All Rise for Malan Breton: Designer, Director and UK Ambassador of the Arts
Malan Breton’s AW/17 collection launched as a multimedia experience at the Nokia Theatre in Madison Square Garden. It was an intricate, yet sensational display of diverse beauty, which concluded with a march of all women, leading us, in the words of Breton, “into a future of hope”. The script for this show has been optioned as a film, in a move which significantly marks Breton’s place at the very height of the fashion and film industries.
However, the Taiwanese-born designer and director does not stop there, as a chart-topper in France, a TV star in the US, a Goodwill Ambassador in Taiwan, and the Ambassador of the Arts in the UK. “I never look at anything as a challenge” shared Malan, who could also add Motivational Speaker to his list of traits.
“We are given many opportunities to learn in this world. I am learning so much in the many fields I am a part of”.
It seems that Malan Breton has a habit of intertwining his multiple talents alongside his spectacles of Fashion Week. While the success of his show in Midtown Manhattan affirmed Breton’s name as a force of fashion and film, he chose London soil to showcase his talents in the music world. “This past fashion week, we had a lovely afterparty at the Wellington Club in London, I released my first music single, Something Stupid that evening, which I performed live to the audience. It released a few weeks following and charted top ten on the same day in France”.
Despite performing his first single only this year, Malan Breton is by no means a stranger to the stage. After training in ballet and gracing the spotlight in Broadway, Breton was dancing long before he was professionally designing. In 1996, Malan was discovered as a model for the Versus Versace show, in a move which introduced him to fashion. However, as Malan shared, this venture did not feel entirely dissimilar from his theatrical roots, as he noted the interrelationship between the two industries:
“I remember an old quote that went something like this: ‘Fashion is Theatre!’ I think fashion affords us the opportunity to create our daily mood, our energy. When I look at the costumes which we have created for many network TV shows and theatre productions, I think of what mood the director might want to evoke. This is not unlike our own energy we put into the world”.
“A garment is powerful in how it makes a person feel, and how others see them”.
Since his break into fashion on the turn of the millennium, Malan Breton launched his eponymously named label, along with Malan Breton Homme and Fantôme Malan Breton, which covers everything from women and menswear to lingerie, fragrance and bridal wear. “I created my label because there was a need in the market” began Malan. “I simply could not find what I wanted from other designers, so I created it, and my friends were very drawn to it. Friends who became my first clients”. While each distinct collection produces entirely different results, Malan’s design journey always begins in the same way. “I start from inside” shared Breton, who continued:
“I look at what is inspiring me, what my friends are doing in their daily lives. I look at the core of humanity and create garments that will make them feel beautiful or handsome. It is never about ego, it is a selfless journey each season that helps me to see the world around me, to try to bring hope, and an experience to my consumers”.
Drawing from inspiration from his kaleidoscopic world, Malan is recognised for his unconventional palette and range of experimental textiles. “I have a signature blue that has been a part of my collection since I began” shared Malan, on choosing a single colour which is his favourite to work with: “Blue is calming. It brings peace to the wearer, and it is pleasing to the eye. I like to work in natural fibres”.
Across the blue shores of the Atlantic, Malan Breton is among the most prestigious names in fashion, after his reality programme ‘The Malan Show’ elevated him to nationwide fame. “Television is a powerful gift, it was a brilliant marketing tool, and introduced me to some of my greatest clients, and friends”.
“But the greatest gift was I could give myself to charity, to inspiring others, to giving them hope”.
Malan’s heightened reputation means that he splits his time between London and the city that never sleeps, which has allowed the designer to expose the contrasts between the two fashion capitals:
“New York is a very diverse place when it comes to fashion. I generally change my wardrobe a few times in the day when I am in NYC depending on what my mood, or what my schedule may be, it can be sporty, and edgy. I find London to be to a bit more colourful, people appreciate the art of dressing here. There is experimentation, and then there is a great appreciation for the classic. There is nothing in the world that compares to English tailoring”.
While Malan Breton is no stranger to the jazz bars of Piccadilly Circus and The Strand during London Fashion Week, the designer also spends a considerable amount of time in a less likely hangout: The Houses of Parliament. In 2019, the Parliamentary Society of the Arts declared Malan as the UK’ Ambassador of the Arts’ for his significant contribution to fashion. Ever since, he has worked in Parliament to “help bring change to the world”. Breton continued:
“As an Ambassador to the Parliamentary Society of the Arts, I am working with the directors to help with initiatives to strengthen the industries of fashion, the arts, and entertainment, to educate, and to help the next generation with initiatives, and branding tools. One of the most important things to me is giving back, I was taught that by my mentors, who gave me opportunities when others would not. Without those people, I would not be where I am today”.
Looking ahead to the future of fashion involves addressing the question of sustainability, which is increasingly prevalent across our society.
“There are a few things I have learned in fifteen years of being a designer, most importantly to only create what there is a need for”
Malan, continued, after he was asked to comment on the industry’s move to sustainability:
“The days of extensive orders for large stores that sit in warehouses and make waste is really impractical, and I think that has been a factor in the demise of many brands, and stores. People want to feel special, they don’t want to walk into a shop and see hundreds of the same garment, they want to know their money is going to quality and uniqueness.
I know we went through a time where the masses had to have what the latest influencer was wearing. But with social media, I think people aspire to be unique, as they watch individuals of style shine, and gain large followings.
Before lockdown, I spoke at the UK Parliament regarding the need for more sustainable forms of branding and selling in the industry. It is a different time in retail.
I don’t look at sustainability from the perspective of arts and crafts, but from the perspective of the old school designers who created for a need, and not in excess.
I love the concept of a PET bottle becoming a fine knit, a paillette, or a yarn because it shows we can bring a great product to our clients and help the earth in a small way. I love this technology, and some new advances I have been privy to lately. But it’s more than this, much more, from the manufacturing, to shipping, to packaging, there are so many details that we need to re-evaluate”.
While the future for Malan Breton the label is under evaluation, the future for Malan Breton the individual is as equally exciting. In the discussion of Runway Gallery artist and his friend, Gary James McQueen, Breton shared how he “would love to direct a film with him. I think our aesthetics in that medium would meld so beautifully. His aesthetic is genius. It is a dark and beautiful art that is so vivid”.
Breton also reminisced on his time in southeast China with Pandemonia, sharing how “we had a lovely time in Shenzhen for fashion week in 2016, Pandemonia’s is the most brilliant form of living art and expression”.
In a poignant end to the interview, Breton concluded his discussion of the future with an unexpected candid glimpse into the mind of the man who sits at the top of the world, sharing: “I think I would like to finally have a family to share those things with”.
By Megan Slack- Contributing Editor
Image of Malan Breton by Rebeca Riofrio
Magazine by Runway Gallery