from him. With countless designs and collections for the unveiling of fashion weeks around the world, his name resonates in the fashion industry. All the way in Ampang, KL, Polaris Vega’s editors talked to Amir Kadir about fashion, life lessons and weddings?
POLARIS VEGA: Let’s go back in time, Amir. Tell us about you. Who is Amir Kadir?
AMIR KADIR: I started in Malaysia and produced designs for Malaysian artists such as Dato’ Sri Siti Nurhaliza just to name a few. Then I migrated to Kuwait and Dubai. I got a whole lot more exposure while I was overseas where I got to create and produce designs for the likes of the Hollywood elites; Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, and Paris Hilton were a few of them.
POLARIS VEGA: Was there a moment growing up where you saw yourself becoming a famous designer?
AMIR KADIR: I’m a human being and a normal person at that. I don’t carry myself too high and I don’t carry myself too low, I am what I am. As someone in the fashion industry, I follow the flow. If there are people willing to share their knowledge about fashion, I will join them, in fact, I would love to join them. And for those who are just starting, and who want to learn more about fashion, I will guide them and share my knowledge with them. For me, that’s the rhythm of being a fashion designer, not hiding in the sky or too low in the deep ocean.
POLARIS VEGA: Fashion as an industry is a really complicated idea. They’re always evolving. One minute is this trend and suddenly, not a moment too soon, a new trend sets in. How do you keep up with them?
AMIR KADIR: Truthfully, in Malaysia, we are not up to date with the latest fashion trends because we are 10 years backdated from the fashion trends of the real world. And what’s sad about Malaysia’s fashion industry is the fact that those in the know use the method of cut and paste. They would copy from some sources and then feel like it’s theirs and that makes me upset.
But if you ask me how we cope with trends and designers, I’ll say it depends on the customers because it’d be useless if you were to create a new trend and nobody buys it. So, the best is to follow the trend based on what the customers want. Ready-to-wear brands such as Zara are creating an era for fashion trends. Sure, they sell what customers want, but they try to introduce new trends like colours, designs, and materials. So, if you’re a ready-to-wear designer, remember you are designing for customers and you want them to buy your ideas.
POLARIS VEGA: Seeing the trends nowadays, it reminded us of the retro era. Why do you think fashion reverts back to the 80s?
AMIR KADIR: The thing is, designers want to go far, their imagination knows no bounds with no place to hide, but when it comes to practicality? Sometimes, you imagine something as very nice but it isn’t. It could be these are the same people who came up with the idea that “this is a trend for 2026” but, it’s not practical and you cannot wear it. This is only imaginative of course. There’s always a reason why in a fashion show, for example, the last thing to walk down the runway is a masterpiece that’s creative and imaginative.
Youngsters like you guys never had the chance to see fashion designs being absorbed into the latest designs but for us oldies, we would say “Omigod, this is the third time I’ve seen this” but for “senior” designers, whatever you think is the latest trend, it’s a definite no from us. This is because we study fashion especially, and are in tune with the fashion changes that happen every year. Bell bottoms, baby doll cuts, we all know they’re backdated trends that are given new life in this era.
Fashion trends are set by designers and artists, and if you notice each brand has its distinctive styles and secrets. They also have their in-house designers which will study and seek inspiration, so every time a fashion week rolls around, these designers will delve deep into what inspired them to come out with the designs, which would then be translated into words by journalists and reporters, and once people see it and like it, they will try and copy it. The moment people start to copy it, it becomes a trend since they like it so much.
POLARIS VEGA: Is fashion school a must?
AMIR KADIR: I believe so, yes. If you were to take a doctor for example, for you to become one, you need to go to medical school and gain your beautiful knowledge there. It doesn’t work if you just play by the ears or just by experience. When you start designing, sure it’s good that you’re creating something for yourself but at the same time, it’s not good because you lack the knowledge. Experience can come later but knowledge is very important.
POLARIS VEGA: Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey, Paris Hilton, and Dato’ Sri Siti Nurhaliza are the few big names that you’ve designed for. Looking back on your career, did you feel that it was a big accomplishment or was it just another normal day for you?
AMIR KADIR: To be frank, it’s a significant achievement for me. The first day when I was given the assignment, I couldn’t sleep for a week because it was such a big assignment, and the whole time, I questioned whether the world would accept my design or not. Can I even do it? But as I got through the first and second stages and received more of the same assignments, I kind of got immuned to it. For me, it became something exciting because after this, what’s next? Nowadays, I don’t care about all that as deep in my heart there’s one achievement in my life that many people don’t have the opportunity to achieve, which is experience.
Even now in fashion schools around Malaysia like UITM and Lim Kok Wing, the students study the history of fashion, and Alhamdulillah, one of the designers that they studied in the syllabus is Amir Kadir, the first Malaysian designer that designed for Hollywood celebrities. However, I don’t feel like you need to bow to me or anything, as I did it for Malaysia and myself as well.
POLARIS VEGA: You’ve been doing really well whilst you were far from home. Why did you decide to leave that life to come back to Malaysia?
AMIR KADIR: It’s very personal, I had an accident whilst I was overseas and I was hospitalised for about six to eight months. The doctor told me that if I continued to be stressed all the time, the likelihood of me being paralysed was very high; so, it was a choice between being paralysed or getting to live a normal and healthy life, so I chose the latter; I chose myself, and I decided to come back home.
Not many people realise that this field of work is very exerting. You must sit and come up with new ideas, you must think about creating something that has not been seen before; the only one in the world. It’s not easy.
After the accident, I was left shaken, and stress was one of the biggest contributors, however, at the same time, I had to think about my age as well. I migrated quite late, not the typical age of 25 or even 15; if I had, maybe I could have prolonged my stay and gained more experience. But I’m getting older and at a certain age, I can’t do the things that I used to do when I was younger. So, I chose to be what I am now and I don’t regret it because God has shown me the way and that’s why I’m here now, but of course, the experience is something that cannot be bought. Compared to some local designers who don’t have the experience I had, I dare say, I feel proud of myself as I’ve been on an international level and that’s something that not many can achieve. Syukur Alhamdulillah.
POLARIS VEGA: Do you miss the life?
AMIR KADIR: Of course. Over there, I travel a lot whereas over here I’m stuck. Almost every day, every weekend, I would travel to clients’ places. One minute I would take the car or the bus to Dubai, the next minute I’d be in Qatar, before leaving for Bahrain and then to Oman. And it’s no surprise since I must personally deliver these dresses to my clients. And you have to know that some dresses especially for their weddings can range from half a million to a million ringgit, hence the personal delivery. That was the reason why I loved and enjoyed my time abroad because the moment you know they’re wearing your designs you’re just omigod wow. Unfortunately, there aren’t any photos because it’s all hush-hush and we cannot deliver photos to the public. But to me, that’s one of the things I enjoyed the most in being a designer that’s different from the rest.
POLARIS VEGA: What do you do now?
AMIR KADIR: What am I doing now? Right now, I’m sitting and after this, I’m going to stand (laughs). Well basically, in Malaysia, I’ve lost myself because once you go abroad it changes you, hence why when I came back, I was like, omigod what should I do now? For me, my market has always been international, particularly the likes of Dubai and such. You just have to organise fashion shows, network, and maintain at least five customers per year and you’re good to go. Over here though, you have to compete with up-and-coming designers who lack the basics of fashion or those whose fashion icons are only celebrities. They design one article of clothing, wear it, and voila, this is the new fashion trend when it’s not. Honestly, all these clothing designs are a copy from somewhere, some even date to 10 or 12 years back but the trend has only started here. But for me, appearance is not important, it’s how you carry yourself. Fashion is not the clothes, it’s you.
Going back to what I’m doing now, I recently got an invitation to Bangkok Fashion Week but I’m not keen at the moment. Like I said earlier, I’ve lost myself. I feel like I’ve lost the rhythm to design and I feel like I’ve downgraded myself. Being back in Malaysia, I have not created a single design where previously I would churn out forty different creations for fashion shows. All those creations fit the international mould, but back here, who’s going to buy them? I design something and then what? That’s the reason why I closed my mind and chose to conduct classes instead to share my knowledge with those who are interested. If they wish to carry it further then Alhamdulillah, if not then that’s the end of the road. Full stop.
Truth be told, the only people that have ever “seen” me are those from outside, not even my fellow countrymen. It’s just like Yuna. You go outside, become successful, and when you come back, what will become of you? People won’t respect you for that. That’s me. I’m not welcomed here. Outsiders respect me more than the locals because these people feel threatened by your presence. I don’t care about them because if I join them, what will I get in return? That’s why I prefer to be by myself and that’s why I keep on saying that I’ve lost myself upon returning here. Which direction shall I go next? So, for now, I play by the ears according to what the customers want only. This is me.
POLARIS VEGA: What life lesson can you share with us?
AMIR KADIR: Talking about fashion, my advice for youngsters is if you’re creative, go ahead and learn as much as you can. If fashion is your passion, try to learn from those with the knowledge. Don’t simply play with your talents without knowledge. To be a fashion designer, you need skills and a proper school then you can create the illusion or creativity that you are trying to deliver. You will learn a great deal about the rhythm, colours, materials, and all the things that will blend into one design. It’s like cooking. You need all the ingredients to make a perfect dish. If a design is smooth and blends seamlessly, you know that this is because it comes from individuals who have the knowledge and not those who go in blindly. My advice is to gain knowledge to be a professional, or whatever you feel is right. Don’t be scared to create something that says this is who I am. Just go, follow the flow, don’t be scared, and don’t just follow people and be a copycat. Fashion won’t grow that way.
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