Dato’ Jovian Mandagie: Realistic and practical are key in designing

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Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

This article was first published on June 8, 2019 in our Weekly E-paper Issue 40


Dato’ Jovian Mandagie, the man behind the Malaysian fashion brand ‘Jovian Mandagie’ (JM), always keep his designs as practical as possible yet sophisticated and authentic.

For him, his collections are meant to be worn every day; an outfit that fits any occasion and lets you feel comfortable and confident in your own skin.

Being creative is secondary but knowing who your customers are and which market you cater to are crucial, according to the designer.

The Jovian Apparel Chief Executive Officer and Jovian Ready-To-Wear (RTW) Creative Director has been in the fashion industry for more than 10 years and penetrated four countries in the region; Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia – the Malay – Muslim market.

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“As much as you want to be overly creative, you need to find out what people would accept. If you over do it, people will not want to buy your products although they admire your creativity. You need to be realistic and practical in what you want to offer,” he said.

The customs and traditions of the Malay-Muslim culture, Dato’ Jovian added, play a role in determining the practicality of a design.

“We are so restricted with customs, for example, Muslimah brands that produce Muslimah dresses cannot go overboard with the designs… one must follow what has been practiced and done for the longest time. If you’re designing a baju kurung then make it look like one. If you don’t, then people will not buy them,” he said, adding there must be a balance.

Moreover, not all would favour his designs and for Dato’ Jovian, it is not a problem.

“You can tell me that my collection is boring well, that is fine but it (the design) is practical. It is what people would want to wear. I am in a fashion business and I cater to a lot of people. So, I can’t be overly creative and not that I am not. I believe I can do more but just that what we produce are meant for everyday wear,” he said.

He first introduced ready-to-wear pieces back in 2012 and it was well received by Bruneians – a success story that shows you can be creative and practical at the same time.

RTW pieces eliminate the hassle of going to the tailor as the clothes are easily available off-the-rack and customers do not pay a hefty price if compared to made-to-measure dresses.

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Dato’ Jovian, who has been tailoring dresses for royal family members for the past seven years, started off his brand in 2007 as a couture wear, producing high-end bespoke designs and today, he is a pioneer in RTW in the region.

Although it is not a Bruneian fashion label, it definitely has its own unique customer base in the local market for the Jovian RTW line, making it a go-to brand.

For catering the RTW clothing line in Brunei, the fashion has been working closely with a local fashion house Bajoo’ Boutique as its distribution partner before realising the much-anticipated annual event JBoxing Brunei.

Apart from ordering online and go to his physical stores in Malaysia, Dato’ Jovian came up with the idea of hosting JBoxing which was greatly inspired by London’s Boxing Day.

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“There was an overwhelming response when some 5000 people thronged our stores to get their hands on the RTW garment. I saw that as a problem because people were shopping with no system,” said the 33-year old designer who first held the event in 2012.

The annual event only came to Brunei in 2017 but his partnership with Bajoo’ has been for eight years.

Talking about the brand’s collaboration with the local boutique, Dato’ Jovian said that the fashion house has a good reputation and database.

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“When hosting an event, it can be quite tedious when it comes to planning and Bajoo’ is capable to overcome that. We believe that JM has its own followers but having to have local database from your partner means a lot,” he said.

Furthermore, the JM brand is certainly not new among fashion enthusiasts and need no introduction in the fashion industry.

Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Not only people love his clothing line and never a disappointment but they also look up to him as an inspiration design and create especially among creative entrepreneurs.

Dato’ Jovian in the previous JBoxing Brunei had the opportunity to mentor some local young talents in a workshop organised by Progresif Cellular.

“During the workshop, I shared with them my experience in the industry and my advice to them was that it goes back to being practical and relatable. I always advice newcomers to be creative but at the same realistic… by doing that, you will be able to sustain and sell,” he said.

Top participants from the workshop then had the opportunity to join the Malaysian designer at the Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week (KLFW), a huge fashion event where designers showcase new collections to potential buyers and the general public.

“I showed them the real business. You have to deal with real people and be real in whatever you are doing. You cannot be over creative that you can’t actually relate to people and can’t understand what you are trying to deliver,” said the fashion entrepreneur, complimenting that the young Bruneians are talented but need more exposure.

For him, in any businesses and industries, regardless of market size, there will always be challenges. It is important for one, he added, to be determined and to always pursue the dream.

“Whatever obstacles you may face, take it as a challenge for you to be better. But if you realised that it is not your place, you have to look elsewhere where you can actually do something for your career. Do not let the small problems stop you from being you,” said Dato’ Jovian, adding that designers must also understand commercial value.

The designer is not afraid of taking risks and always want to be competitive in order to be better.

During his student days, he looked at big designers such as Bernard Chandran and Melinda Looi on the stage of KLFW, aspiring to share the same runways with them.

“Alhamdullilah, we are on the same runway and in the same league. I can say that my pieces are bigger and it is all because of the hard work, risks and guts that I took,” concluded Dato’ Jovian.

The Bruneian