It is an exceptionally hot Tuesday, but nothing could melt Melinda Looi’s icy gaze at her two-floor Bangsar boutique. “What expression would you want me to wear?” the fashion designer asks coolly, referring to the shoot that would take place in the next hour. Her steely demeanour is only a cover-up, a dry martini of a joke that preludes the warmth of her jolly personality, shining forth the minute her family of six are photographed.
“Each of my kids have their own defining personality,” Melinda muses, herself a unique vision in black harem pants and combat boots. As if on cue, her four children break into various quirky poses, each facially displaying a unique combination of Melinda and her husband Dirk Luebbert. Max, the couple’s eldest at 11 years old, is the embodiment of a shy prodigy with his quiet penchant for books, cooking, and embroidery, while 8-year-old Maya—the restless star of the shoot—is a supermodel in the making. Then, there is Mika, the introvert whose inspirations are undetectable, save for his wicked sense of style.
While Max is now homeschooled, Maya and Mika still spend their mornings in their respective Chinese vernacular schools not too far away from home—a decision Melinda made to remind them of “their Asian roots” and to keep them grounded. When done with their classes, the trio would often spend their afternoons in the Bangsar showroom, taking inspirations while carefully treading their paths around their mother’s carefully arranged mannequins, vintage décors, and rails upon rails of Melinda Looi creations—some making for dressy elegant drapes and others, offbeat ready-to-wears.
I don’t believe in forcing anything on my children, other than the art of sincerity and persistence, which they should apply to everything they choose to do. My siblings and I grew up with a strict upbringing; my father was a very fierce man. We spent our younger days having to work in our family’s sewing factory. If there is a lesson I would teach my kids every day, it is that they must always strive to do their best. That’s what their grandfather taught me: do your best, don’t just think or say that you do. – Melinda Looi
Melinda Looi Showroom, 131 Jalan Maarof, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2093 2279. www.melindalooi.com