Eric Choong: In Full Bloom featured in “Special Weekly Magazine”, 23 March 2009

4 April 2009 - 3:27am Comments Off

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Spirituality made fashionable

After gaining faith in Buddhism, my speech now always takes others into consideration. Being able to communicate well with others makes me very happy inside. It is very surprising for me. When I met up with a friend whom I’ve not seen for a long time, she could see that I’ve changed recently.

I remember when I was three and first got hold of my drawing materials, I didn’t draw houses or birds but instead a woman’s gown. Luckily, the adults did not deter me from doing it – especially my mother who runs a beauty parlor. She wore beautiful and bright colors to work every day, making her the main focus of my artwork.

My mother was happy to see me draw. She recognized my high artistic potential to draw and sent me off to study in an art academy.

In my secondary school years, there were so few fashion magazines available. When I finished drawing sketches of the clothes that I had designed, I sent them to these few magazines but it never crossed my mind that those sketches would be published. It was at that time that I made a determined vow to become a fashion designer.

After graduating from secondary school, I went to Hong Kong to pursue my fashion studies. After graduating, I came back to Malaysia and opened my first boutique. Time flies so fast, 25 years have gone by and I still remember back then that whenever I wished to learn something new, I had to become another person’s servant. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was the injustice that I faced when working overseas. We were of the same skin color but I could not understand why they were treated better than me.

When you read my book, you will see a lot of my avant-garde fashion. Actually when I was young, I had a very strong inclination towards creating fashion. Back then, making a dress was a big deal; you had to pick a suitable date, go to the tailor’s to get your measurements taken, and then only would you get a dress that fit perfectly. Those days are gone now, ready to wear clothes are available everywhere, and people are not so picky anymore.

I place great importance in choosing the material from the moment a dress is conceptualized until the finished product. Back then, fabrics were smooth and pleasing to the eye, so different from the contrasting colors we see in the market today. Good materials are still available, but only to be found in overseas. As such, when I go abroad, one of my main tasks is to look for good materials.

Who knows the pressure I face?

Do not think that a fashionista is all about glamour and being in the lime-light. The amount of preparation one has to make is really daunting. At the peak of my work craze, having to sacrifice a few nights’ sleep was just a small issue. Whether sleeping or standing, my mind was filled with sketches and designs. The pressure I faced was overwhelming.

To relieve the pressure, I would read Dharma books. When I met my Spiritual Guide, H.E. Tsem Rinpoche, his words were so soft and light but had a deep impact in my heart that it helped me loosen up. In the past, I would blame others for the pressure I faced; now, I have realized that all pressure is self-created.

My mother must have been my lover in a previous life. I often wonder how she can guess my thoughts so effortlessly. There was once when I was overworked and had to be admitted to the hospital. At that time she had an on-going operation. We ended up in the same ward together. We talked to each other at night and she said that the Buddhas must have known about my plight and hence sent her to come and share the burden. Those words moved me to tears. These days when I think back, it still brings tears to my eyes.

Today I’ve published my first book, but not because I wish to follow the current trend. I’ve never been a person who likes to follow the mainstream. On the day of my book launch, a reporter asked if fashion had anything to do with Buddhism. I remembered answering like this, “Of course, I’m practicing Buddhism everyday!”

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