Meet Azni Samdin, Celebrity Designer And Bridalwear Extraordinaire
Muslim weddings are beautifully elaborate affairs – and the outfits even more so, from the Nikah (marriage ceremony) to the Bersanding (enthronement ceremony) and Walima (marriage banquet). Each costume, be it the bride’s wedding gown or the couple’s traditional wear, are delicate works of art; handcrafted from luxurious fabrics and bearing intricate embroidery. One of the leading names in the local Muslim bridal market is Kampong Gelam’s very own Azni Samdin, whose one-of-a-kind designs are highly sought after by not just brides-to-be, but also celebrities.
Man of Many Talents
For the uninitiated, Azni’s creative pursuits range far and wide, first cutting his teeth in the worlds of TV and theatre before venturing into fashion and eventually bridal design. “This line of work allows many opportunities to try different roles. I started in TV production, and because of my interest in fashion, began styling artistes,” Azni recalled. “Whenever a boutique or brand didn’t have suitable garments, I would purchase materials and make my own with whatever budget available.”
Plenty of stars have worn his designs, including Hongkong singer and actress Sandy Lam. “She is one of my favourite celebrities to work with,” says Azni, who revealed that her nickname for him was “Ai Si Ni” (love you to death). “We were in Guangzhou for Sandy’s concert, and I was in my hotel room with her and a few others, working on deconstructing Sandy’s jeans for a performance. She wanted to help, so I took a dinner break. When I came back, I realised that Sandy accidentally tore a hole in it and left hoping I wouldn’t notice. It was funny how scared she was. I fixed it after.” Azni laughed.
Taking the Plunge into Bridalwear
For Azni, whose foray into bridalwear took shape after designing for his cousin’s wedding, his design approach applies to all clients – celebrity status or no. “I have three rules; first, to base my inspiration on the client, getting an idea of their wishlist, what they like and want from the garment. Second, to have a clear understanding of their characteristics and life, what they do for a living – details like that. Third, to consider what event they’re attending, if it’s for a casual or formal occasion.” These trusty criteria, coupled with his flair for adding contemporary touches to traditional wear, quickly propelled Azni’s new venture. “I became aware of a gap in the Malay bridalwear industry for high-quality, custom designs, so I took the plunge.”
So what can one expect when engaging Azni’s services? “We spend hours together, from the initial conversation to the fittings, to the final event, so clients become like family. I keep good energy going, and put it towards the Baju so that the moment the bride and groom put it on, they are comfortable and happy.”
Inspiration at Every Turn
As demand grew for Azni’s creations, so did his desire for a space that would continuously keep him inspired. “I’ve been going to Arab Street to purchase fabrics ever since the 1990s!” Azni revealed, “And even though I had an office in Chai Chee, I loved going to Bhai Sarbat to work. There’s just something different about the ambience in Kampong Gelam that is very chill and enjoyable. There’s always something interesting going on, and the place keeps me inspired.” He officially shifted to Aliwal Street over a year ago, and the rest is history.
These days, it’s much easier for Azni to shop his favourite textile and haberdashery stores. “I usually frequent Gim Joo and Queens Fabrics, as well as Digivijay Sequins,” he shared. Shortly after moving into Aliwal Street, Azni had the opportunity to stage his very first showcase at Kampong Gelam’s projeKGlamway, alongside four other local designers. “It was a fantastic experience! Even though it was quite hectic, from sewing all the costumes to choreographing the show. I’m thankful for my artiste friends who helped to model and sing during the catwalk.” A full-circle moment if there ever was one.
Exploring Kampong Gelam through Azni’s eyes
What better way to experience Kampong Gelam’s vibrance and diversity than through the lenses of someone as passionate for the area as Azni “The energy and ambience in Kampong Gelam change depending on which street you go to or even what time of day it is,” Azni observed. “When my friends visit, I mostly encourage them to explore the area themselves. But certain places I’d bring them to are Arab Street for fabric shopping, Haji Lane to shop local fashion and look at the street art, Bussorah Street for touristy attractions, and of course the Masjid Sultan.” He continued, “And they’ll have to try my favourite teh sarbat! Then we’ll hang out at Kampong Glam cafe or the nearby eateries. And at night, enjoy the busking at Haji Lane, and walk around to soak up the atmosphere.”