Laughing over the phone as she enters the conference room that opens to her plush inner sanctum, her sun-kissed tan the signature of a life well-lived, Dato’ Dr. Farah Khan makes an entrance as only she can. The founder and president of The Melium Group radiates joie de vivre from every pore even as her steely gaze takes every minute detail in, routinely observing, analysing, and forming opinions. Now, Farah Khan has picked up another title, yet another notch on her belt that holds a host of awards both international and local. But when she speaks of this one, her gaze softens. “Oh what a moment that was,” she says quietly, of receiving her honorary doctorate of global entrepreneurship from the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. “It was beyond anything thing I’d ever expected. When Tan Sri [Dato’ Sri Paduka] Dr. Lim Kok Wing first approached me with the idea I did not know what to think. Later, I went to the campus myself and saw the creativity that lives and breathes there. All these young minds so proactive, so energised, made a real impression. I could not help but be charmed. The honour, goes without saying. It was a truly special, personal high point for me. There are no words, really.”
“When we started The Melium Group over 25 years ago, with just two brands in the stable – Hugo Boss and Aigner – I had no idea of how far we would travel. We now have over 100 luxury brands, including Tod’s, Emilio Pucci, Givenchy, Stuart Weitzman, and Saint Laurent – who knew? Beyond fashion, lifestyle is part of our core with over 20 Dôme Cafés in the nation now. But when I look back over this last quarter of a century and ask myself what the denouement is – you do that, in quiet moments – the answer is always this: the authentic creation of opportunity for individuals. Of course, at the end of the day, we are a business. But it is incredible in the process of growing the business to be able to say you grew people, too. I marvel at how much opportunity we have created for raw talent within the company. More than the average business model, I like to believe we nurture individuals, who hopefully, reciprocate by creating opportunity for others. Paying it forward, as they say.”
“And yet, it’s also about giving back,” says the fashion mogul known for her unrelenting philanthropic efforts. To date, Melium has raised over RM12 million via fund-raising endeavours for organisations like the Women’s Aid Organisation, Sisters In Islam, and Yayasan Raja Muda Selangor, locally. Internationally, the group, through Farah Khan’s ceaseless motivation, raised money for the Bali bombing victims and aid for Acheh orphans in the 2004 tsunami crisis. Her philanthropic work is supported by a veritable who’s who list of noteworthy Malaysians, from Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir and her father YAB Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, who contributed a recipe to The Malaysian Celebrity Cookbook. (Proceeds of the sales was donated to charity.) In short, Farah Khan has serious pulling power, with most of the city’s elite corporate players and royalty on speed dial; though she will modestly downplay this, it is a fact. And it stems from a quarter of a century of The Melium Group’s walking the talk.
Anyone who really knows her understands there’s poetry in this sharp entrepreneur. “Oh, travel is the real luxury, if you ask me. Observing cultures and traditions, behaviours and customs history and modernity, past and present, is invaluable. Such memories, I treasure.” And with those words she’s off in a heartbeat, leaving us with this last thought vis-à-vis the next 25 years: “I am not alone! The best is yet to be!”
Photography: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited (Reprinted with permission)