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Peter Lum – Inspiring and Creative in Many Ways

An inspiring personality with many diverse talents, Peter Lum is a highly respected and well-known face in the fashion and style industry. His vast knowledge, expertise and years of experience are hard to rival. Wise-Mag caught up with him for interesting insights on his creative work and life. Read on to learn more about him.

Peter Lum – portrait photographed by Corey for KLFW2023 (photo credit: KLFW2023)

You have come a full circle and have started designing again. Your Chinese New Year collection and the collection showcased at Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week are lovely. Could you share how that makes you feel?

Peter:  I have always considered fashion as my first love.  I have been fascinated and enchanted by fashion through watching how my parents were dressed in the late 60s.  No, there were no designer labels or such for them then.  They wore made-to-order pieces and such.  But I was already enthralled.  Coming back to fashion was something I had always wanted to do later in my life as a hobby or art form, but I never expected to return so quickly and unplanned due to the super extended long MCOs (which had forced my Media Relations Agency into a hiatus for over 3-years).  I really needed something to do before going crazy from boredom.

TWILIGHT BLOSSOM – Aqua blue floral ribbon embroidered fine net cheongsam inspired
dress with bias satin slip.

Do you feel that the way you design now is different from what you used to do?

Peter: I have always enjoyed sketching and drawing and have been doing so all this time. Only now I actually transfer them from sketches and ideas to actual apparel and garments. Of course, trends come and go, but I have always tried to create apparel that are not based on trends or flavours of the moment, but are more classic, timeless and wearable.

Do you enjoy styling or designing more?

Peter:  In fact, I see them hand-in-hand as nothing in fashion has never been done before, we are merely remixing and re-styling trends and styles from the past and tweaking them through our own vision and applying our unique aesthetic to the design.  I still enjoy both approaches.

THE ROMPER & THE CAPE – Capelet in Protea flower print cotton by Jocelyn Proust,
paired with cotton romper with sash.

What advice would you give to new aspiring designers?

Peter:  The best advice given to me when I first started, would still be the same words I would use today. “Learn to draft and cut the patterns, learn to sew up the garments you have in your mind and now again, learn to eat a little humble pie”. Quite often our dreams and ego get the better of us and we think we have re-invented the wheel with our designs … but what we more than likely have done was just to rework something somebody somewhere else had done before!  Learning to draft, cut and sew was something my design teacher, the late Andy Chiew, along with my maternal Grandmother advised me to learn (and learn well!) as they are the building blocks to a successful garment.

ORCHID DRESS – Orchid Shantung asymmetrical hem dress, STYLED BY PETER LUM.

Could you give us a brief history of how you have evolved over the years? How you started and how it is now?

Peter:  I first entered into the volatile world of fashion in the late 80s, I just finished a dressmaking course and suddenly I had gathered a nice handful of clients who would have me design their wedding dresses and dinner dresses.  I suppose the time was right for me to do over-the-top as that was the norm for the 80s.  Business was good. I had a couple of sewists, a cutter and a good following of clients.  In 94, I joined the MODA Young Designer’s Contest. Unfortunately, I did not win, but I suppose I was lucky enough to have my works heavily featured in many local magazines, especially, Her World, where I managed to get my first magazine cover with Tengku Azura (her first ever cover) wearing my dress!  More magazines and newspaper coverage came.  But there was always something haunting me through my early career … fashion mavens of the time all said that my designs were still lacking “commercial value”. Back in those days, there was no chance to “go online” to find out.  

In mid-95, I stepped away from my own label and started to work at Metrojaya as a Designer Executive, later Buyer and then Senior Buyer and honed my knowledge of “commercial viability”.  During my tenure there, my GM offered me a chance to spread my wings and explore the world of PR.  I knew nothing about PR!  But under the leadership and guidance of my A&P Department Head, Ms Susan Low, I learnt!  I will never trade my years at Metrojaya for anything!  They helped make me who I am today and I will always be grateful to my amazing bosses, colleagues and teammates there.  

After leaving MJ at the end of 99, in the new millennium, I plunged myself deep into styling.  I worked for most of the leading titles including Her World, Malaysian Women’s Weekly, FHM, Marie Claire and many more.  I managed to work on so many productions on 8TV and at the same time build up my micro boutique PR Agency with some of the most prestigious brand names in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle until suddenly the global pandemic hit…

How has becoming older been beneficial to you, personally and also professionally?

Peter:  I guess maybe age has mellowed me out, having been through the high and horrible lows in my life. Personally, I do not mind ageing, but sadly my body does not behave like how it was before and I do get tired and lethargic easily.  Professionally, I think that there is so much more I wish and hope to improve on and achieve and I am trying every day to be a better man and be better in all I do.

What is your philosophy in life? Has it changed over the years?

Peter:  I am an open book. I enjoy working and learning.  I enjoy challenging my own creativity and am always willing and open to learning more.  

You do PR work … is this something you are also passionate about? How do you feel this industry has changed over the years?

Peter:  I enjoy communicating with others and helping to share the information my clients wish to share about their brand/products/services!  Working with clients to come up with a newer or sharing with them a new angle for their project and bringing it all to fruition is massively satisfying. The industry has changed so much!  Before, Editors and Journalists were so respected and their writing skills were such a treat to read along with their sharp command of the language.  With the rise of influencers, most brands are even going out of their way to appease them and sidelining the traditional media, be it digital now.  I really am trying to move with the times, but I cannot help to continue with my respect and regard for journalists who actually write!

FLIRT – Midnight Blue Cotton Elastane Sateen cocktail dress with matching Shantung bubble

Who inspires you the most?

Peter:  Hmmm…?  Too many amazing people!  While I guess, in fashion, there is inevitably the great Coco Chanel – she revolutionised so much in fashion, Christobal Balenciaga for his approach to shape and manipulation of fabric, Christian Dior for his contrast to Chanel. Personally, I think that a person that inspired me the most has got to my maternal grandmother.  My Granny was not educated but she taught herself to read and write in Chinese.  She could speak fluently in most local dialects. She even taught herself to cut and sew and even carpentry!  She was never a good cook but she never allowed me to ever go hungry.  She was a miser but she was super generous with her love and teaching to me.  I lost her in 1999, but her love, her words and her teachings are still with me every day. I miss her dearly.

How do you keep yourself motivated when things get tough?

Peter:  I try and I try!  Of course there are days I want to give it all up and run away,  but there is usually nowhere to run to (especially with the prices of things nowadays). So I dry up the tears and suck it all in and put a brave front and try to march on.  It’s really not easy, but I guess life itself is not easy.

CINNABAR – Scarlet red cotton elastane sateen sheath with Chinese collar with red lace
over black sateen waist panels.

What are your plans for the future?

Peter:  Short term, I hope to be able to get my PR Agency up and running with good clients again and also to keep on with my fashion line and garner more clientele.  Long term, I really wish I can slow down, breathe and still enjoy life a little with financial stability and less worries.

We feel that people are still in their prime after they reach the age of 50 and more. Would you agree with us?

Peter:  Yes!  I do agree!  I think that in our youth, we are idealistic and walked around with a bloated ego. In the middle parts of our lives, we live and learn, grow and have our egos cut down to size and when we reach 50s, we may seem a little more rounded in terms of life experience and knowledge.

JUMPING SPOTS – Black and while georgette crepe wide leg jumpsuit, wide fuchsia taffeta

What advice would you give for dressing/styling for people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s?

Peter: The most important is to know your unique body shape and how to use the correct apparel to enhance your assets and minimise the flaws.  Colours can also play an important role as wearing the wrong colours against your skin tone can make one look muddy and dull, while the right colours can brighten and amplify your innate beauty.

Let’s face it, so many times we fall victim to pop trends and social media styles. Just remind yourself to not be a tragic fashion victim. Taking a quote from Coco Chanel, “Dress shabbily and they will remember the dress, dress impeccably, they will remember the woman”.

How would you say your style of designing is different or unique from the others in the market?

Peter:  I guess to encapsulate my design style is that I try to create apparel that does not date … meaning timeless, updated classic, effortlessly chic and most importantly wearable and flattering to the wearer.

GRAPHIX – Graphic print cotton twill sheath dress with Chinese collar with black pipping

What do you wish to see in the world of design and fashion in our country?

Peter:  People who actually care about how they look!  And for more apparel that actually are beautifully wearable and not just viral-trendy. That would create another fashion monster – fashion waste – when we throw away bad, trendy for a minute low-quality clothes.  Lastly, for local shoppers to give local designers and homegrown brands a chance and not just be paying exorbitant amounts of mass produced luxury brands.   

Peter Lum always comes up with beautiful designs that flatter the women who wear them. His recent EAST 24 – a postmodernist CNY Collection from STYLED BY PETER LUM is really gorgeous and you will attract admiring stares if you wear the designs. If you own a creation from Peter Lum, you would have made a great choice.

For custom-order or enquiries, please reach Peter Lum at WhatsApp: +6012-730-0182.
Clients interested can visit their social media pages on IG or FB at: styledbypeterlum.
See what they like in the lookbook, drop them a DM or WhatsApp to book an appointment,
and they can bring the items to their location for a fitting or to place a customer-order for the items. Custom designs can be made exclusively for clients on request.

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