Ok, ready? Chin up, chin down. Nice! 

Standing still under the blazing sun, a male model is seen all-composed and ready to strike a pose while donning a modest fashion piece.

Image: Fazizul Haqimie

Just a few feet away, Zulhelmi Kamaluddin is seen focused while directing the editorial photoshoot right in the middle of a lush green backyard, which concept is centred on breaking boundaries.

On any given day, the creative director manages a team of five or more people performing tasks involving photography, talent and fashion.

Image: Fazizul Haqimie

Despite having a humble team, often times the outcome of his projects turned out great and of quality, landing them a variety of fashion and lifestyle campaigns.

Although it may seem like he executes his craft with ease, it was not a smooth climb for him since he first started in 2015. 

The birth and growth of 1001 brand

The self-made creativepreneur is an avid supporter of local and regional artists and music, which led him to start a personal blog covering content on entertainment.

What was seen as a hobby in the past years is realised into a professional venture; he now has a website and social media platforms under his label “1001”.

What was seen as a hobby in the past years is realised into a professional venture; he now has a website and social media platforms under his label “1001”.

Fast forward two years later, Zulhelmi expanded his interest and delve into a larger market when he continued his studies to Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

That was also when he noticed the fashion scene in Brunei started to grow, giving him the opportunity to further bridge the fashion worlds of Brunei and Kuala Lumpur.

“We had many local budding designers who got invited to fashion shows in KL. That was when we figured out that we should also include fashion to the list of creative talents that we want to showcase in our brand,” said the 28-year-old.

In the same year, Zulhelmi and his team decided to rename their initial brand to “1001 Magazine” a refreshed identity that gives recognition and confidence among fashion enthusiasts and designers.

“When we started, we were called 1001 Bintang, focusing more on stories of artists and when I moved to KL I got exposed to the fashion industry there,” he added.

He further said that “1001” was previously said as “seribu satu” (one thousand and one) and today it is pronounced as “ten-o-one”.

Image: Fazizul Haqimie

Zulhelmi further admitted that, after the name change, the reception was positive. 

“When we network, people understood easily compared to saying 1001 Bintang which took effort to explain, making people lose interest. When we told them 1001 Magazine, the response was positive and immediate… so it is easier compared to the previous name,” said the creative director.

Talking about the meaning behind “1001”, he said that it represented their dreams, to push themselves beyond boundaries and without limits.

“It is also our vision too; to push Bruneian brands to be on par with others if not better. I do believe we have talents and that we can also do what others are doing. Perhaps we may not have the opportunity and platform,” he added.

Today, 1001 label is known as 1001 Agency with 1001 Models and 1001 Magazine under its helm, establishing them as a media and talent company.

Keeping up with 1001

 When talking about the label, 1001 is synonymous with celebrities, talent, entertainment and fashion, since its birth in 2015.

In terms of staying relevant in the local scene, it is crucial for the company to have a firm presence right from the beginning and for 1001, they emphasised their branding.

“That is our number one. Besides that, we continued to keep on producing, creating and innovating. Do not remain stagnant,” he said.

“For the past years, we never repeat the same thing because the creative scene in Brunei is quite small. We need to adapt to changes and that’s what people should do and must not feel comfortable for long.”

Moreover, being an entrepreneur is never without trials and tribulations. One of the common things that Zulhelmi and his team face is finance, apart from convincing stakeholders.

“We do face difficulty on how to convince people, persuading that our talents deserved to be paid in order to sustain in this industry. That was what also led us to start this business,” he said.

In the beginning, he added, it was about convincing people on who they are and what they do. 

“We got rejected by designers and they told us to seek elsewhere. But then it is really learning from our mistakes. When we got rejected, we asked ourselves where we could go wrong, perhaps we are not good enough and from there we learned,” shared the creative director.

Currently, 1001 Agency has over 31 male and female models and talents as well as a cohort of makeup artists, photographers, filmmakers and stylists.

Resilience is key

1001 Agency’s rejection back in 2017 did not deter their spirit and thanks to that, they progressed without a hitch.

During that time, when they wanted to do an editorial shoot, they made a brave move to loan some outfit from a renowned Malaysian designer which ended up in frustration.

“Their response was quite harsh towards us and we wondered what we did wrong. For us, we had a professional approach and that was when we realised that branding is really important,” said Zulhelmi, adding that they secured a bigger designer after that.

Image: Fazizul Haqimie

Moreover, he noted that both creative and fashion scenes are quite small and new in Brunei albeit mushrooming.

“If you just limit yourselves within Brunei, then the chances to grow or expand can be small too. Nowadays with social media we too can have access (to information) from outside,” he added.

The creative director shared that aspiring creatives must be original and not be afraid to express themselves.

“Don’t get discouraged by others who belittle you, others may not see what you see,” he concluded.

THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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