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Father’s Day 2020: Malaysia’s most stylish dads on fatherhood and \"dad fashion\"

Father’s Day 2020: Malaysia’s most stylish dads on fatherhood and "dad fashion"

Dad's the man

Text: Joan Kong


What do Dato' Jovian Mandagie, Roen Cian, Shahrin Bahar, and Dato' Sri Bernard Chandran have in common? Aside from being dads, they’re also a few of the most stylish men around

Love it or hate it, we can all agree that ‘dad fashion’ doesn’t always have the best rep. A quick search online and you’ll see pictures of middle-aged men in polo T-shirts in the strangest colour combos; high-waist khaki shorts that are wide in fit and long in length; and clunky sneakers—albeit trending right now—worn with ankle calf-high socks. But when it comes to modern dads, are those looks a true representation of their style?

In conjunction with Father’s Day this year, we spoke to Malaysia’s most stylish dads—namely Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran, Shahrin BaharDato’ Jovian Mandagie, and Roen Cian—to get their opinions on dadcore fashion, and what fatherhood means to them as a whole.

Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran, fashion designer

Children: Terimunite, 26; Trunan, 24; Tanzanite, 22; Tanestran, 19; and Thanya, 18

Describe your style in three words.

Confident. Effortless. Contradicting.

What are your thoughts on ‘dad fashion’?

I personally think that ‘dad fashion’ is a rather lazy way of dressing. The fathers are just staying inside their comfort zone, and they’re really missing out on all the fun of dressing up—and I’m not saying this just because I’m in fashion. Our attitude towards how we carry ourselves will eventually trickle down to our children, so we have no excuse to let ourselves go.

Do you think that's an accurate representation of the modern dad?

Not at all! There’s a need for today’s dads to be aware of their standing in society and to dress the part. A modern dad should be open to different styles and adopt one that suits him when he’s with his family. Just like how he would update his knowledge on the latest trends, be it the newest restaurants or the coolest bars in town, his style should match it.

Do you have a style moment from your past you’ve regretted?

I have no regrets because I wore what was popular at the time, and I think it’s important to experience what was trendy too. Everyone needs that understanding in order to figure out what works for them.

What style advice would you give to your kids?

I always tell them to figure out their own personality because that will dictate their style. Once they know who they are, they can update their style and dress according to the current trends. For example, if you’re bookish, do ‘preppy chic’. If you’re a goth, rock ‘sporty gothic’! I also tell my children to start with the basics—get a denim jacket or a leather bomber that will remain a classic for the next 20 years. Get a pair of jeans that screams "you" so you’ll wear it forever. Start with a strong foundation and build it from there, and don’t be afraid to experiment—your inner voice will tell you if it’s working for you.

Do you have anything from your wardrobe that you would pass down to them?

I have many basics in a variety of brands—from high-street to high fashion—that my children can play around with. These days, they’re already raiding my wardrobe half the time to achieve their looks!

What’s the best thing about fatherhood?

Fatherhood is very exciting—not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new from them. This includes listening to the new music and movies they recommend. During our family nights, we even compete to see whose playlist is better! I also like how we’re able to discuss a variety of subjects—there are times when I don’t agree with them, but I do end up realising that they were right after all!

What’s your proudest moment as a dad so far?

It’s the knowledge that they have and the contents of their discussions that I’m the proudest of. The fact that I have a friendship with them (as opposed to just being their parent) is also something that I’m so thankful for. They have told me countless times that I’m someone who they can run to for anything in their lives. What more could a dad ask for?

What’s something your dad has passed down to you that you would like to pass to your children?

While I was raised differently because my father was from a different era, the one attribute that I hope I’ll inherit from him, is his patience—in particular, the patience that he has for my mother! I hope to pass this trait on to my kids!

Shahrin Bahar, bespoke tailor

Children: Bariq (Bars) Bahar, 3; and Freya Bahar, 2

Describe your style in three words.

Tailored. Not Formal.

What are your thoughts on ‘dad fashion’? Do you think it’s an accurate representation of the modern dad?

The dadcore trends came out from practicality. As I became a dad myself, I’ve noticed the increase of creases in my clothing from carrying a baby while feeding a toddler. I now avoid wearing linens on days when I’m taking them out, and instead, dress more practically in breathable and non-wrinkle fabrics. With sneakers, nothing beats a pair that’s designed for performance. Everything is about function rather than just form.

Do you have a style moment from your past you’ve regretted?

All the time! I think that style is an evolution and as a curious individual, I’ve always tried to push beyond my comfort zone. The styles I’ve regretted are looks I’ve worn to impress women (when I was a bachelor of course!) or a certain crowd back when I was younger. I now believe in resetting your wardrobe and have items that are classic, versatile, and long-lasting. “Do not buy more, but buy the best you can afford” is my motto when it comes to fashion now.

What style advice would you give to your kids?

If you feel good about it, you’ll look good. And if you look and feel good, chances are you’ll do good.

Do you have anything from your wardrobe that you would pass down to them?

I hope that my suits can last through the decades to show them my career through garments, from my first job at Puma, to designing football kits at Nike, to dressing the discerning men of the country and region.

What’s the best thing about fatherhood?

Fatherhood is a job that requires unconditional love and you have to understand that everyday is a learning process. A big hug from the kids after a long day at work is indeed indescribable.

What’s your proudest moment as a dad so far?

Just watching them grow in front of my eyes! My son is such a stand-up comedian and I’m secretly very proud of that as that would be my dream job in another life!

What’s something your dad has passed down to you that you would like to pass to your children?

My dad has amazing ironing skills, but most importantly, he has a distinct style and he knows what fits him best. I have yet to master his ironing skills, but I would like my kids to “inherit” the resilience of mastering a craft or skill. It’s okay to only be good at one thing. My heart feels so full every time I satisfy a client’s request, and I wish I could share that feeling to my children so that they can adopt the same attitude in whatever they wish to do in the future.

Jovian Mandagie, fashion designer

Daughter: Jeanelle Nika Mandagie, 2 years and 7 months

Describe your style in three words.

Simple. Practical. Distinctive.

What are your thoughts on ‘dad fashion’? 

I realised that my sense of style has become simpler and more practical ever since I became a dad. I used to love wearing slim-fit because back then, I have a great body as I still have the time to go to the gym frequently (laughs). But now, I prefer to wear looser pieces as they are more comfortable and convenient—especially when I have to carry Jeanelle around.

Do you have a style moment from your past that you’ve regretted?

I used to be very experimental with my hair. As a young fashion designer, I was adventurous and always wanted to try something new. I’d dye and try out new (in other words, funny) hairstyles, and I’d still laugh when I look at those pictures today. Some still looked pretty cool, but some really got me saying, “what was I thinking back then?”

What advice would you give Jeanelle when it comes to style?

For Jeanelle (and her future siblings), I’d tell them to dress according to their personality, as style and fashion should represent who you are, down to your particular mood of the day. That said, most importantly, fashion has to be practical and functional.

Do you have anything from your wardrobe you would pass down to Jeanelle?

I have really beautiful fabrics that can be passed down to her later on. One day, if I were to have a son, I’d love for him to have my batik shirt collection which I’ve collected from all over Malaysia and Indonesia. It’s a heritage I’d love to pass to my kids one day.

What’s the best thing about fatherhood?

Fatherhood gave me a whole new purpose in life. Back then when it was just me and my wife Datin Nina, it was all about having fun—whether it’s indulging luxuriously or travelling the world. But now with Jeanelle around, we definitely became more responsible. As a father, I have to think of a long-term plan, and I have to make sure that I will always have enough to provide a good and comfortable life for my family, especially in terms of my daughter's education and well-being.

With this bigger purpose in life, it makes fatherhood more meaningful to me. I can’t describe the feeling of waking up to seeing Jeanelle sleeping next to me, and knowing she’s always waiting for me to get home after a long day at work. Her hugs and her “I miss you daddy” are the most genuine gestures, and I can’t describe how beautiful that feeling is!

What’s your proudest moment as a dad so far?

Jeanelle may only be 2 and 1/2 years old, but I think she’s the brightest and smartest child I’ve ever met. Call me biased, but if you've met or talked to her, you’ll agree with me. She speaks fluently, and I sometimes find myself having proper conversations with her like we’re both adults! It’s super easy to explain and rationalise with her and I find that just amazing. She’s polite to strangers and she knows how to carry herself well whenever we bring her out. That makes me proud. And of course, being a designer dad, seeing how she looks so pretty every time we dress her up makes me beam with pride.

What’s something your dad has passed down to you that you'd like to pass to your children?

I was raised in a family unit without a father figure as my parents separated when I was young, so I grew up with my mother being the important person in my life. What I learned from her is that you have to work hard and always be independent. No one is going to help you to achieve your dreams but yourself, so you have to put in effort and never give up. I believe I’ll be passing that advice down to Jeanelle and her future siblings, because I know what my mum taught me has definitely influenced the way I see things. I wouldn’t have what I have today without her.

Roen Cian, entrepreneur

Daughters: Shaelyn Rey Cian, 3; and Bella Rey Cian, 15 months

Describe your style in three words.

Simple. Consistent. Relevant.

What are your thoughts on ‘dad fashion’? Do you think it’s an accurate representation of the modern dad?

I'm fine with it! I do follow it to a certain degree, but at the end of the day, the trend has to make sense.

What advice would you give your kids when it comes to style?

While style is important, they should explore it on their own. Do not force yourself to dress a certain way—at the end of the day, you must be comfortable with what you’re wearing.

Do you have anything from your wardrobe you would pass down to them?

My Yeezy collection which would probably be worth a lot of money then (laughs).

What’s the best thing about fatherhood?

To me, I love how my daughters force me to slow down in a good way. It’s all about enjoying the simpler things in life.

What’s your proudest moment as a dad so far?

I feel the proudest every time my children display kindness and thoughtfulness towards others.

What’s something your dad has passed down to you that you'd like to pass to your children?

He always told me to “be yourself”, and I would tell my children the same too.

For more Father's Day stories, click here.

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