With a love for design from a young age, the path of having an independent business came easy for Abdul Hafiz Hj Asli.
With years of creative experience from an internship at one of the largest fashion brands in Malaysia to taking courses at Institut Teknologi Indonesia (ITI) combined with an eye for detail, the aspiring designer is well on his way to achieving his dreams of having his own fashion empire.
Five years into his business heavybeads_by_hafizhasli, the 31-year-old shared the process behind his work and inspiration.
Growing up, Hafiz has always been a creative individual surrounded by family members who are either in the creative industry or are immersed in hobbies related to art.
That made it natural for him to take art and design classes in high school where he decided to focus particularly on textile and patterns.
But it was only in university that he started beading after learning from a family member and taking inspiration from reality TV fashion shows such as America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway and the likes.
“My first piece of hand embroidery was for my mother and that was the beginning of everything.”
With other family members requesting for his services and as news of his work spread through word of mouth, he started posting completed pieces on his Instagram account @heavybeads_by_hafizhasli.
“I slowly got noticed with requests to bead baju kurung or traditional Malay dress.”
As time went by, orders started piling up to bead not just traditional garment, but wedding dresses and even shoes for special occasions.
Despite having a large following on Instagram of 10.8 thousand, Hafiz still wanted to ensure to complete his studies and took a degree in Creative Art Technology at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).
“The business itself wasn’t going to sustain me and I also wanted to become an art teacher.”
That didn’t stop the aspiring designer to acquire more knowledge to improve his business and applied to carry out his Discovery Year in Malaysia and Indonesia.
In Malaysia, he took an internship with fashion duo Rizman Ruzaini where he learned not just intricate details on beading and embellishments but the concept of being a fashion designer.
“It was important for me to be exposed to different scenes particularly as the fashion industry is so huge in Malaysia.”
Whereas in Indonesia, Hafiz experienced a more academic approach through fashion forecasting and fashion research courses.
“I learned that they do it differently in Malaysia and Indonesia where you’re only designing and work with a group of tailors. In Brunei, you have to know how to design and sew.”
Whilst these are an important combination to have, said Hafiz, he would still prefer to focus ultimately on design.
“With beading, I am both the designer and sewer. The former is more my passion and favourite part as it gives me freedom to express my vision and aesthetics.”
The growth and process
Hafiz shared that annually, he saw a steady growth to his business despite operating on a part-time basis.
“Although the increase isn’t substantial but it’s enough to keep us busy particularly during the festive seasons,” he said, adding that he employed his cousin to assist.
In a month, Heavy Beads gets an average of five clients but during festive seasons like Hari Raya, he would receive an influx of orders.
“We’d get up to 30 orders which is a lot as each piece takes awhile to construct and design each piece as everything is done from scratch.”
Hafiz explained that bead work on a baju kurung or Malay traditional dress takes seven to 10 days depending on the designs.
“Most of the time, customers would choose a specific design and we would embellish them to suit the dress.”
For sleeve work on both sides, Hafiz said it starts from $60 meanwhile bead work on a dress would start from $70.
Meanwhile customers who request both sleeve and dress work be charged starting from $100.
“Some customers would give me a certain budget and that makes it easier for us to work on.”
For wedding dresses, designs would start from $200 and take two weeks to complete due to the more intricate designs.
Shoe embellishments are easier, said Hafiz and would take a week to complete costing from $50 for front and back, respectively.
Apart from beading, the aspiring designer additionally designs motifs for traditional woven cloths.
“I design (motifs) from scratch taking from traditional designs and manipulating them to create fresh one of a kind patterns,” said Hafiz.
Motifs range from $150 and can go up to $300-400 depending on the intricacy of the designs.
“For anything I create, I would usually incorporate an element from our culture such as our national flower – the Bunga Simpur.”
“It’s important for me to do this as it sets us apart from other motif designs from our neighbouring countries.”
With extensive knowledge in motifs, he had been invited to participate in various textile exhibitions in the country and around the region.
This includes the Wastra Borneo Exhibition 2015; ASEAN Textile, Fashion Design and Exhibition 2016 and 6th ASEAN Traditional Textile Symposium in 2017.
“It’s been an honour to attend these events as I get to see a plethora of designs and inspires me to create more,” he said, adding that he takes inspiration from architectural buildings such as mosques and social media platforms, Pinterest and Instagram.
Although his business currently runs on a part-time basis, Hafiz who is currently a teaching apprentice in art, hopes to go full-time after retirement.
“I’ve always wanted to be a fine art teacher and for now I will be pursuing that dream.
I’m still young and have a lot to learn so once I retire, I will turn Heavy Beads full-time.”
“In the meantime, I can save up for a physical store and hopefully build an empire from there,” he shared, following the likes of his fashion inspirations Rizman Ruzaini, Elie Saab, Alexander McQueen, Zac Posen and Christian Siriano.
The budding designer hopes to one day integrate modern and traditional designs to adapt to the ever-changing fashion industry.
“Whilst I love the traditional designs that we have here, I would also love to see fusion as I feel it would make our designs stand out more.”
“Over the past few years, there has already been a growth with local designers printing their own designs on headscarves to making ready-to-wear pieces. I’m looking forward to see that evolve,” added the art teacher.
Hafiz said that heavybeads_by_hafizhasli has also received collaboration offers from various local companies.
“At the moment, we’re in the works to do a collaboration with a well-known brand. I’m excited to see how it will turn out.”
He aims to establish more partnerships in the future, adding, “We need to support the local industry and if working together can propel it, then more of it should be done.”
Hafiz encourages those with similar dreams to start small and slowly build up.
“I’m thankful I started this journey and hope it will inspire others to start. Yes it is going to be tough managing your time, but it is definitely worth it when you’re doing something you love.”
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN