Thread Talk With Masyadi Mansoor, The Designer Behind MSYD

"Puffer is my signature, I bring a hint of winter to Malaysia, where snow may not fall, but style rises."

Thread Talk is a series venturing into a designer’s inner workings and thoughts. Today, we have Masyadi Mansoor of MSYD, a streetwear designer who rose to fame with his signature puffer designs.

Masyadi Mansoor, affectionately known as Adi, is the creative brain behind MSYD. He may not be a household name just yet, but you’ve probably seen his work on local pop icons like Aina Abdul; remember the cosy blanket-and-pillow fit that left the internet frenzied, or Dolla’s first album cover? Adi’s creations blew up on the internet and he bagged two awards from the recent Kuala Lumpur Fashion Awards (KLFA) 2023.

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In a country with a tropical climate such as Malaysia’s, Adi’s success left many bewildered yet amazed as puffer—commonly used for down jackets—is, in fact, MSYD’s signature. Ahead, the designer shares what it takes to be an up-and-coming streetwear designer in the local fashion scene despite his deviant work.

How did you become a fashion designer?

Back in 2018, I joined the Air Asia Runway Ready Designer Search spontaneously. At the time, I was in my second semester [of university]. The experience left a lasting impression as I managed to secure a spot in the Top 14, even though I didn’t make it to the top 5 out of the over 120 participants.

The following year, I received an invitation from Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week (KLFW) to showcase a mini collection as a young designer and participating in various segments. This opportunity marked a turning point for me, prompting me to elevate my efforts and passion for fashion. The journey has been ongoing ever since.

Congratulations on winning the Best Emerging Designer Award and Streetwear Brand of The Year at KLFA 2023. How would you describe MSYD to those who may not be familiar with your work?

Thank you so much! Rebellious, avant-garde, and humongous; these are the three words that define MSYD. Synonymous with a fearless and unconventional approach to the local streetwear scene, MSYD challenges the status quo, pushing the boundaries of streetwear design in Malaysia. Puffer is my signature, I bring a hint of winter to Malaysia, where snow may not fall, but style rises.

Walk us through your creative process when creating a new collection. Where do you usually draw inspiration from?

I usually draw inspiration from various sources that reflect my personal interests, experiences, and emotions. Before I begin designing any collection or individual pieces, I always ask myself: “What story or message do I want people to get from it?”

Following these thoughts, I sketch out the design, infusing it with my design elements. This process is important for me because I’m an introvert. This is how I connect and speak with people. I have everything in my mind while I sketch: who will be wearing it, how their hair and makeup will look like, and how the styling should be done. This is a process that I love so very much—it’s therapy for me.

“Born To Struggle” and “ATARAXIS” are so different—from black to colourful—yet they represent MSYD well enough, but what is the reason behind the shift?

For my debut collection “Born To Struggle”, I wanted to share the story of being an independent designer, struggling to be seen in this industry. I played with the colour black because it represents the darkness and obstacles I went through. Having said that, black is also my favourite colour.

For ATARAXIS, the collection was inspired by the colours of beaches. The idea to play with colour sparked when I was watching a sunset at the beach. It’s therapeutic, especially when I feel burnt out or stressed. I was amazed by the colour palette of the sunset and that really inspired me. To be honest, I doubted myself and overthought a lot in the making of this collection. There are so many “what ifs” that popped into my mind. I was afraid that people may not like the colours or find it weird. But it turned out unexpectedly well.

When we speak of streetwear, what comes to mind is Virgil Abloh’s famous quote on how streetwear is “gonna die”. As a streetwear designer, what do you reckon?

For me, fashion, including streetwear, is dynamic and constantly evolving. Rather than viewing it as an end, I see it as an opportunity for innovation and redefinition within the streetwear genre. The core elements of streetwear, such as self-expression, individuality, and cultural resonance, can persist and adapt to new contexts. As a streetwear designer, my focus would be staying attuned to embracing changes and contributing to the ongoing conversation in fashion.

Most people associate MSYD with celebrities—what’s your thought on that? Was that a part of your initial plans for the brand?

While achieving recognition and being associated with celebrities are without a doubt, positive, it wasn’t necessarily part of the initial plan for MSYD. The primary focus from the outset was to create a brand that resonates with individuals who appreciate bold, unconventional designs, and a fearless approach to fashion. The fact that MSYD has gained attention from celebrities is a testament to the brand’s unique aesthetic and its ability to capture the interest of a diverse group of audiences. While it wasn’t a predefined goal, it’s exciting to see the brand being embraced by individuals who have significant influences in popular culture. Of course, it’s also a good exposure for me as an emerging designer.

Working with celebrities can be a double-edged sword—you either get flooded with praise or face backlash. You have a fair share of getting both, but we’re curious if any of these affect your approach to designing.

Fashion is inherently subjective. When collaborating with celebrities, you’re inevitably exposed to a myriad of feedback. Personally, I find it exhilarating to absorb the input because I’m aware that my work stands out in the norm. In a landscape where people are accustomed to seeing traditional beauty and conventional dresses, the excitement lies in offering something refreshingly different and challenging the status quo.

The key is to find a balance and to be receptive to feedback without compromising the authenticity and uniqueness that define MSYD. The goal is not to design to please everyone but to create pieces that evoke emotions and spark conversations.

Personally, what is your favourite collection among all your creations?

Of course, I love all of my creations. (Laughs) It’s a cliché answer because I poured my heart and soul into making them. However, my favourite would be—without a doubt—my graduation collection. This collection holds a special place in my heart, and I take everlasting pride in it. It was with this collection that I discovered the type of designer I aspire to be, leading me to where I am today.

MSYD “Born To Struggle” Fall/Winter 2023. Shot by @pitt.ab.rhm

Could you share with us the experience of being an emerging fashion designer in Malaysia? What do you like and what do you think can be improved?

For someone without connections or a notable background, breaking through the Malaysian fashion industry can be a bit of a struggle, to say the least. It’s a relatively small circle where established designers often dominate the spotlight, making it challenging for newcomers to be noticed.

I’ve participated in numerous fashion competitions, facing rejections because judges deemed my designs too unconventional and avant-garde. Rather than discouraging me, these experiences motivated me to push my creative boundaries even further. I believe in showcasing the fun and expressive side of fashion, even if it diverges from the norm.

From my perspective, there’s a need for more platforms to support emerging designers like myself. These platforms can provide opportunities to demonstrate our potential and showcase the diversity and creativity that can breathe new life into the fashion scene.

What’s next for MSYD?

It’s my dream to bring my name to the international level. For now, I’ve been manifesting and working hard to get my name on the global stage. At the same time, I’m also planning to have my own RTW line soon.