It took a vision, a team and just 10 days to build this dream into reality. 

Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran is not only Malaysia’s very own visionary, but also the king of fashion who continues to make a name for himself locally and internationally. Take one look at his designs, and you’ll know that’s a Bernard Chandran silhouette.

Meanwhile, Andrew Yap, who co-founded the retail book store BookXcess with his wife, Jacqueline Ng, offers an incredible selection of books at an affordable price. Fun fact: they’re behind the success of the Big Bad Wolf too. 

If you’re wondering what Dreams and Reality is about, here’s what you need to know. Last December 2020, amidst the pandemic, Bernard had an idea to hold an exhibition that consists of 130 archival pieces throughout his 30-year journey. Taking inspiration from his love for museums, art and fashion; Dreams and Reality was a place where he wanted to inspire and share his passion with others. Make your way here and you’ll be spoiled with a curated journey of his iconic collections that have already been showcased in Paris and London. 

“The whole idea of the exhibition lives behind the rules of repurposing and recycling. I took all of these pieces from various seasons and curated them together to showcase how you can restyle with what you have by viewing it from a different point of view,” shares Bernard.

You’ll find songkets created from surplus fabrics, repurposed designs of the choli silhouette into an 18th-century corset cut, and accessories created from unique materials. Even the dresses worn by superstars Estelle and Lady Gaga are on display too.

Through this exhibition, it was clear that Bernard Chandran has the eye to turn something so simple into an outstanding work of art. What makes it so unique this time is the strong bond between books and fashion, which brings us to how Andrew came into the picture just recently. Here’s how an idea and that one meeting galvanised the start of a beautiful friendship.

(Hero and feature image credit: Bernard Chandran)

What was the inspiration behind the ‘Dreams and Reality’ exhibition?

Bernard: As dreamers, you need to dream big because it keeps it real, and passionately, you must believe in what you do. If you think you can move mountains, you just have to think that you can. I’ve dreamt of having a big family and basically, I have it all right now with the amazing woman I married to with five beautiful children.

With the exhibition, I would never have thought that I could host this exhibition after MCO (Movement Control Order) in a 17,000-square-foot space at Fahrenheit. I used to think that it would be impossible, and that no one would want to give you a space this big, but that’s when dreams and reality take place, especially when I get to share the journey of my career to inspire young dreamers out there.

How did this collaboration between BookXcess come about?

Andrew: I stumbled upon this exhibition recently and I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to know more about how Bernard turned this empty lot into something beautiful, which is what you’re seeing today. I find him to be a respected man and I wanted to find out what inspired him to create the free bookmarks (made from surplus fabrics) located at the entrance.

As you make your way towards the end of the exhibition, you’ll see a replica of his office, and that’s when I noticed the books surrounding it. I later thought it would be great to know him better by setting up a meeting, and the rest was history.

How long did it take for the both of you to meet, discuss and collaborate to turn this dream into a reality?

BC: Our stores are located across from each other and on the same floor and we’ve never even crossed paths before. It was so kind of him to visit the exhibit and if it wasn’t because of this bookmark, we wouldn’t be here today. Being in a niche industry, it’s amazing how we can create something spectacular. We see a need to break boundaries by highlighting the importance of books, and to make them more accessible and affordable.

A: I liked the colour combination of the bookmark and I could see that he genuinely wanted to share knowledge, which is very important in my opinion. Just by him hosting a free exhibition and with us offering a 20 percent discount on books, showed that we just wanted to share and inspire other Malaysians out there.

This is where we come in. As booksellers, we know what a book can do. We wanted to prove to everyone that with a dream, just like Bernard’s, and with books as references, you too can take a step further. That’s why our collaboration is important; with him showcasing his journey as a designer and with us offering affordable yet amazing books that can unlock important information for every talented dreamer out there to empower themselves into becoming somebody someday.

 

What has been the most rewarding and memorable experience so far?

A: I’m inspired by how Bernard does things and he pushes me to the next level. For him, it’s all about breaking boundaries as we feed ideas off each other. In return, I grow as a person. Although it’s only been a couple of months, it feels like we’ve known each other for years. Every time we meet, there are always ideas in our minds. He’s a go-getter and I admire that.

BC: To me, it’s more about the friendship we’ve built. It feels like you’ve finally found someone who understands you and we’re so crazy that our energy works together. It’s normal for people to judge you and your “crazy” ideas by not sharing the same vision as you, but with him, it just works. This is what collaborations are about.

What was the first book that comes to mind when you’re on the hunt for inspiration?

A: Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. He’s the guru of advertising and it’s a quick read to make you feel like you can do anything in the world. I highly recommend this. 

BC: National Geographic and WeAr magazine. I find inspirations from the clearer pictures and choice of words used in the real world. 

What advice would you give to all the young dreamers out there who are fighting to chase their dreams?

A: You will have to be obsessed with what you do. You need to have the drive to want to know more about your passion. Ask yourself – do you want to be ordinary or be the best at what you do in the industry? If you answered the latter, then you have to be obsessed with what you love.

BC: Be passionate and believe in what you do. If you ask me 30 to 36 years ago, no one would’ve predict that an Indian-Chinese man like me would be a fashion designer someday. To be honest, it’s not always going to come easy. There will always be hurdles in your journey, but never give up. Fame and fortune will come naturally, as long as you believe, and focus on your dream.

Amalina Anuar
Senior Writer
A writer by day and spin instructor by night. Amalina fuels her day with anything that’s covered in chocolate and breaking a sweat in the spin studio. With fashion and music as inspiration, you can find her obsessing over her favourite artist's music videos or swaying to funky tunes at live gigs.