Jiman Casablancas, Remembered by the Malaysian Fashion World

Exploring the indelible legacy that the late Jiman Casablancas left in the Malaysian fashion industry.
Photographed by Nadirah Zakariya. Commissioned by Wardrobe / The Spacemen and Produced by Chris Lim. 2014

Ask anyone in the Malaysian fashion industry and they’d have at least one encounter with Jiman Casablancas. He was a force to be reckoned with and not someone you’d miss in a crowd. Many may be intimidated by his stoic outward appearance, but many have also testified that he was one of the most kind and helpful people out there, always willing to lend a listening ear or a helping hand, all with a contagious laughter to boot. 

Since his untimely passing in January this year, his departure has been deeply felt by the fashion industry. In conjunction with our April 2024 Legacy issue, the GRAZIA Malaysia team thought: what better way to honour Jiman than by sharing the legacy that he has left behind in the Malaysian fashion industry? We spoke to several key people and got them to tell us their fondest memory of him, and how he impacted their lives. 


“I first got to know Jiman in May 2017 when he reached out to do an MTV Show KL Special, and we hosted him at our pop-up shop in Bangsar. I always thought that he had a strong character and the utmost knowledge and taste in fashion—he was such an inspiration. 

“If Jiman gave you his approval and you’re in his good books, you’re basically all set. He’s always there to give his fullest support to creatives from fashion to visual artists and jewellery designers—it’s a whole spectrum. Just by his being in the fashion and creative industry, Jiman has shown me what resilience is. 

“I thought his Luudan campaign was wild. Seeing him in a Baju Melayu with a sampin and songkok was such a handsome sight. That’s probably the most memorable outfit I’ve seen Jiman wear.”


“I’ve always liked it when Jiman puts on a formal business suit and accessorises it with his earrings, rings, and bangles. My first impression of him was that he was intense, but he’s become even more intense over the years! But I admire how he was really into promoting and supporting local brands like Behati, Neonate, and many more. He strongly believed in these young blood and was always pushing, motivating, and supporting them. Most people know him to dole out advice, but it was the other way around with me. He would occasionally ask for my views and opinions; once I commented on one of the local designers and he replied, ‘Ooh, takut lah Kak Zai…’” (You’re so scary, Kak Zai…)


“Of course, my first impression of him was his look. He had this edgy, punk energy that was intimidating, yet he was kind and caring on the inside. I think he has contributed a lot to the local fashion industry simply by giving his support to the scene. While we never had the chance to get close and properly hang out, I think he has taught many people that you should have the confidence to express and be yourself.” 


“Jiman Casablancas was more than just a friend to me; he was like a brother. Our bond was special, built on shared dreams and solid support. He always had this way of guiding me with his wisdom and inspiring me with his passion, making me believe in myself just as much as he did.

“Jiman left an indelible mark on my creative path. His cool style and relentless drive didn’t just push me forward; they sparked something in a whole bunch of us creatives. He was all about bringing people together and lifting them up.

“But Jiman wasn’t just about work. He was the kind of guy who was there for you, in good times and bad. He was my go-to person for advice, a mentor, and a never-ending source of motivation.

“That advice, to ‘keep it real’ and ‘always stay humble’ is quintessentially Jiman—straightforward yet profoundly influential. To me, Jiman was so much more than a colleague or mentor; he is family. His approach to life and steadfast belief in me deeply influence who I am, and in embracing these values, I strive to keep his legacy alive.”


“I first started BEHATI in 2018 and I met Jiman at my very first event. To see an industry person visiting my event was a huge encouragement for me, and he would continue to come to my shows. I had always looked forward to what he had to say, or if he had anything to say at all because I trusted his taste. What will always stay with me was his affection when he expressed the pride he had for me and his words of affirmation. 

“He is a living cultural book. He shares his knowledge wherever he goes, to whoever he meets. Even his Instagram Stories became one of the most insightful content on my social media. He had always inspired people to be brave at dressing the way they are, which you can see from the way he dressed.”


“Since the beginning, he had always been the charming sweet talker and we grew up together in the scene. Unfazed by the need for validation, I sometimes found myself wanting Jiman’s nod of approval. Once, he dropped the mic with, ‘A good stylist is a good stylist.’ It was then I knew I’d made it! That’s Jiman for you—his impeccable taste across all disciplines crowned him the ultimate arbiter.

“Our final encounter took place at the KL Fashion Awards last November when we teamed up on stage to honour BEHATI. As we penned our lines, he threw me a curveball: ‘Ask me anything.’ So, I asked, ‘Would you ever ditch your bling?’ His answer? ‘Never! Not without my consent.’ That’s JC for you, living life authentically to the very end!”


“Over the short few years that I have spent working with Jiman, my respect and admiration for him has only grown. He became a dear friend. I would almost always go to him if I needed advice, especially for seating charts at KL Fashion Week. He was at the forefront of style and risk-taking fashion; he could write, style, and knew not to put certain people together at a show. There is literally no one who can do what Jiman did. He truly left a void in the industry.

“Once, we were talking about how some people in the industry will soon get burnt out and need to ‘step away’ for a while or need to be ‘in love’ with fashion again. He just plainly replied: ‘Oh, I will never not be in love with fashion.’ I will always remember this. Jiman was a person with 110% positive energy. Everything he worked on came from a place of love and respect.” 


“I have known Jiman since 1999; we have been best friends for over 25 years now. Back then, I had always seen him around but never really got to know him. One day, I went to a Sheila Majid concert alone and saw him. I didn’t expect to see him there because he looked like he listened to punk and rock music, yet, there he was, listening to a jazz concert. I was drawn to him because he looked so intimidating and I was so afraid of him, but seeing him there at the concert gave me a big impression because it showed me that he had so many different interests.

“I don’t think he left a legacy behind just for the local fashion community, but a lot of other communities. He supported a lot of local fashion talents from street style to high fashion. What we lost most was a person who had very strong opinions about anything, someone who was brave enough to show the world who he was despite political and racial elements in his work. I think the great thing about Jiman is that he tells it as it is, straightforward, and bold enough for everybody to understand where he came from.

“Jiman’s style principles were to always be bold, to show people how to wear clothes according to how they feel inside. He wore clothes according to his character and wanted to impact people. He didn’t care if he scared people; he just wanted to be true to himself. For me, the most memorable thing he wore was the last thing I made for him for KL Fashion Week. It was from my 2024 Dia collection. I thought I nailed it; it was an outfit that was a combination of our friendship, what we love, and what I see Jiman as. He fell in love with the outfit right away during the fitting.”


“In a serendipitous way, Jiman and I were meant to be—schoolmates, university mates, theatre buddies, colleagues, clients, and confidantes since our eyes locked in the hall of Maxwell High School as Sixth Formers in 1994. We both acknowledged each other’s underlying rebellious tendency and a penchant for style underneath the school uniforms. It was only in 2010 that Jiman and I became close—when I recruited this brilliant writer, zeitgeist rock n’ roll lawyer to the PR firm I was managing. He would always remind me that I taught him everything PR and that I was his sifu. Truth is, he was already a brilliant PR practitioner, and the agency just provided him with the space to grow. 

“Even as circumstances led us in different professional directions—with me moving to the client’s side and him starting JCPR—we continued to support each other’s endeavours. Two weeks before his passing, he was diligently working on a media event for my workplace. Three days before his untimely departure, his last communication to me was reassuring: ‘I got this Viv, don’t worry’—echoing the same phrase he uttered on the first day he joined me at the agency. 

“As a fashion insider, Jiman stood out by avoiding the pitfalls of being a fashion victim. He steered clear of blindly following trends and felt no compulsion to conform. Instead, he curated and crafted his distinct style, embodying the essence of a corporate rockstar. His remarkable ability to distinguish authenticity, whether one embraced their individual style or succumbed to trend conformity, set him apart. Personally, even with my own confidence in how I presented myself, Jiman’s seal of approval carried unparalleled significance for me. That simple, ‘Ons’ stamp of approval was all I needed.

“Each of Jiman’s outfits left a lasting impression. How many Malaysians can boast of having a pair of Rick Owens boots? Despite the high fashion, a glimpse into his earlier years emerged when a primary schoolmate shared a class group photo. In that picture, there was Jiman at just 10 years old, sporting a cheeky smile, and donning a pair of yellow-tinted Ray-Bans—a clear indicator even at that age that he exuded a sense of undeniable coolness.

“Due to our long-standing connection, advice and encouragement flowed freely between us—Jiman was undeniably generous with his kindness towards those he cherished. However, because of the depth of our history, we were also able to openly discuss our deepest, darkest insecurities, fears, vulnerabilities, and anxieties. During our most challenging moments, when the weight of depression consumed us from within, a simple WhatsApp message or an Instagram DM served as a lifeline.

“Just weeks before his passing, I confided in him about my ongoing struggle with depression triggered by the sudden passing of my young uncle, and we both acknowledged the peculiar challenge of being Virgos, navigating our lives with a persistent sense of functioning depression. I miss my dear Nizam Jiman dearly.”


“His mantra, ‘Kalau nak buat something, buat betul-betul. It’s either you don’t do it at all or you do it all out!’ (If you want to do something, do it right. It’s either you don’t do it at all or you go all out!) speaks volumes about his character. Jiman’s relentless pursuit of excellence and his penchant for pushing boundaries serve as constant reminders to strive for greatness, both in work and in life. He keeps us on our toes, always challenging us to rise to the occasion. 

“It wasn’t just about his sartorial choices; Jiman has donned many hats in his role as a mentor and advisor to budding fashion labels, especially during their nascent stages. Many regard him as the industry’s big brother, and rightly so, given his knack for offering sound advice and guidance. 

“Jiman possesses a unique ability to spot potential in others and isn’t afraid to go out of his way to nudge them towards their destined path.

“What sets him apart is his generosity with both his opinions and his wisdom. He’s never been one to hold back when it comes to sharing his insights, and his advice is like gold dust in the ever-evolving landscape of fashion. In essence, Jiman isn’t just a figure in the fashion world; he’s a beacon of inspiration, paving the way for others to follow in his stylish footsteps.

“I recall a time when I was drowning in a sea of frustration and doubt,  I turned to Jiman, hoping for a sympathetic ear.  Instead of offering gentle reassurance, Jiman surprised me with a dose of tough love that cut straight to the core. With a raw honesty that only he could muster, refusing to indulge my self-pity, he called me out. If you know Jiman, his tone can sometimes be like a lightning bolt, piercing! It did just that, piercing through the fog of negativity that clouded my vision!

“’You’re Suraya. You’re MASLEA,’ he reminded me firmly, invoking the essence of my identity and heritage. ‘I don’t accept this attitude from you. Take a day off if you must, but come back stronger. You are so much better than this sad story. Prove me right! Live up to the namesake of your brand!’

“To this day, Jiman’s words became a constant rallying cry, igniting a fire of determination within me! They are like a poignant reminder to remind me of my strength and resilience, empowering me to rise above my doubts and embrace the full extent of my capabilities.”


“Beyond Jiman’s edgy exterior, my first impression of him was of a genuinely kind, intelligent, and supportive individual. As the years passed, my admiration for him only grew as I witnessed his unwavering loyalty, genuine care, and willingness to lend a helping hand, whether it was offering marketing insights or simply being there for those around him.

“My favourite outfits of him are his accessories collection. Of course, some of them are from me—The Extra Piece—and other treasures discovered on his travels. From bold necklaces to eye-catching rings, each accessory added its own story to his unique style, making his outfits truly extraordinary. They weren’t just accessories; they were expressions of Jiman’s personality and experiences, reflecting his commitment to self-expression and individuality.

“Jiman’s advice to always stay true to myself has stuck with me most profoundly. He was a steadfast advocate for authenticity, reminding me to embrace my quirks and uniqueness without hesitation. Whenever I feel uncertain, his words echo in my mind: ‘Be yourself, Nat! Never change.’ They’re not just words; they’re a reminder to hold onto my truth, no matter what challenges come my way.”