In the post-pandemic era that sees a return to maximalist fashion, Y2K nostalgia has been the fashion lover’s go-to genre. Think micro tops in vibrant hues, intentional distressing or cutouts and unconventional layering. This style trend has amassed a huge following to date, fuelled by a love for indie brands and quality vintage finds.
Introducing Ghostboy, a Kuala Lumpur-based brand that celebrates youth culture and individuality through its subversive and provocative garments. Helmed by 26-year-old designer David Han and 25-year-old model and creative Cyii Cheng, the brand is quickly rising in popularity. Shares Cheng of the motivation behind starting Ghostboy: “It started as a personal DIY project; we were simply making clothes that we wanted to wear. To our surprise, people liked what we were making and wanted to purchase pieces for themselves. Eventually, we decided to turn it into an actual business.”
A quick glance at the brand’s autumn/winter 2023 collection titled Aftermath shows a dark, grunge aesthetic that is present in many Y2K styles. Frayed denim, stringy beachwear and knitted separates in muted shades of teal, cream and grey are constructed in fitting silhouettes, unmistakably exuding a rebellious attitude.
With the target demographic being primarily females (with the rare exception of metrosexual males), the duo aims to create clothing that accentuates a wearer’s figure. Han cites rave culture as a primary inspiration for the latest collection, sharing: “We were attending many techno parties earlier in the year and it only felt right to release a collection that captured the essence of it. We wanted to illustrate the remnants and consequences of it through our clothes as well. The collection is basically an illustration of the aftermath of a party.”
When asked about the brand’s ethos, the duo is quick to answer. “We prioritise ethical production, with a strong emphasis on supporting our local trade. We work with deadstock fabric whenever possible, and often engage the talents of Malaysian and Singaporean tattoo artists and jewellery designers,” muses Han. Cheng adds that they design with their friends in mind, specifically what each of their peers would wear for a night out.
“We wanted to illustrate the remnants and consequences of a party through the garments in this collection.”
Ghostboy also sees plenty of traditional influences from Han and Cheng’s Chinese heritage. One of the brand’s earliest bestsellers was a traditional qipao top cropped to expose the midriff, a contemporary take of a storied garment. Han jokes about how his upbringing has played a pivotal role in the way he designs: “Being Malaysian Chinese, my parents tend to be strict about dress code during festive periods. I would try to see how far I could push it with the way I dressed, and I think it shows in the clothes I make.” Following the release of their latest autumn/winter 2023 Aftermath collection, co-founders David Han and Cyii Cheng of Malaysian label Ghostboy speak about their creative process, design ethos and how youth party culture influences their work. He also acknowledges the versatility of the cropped qipao, with its breathable nature ideal for the stifling humidity in Southeast Asia.
Speaking about the duo’s vision, Cheng shares that she views the brand’s journey and growth as somewhat of a visual diary, one that is ever-evolving. “It captures the different phases David and I are at in our lives, and as we continue to grow we like and are inspired by different things.” Han delves into the creative process, noting that it begins with identifying key elements that express the theme or topic addressed in that collection. “It typically starts with a conversation between us about what we are feeling at the moment and what we observe from the people around us, followed by a deep dive into a specific product category and then branching out from there.”
Currently, the team behind Ghostboy comprises four members: Han, Cheng, their pattern maker Shayna and studio manager Alia. Han oversees design and production, while Cheng looks after logistics and marketing. The duo recognises that building a good team takes considerable time, with chemistry and like-mindedness amongst members being key.
Running a brand definitely comes with its own set of challenges. Cheng mentions some difficulty initially in infiltrating the local market. She states: “Most Malaysians are used to shopping fast fashion due to its accessibility, thus it took time for us to find our niche and build a devoted customer base.”
Speaking on the theme of ‘Carouse’, the duo agrees that the brand best encapsulates it through its customers. “It always starts with the people, and Ghostboy is an occasion-wear brand that is all about having a good time. Our customers love to dress up and go to parties, and their free spirit certainly embodies the ethos and house codes.”
“Our customers love to dress up and go to parties, and their free spirit certainly embodies the ethos and house codes of the brand.”
As for what they hope to see more of in the Southeast Asian fashion landscape, Cheng wishes for more events and partnerships between emerging brands and local consignment stores. She explains: “I think such collaborations would open up channels and opportunities for other designers, which will motivate everyone in the industry.” The duo also wishes to see more creativity with campaign imagery, recognising the power of engaging social media content in a time when attention spans are swiftly dwindling.
Looking ahead, Han and Cheng have big plans for the brand. The team has been working tirelessly in preparation for the spring/summer 2024 collection that is set to launch later this month, and are thrilled for their customers to witness it. “Every year, the spring/summer collection aligns with Chinese New Year, so one can certainly expect to see bolder colours and prints for the festive period. And as usual, it will be clothes to carouse in.”
The December ‘Carouse’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and in-store from 14 December 2023.