UiTM team’s trials and tribulations of designing Malaysian contingent’s Olympic outfit during lockdown

A complete lockdown and strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) did not stop the team at UiTM Shah Alam from completing their mission of producing a fresh take on a traditional design for the Malaysian contingent’s attire that was donned during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics yesterday.

UiTM Shah Alam lecturers Khairulazlan Abd Karim and Wazir Jahilan, and student Muhammad Fawwaz Mohd Fuat, created the outfit that was donned by 13 officials and national athletes – including flag bearers Lee Zii Jia and Goh Liu Ying.

National shuttlers Goh (left) and Lee in the outfit before the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony yesterday.

Khairulazlan and Wazir are lecturers at the university’s Art & Design Faculty (Fashion Department).

The outfit was inspired by legendary warrior Hang Tuah.

“After studying previous outfits, we wanted something different, not just batik or songket. The look and feel were inspired by what warriors like Hang Tuah wore, but we came out with a new design,” he said.

“Hang Tuah was faithful to the ruler and fought for the rakyat. That is the same ethos of the athletes.

“We hope they will show the same warrior spirit when they compete in Tokyo and bring back some medals – hopefully, gold.”

Khairulazlan said the team had been working on the project since the end of February and the final design was only approved in May.

“At the first meeting, we were told the outfits needed to be fresh, had to be a national costume and use the colours of the Jalur Gemilang.”

He said the team took three months to conceptualise and get the approval for the designs – he submitted several for consideration – and then had to work during the total lockdown the country was in from June 1.

“I could only take the measurements of those who would be in the march-past on May 31. The next day, the country was under a full lockdown,” said Khairulazlan.

“That made our job more challenging as garment factories, tailors and other non-essential businesses were closed.

“I had to reach out to several UiTM alumni to help us as we only had two weeks to complete the designs.”

Khairulazlan separated the team into four groups – Group A worked on the tanjak (headgear), Group B on the baju sikap (outer jacket), Group C on the baju Melayu and Group D on baju kurung.

After two weeks, he delivered the outfits to the National Sports Council.

“Due to the strict SOPs, I could not be close to the athletes and officials. As such, I had to make a video explaining how to do their fittings!

“It was a new experience for me. I like to think it was a learning experience for all those involved.

“After a week, I collected the outfits and made whatever alteration that was needed,” he added.

The ‘finished’ outfits were delivered to the athletes in the first week of July as those involved in the march-past left for Tokyo on July 19.

“There were some last-minute outfits as more names were added,” he said.

“My team and I were so excited to see them marching out with our design.

“We were in constant communication with the contingent, even though they are in Tokyo.

“We were still speaking to them on Friday. We wanted to make sure everything went smoothly.”

Khairulazlan said the feedback has been generally positive, although there were some who criticised the outfits.

“That is expected. No matter who designs an outfit, there would always be critics.

“We wanted to create something that catches the eye. We used geometric shapes as they symbolise unity. The triangle in the design by itself is nothing but, when combined or united with the colours and lines, shows unity.

“We are in the business of creativity. We did not want the same old boring look. We took a risk. We did not want to play safe. I think we did a good job.”

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