XALF, Bespoke Shoe Design, Malaysia

Interview with Xavier Mah, XALF

Tell us more about XALF. What is the inspiration and the background of the brand?

XALF is a ladies bespoke footwear label which started December 2012. Our designs, often inspired by the sleek metropolitan vibes of New York City and the bohemian touch that often accompanies traditional craftsmanship, are a mishmash of classic looks with modern detailing. But whatever we do, comfort is the key element in our designs. You can either design your own shoes (with our help, of course), or choose an existing design template and add your own flavour to it.

And to our surprise, an endeavour that grew from our passion for fashion has taken a life of its own as we launched our inaugural collection at Bentley Malaysia that was followed by our second line Metamorphosis at Lotus Malaysia.

Regarding inspiration for the brand, I will blame the Sex and the City girls. Come on, you have seen the HBO series – the cosmopolitan vibe, the energy, the empowered women (even as they hit their 40s) and of course those Manolo Blahniks! It’s feminism that does not require [the stereotypical idea of] bra burning, but [rather] enjoying and celebrating womanhood. That’s the essence of XALF.

What does XALF stand for and what do you want to represent?

XALF is the brainchild of Xavier Mah (myself) and Alfred Hor. XALF is actually a combination of (XA)VIER & (ALF)RED. Alfred and I realized that there was a niche to be filled with customizable footwear in Malaysia and Asia. Our aim is to cater to a clientele that desires to stand out from the pack of mass produced heels and pumps. [These] heels are yours and yours alone.

XALF also stands for Xtraordinary, Amazing, Luxury and Fabulous.

What makes your shoes special compared to others that our found in the mass market?

There was a niche to be filled with customizable footwear in Malaysia. Our aim is to cater to a clientele that desires to stand out from the pack of mass produced heels and pumps. [These] heels are yours and yours alone.

Where are your shoes made? What is the process that goes into the making of each pair?

Shoes are made right here in Malaysia.

As with many other changes in trends, the technique of crafting a bespoke shoe became popular because of ostentatious circumstances – the need to standout from run-of-the-mill offerings made it expedient that only the finest raw materials be used even before the design process. Well, we need to consider a few aspects before we design a shoe. Comfort is a priority. Style is secondary.

Our personalised service will ensure that you get impeccable vintage craftsmanship (with genuine calfskin, lambskin and donkey fur leather) and high-society aesthetics for a perfect fit that is yours alone. This is our proudest creation yet.

Have any celebrities put on your shoes?

XALF has graced the feet of Supermodel Ai Tominaga, Supermodel Devyn Abdullah, Award-wining TVB Actress Charmaine Sheh, NYC Celebrity Blogger Tia Walker, SG Actress Sharon Au, SG Actress Irene Ang, Ms Singapore 2006 Collen Francisca, Miss Malaysia Universe 1978 & TV Personality, Datuk Yasmin Yusuff, Ms Malaysia World 2009/10 & International Model, Thanuja Ananthan, Forbes Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy 2010, Dato’ Ruby Khong, MY/SG Award-winning Actress, Chris Tong Bing Yu, International Pop Star, Mizz Nina, HE Ambassador of Ecuador, Lourdes Puma Puma and now… Monica Tindall, Editor of The Yum List.

What are some of your memorable achievements with this brand?

The biggest moment will of course be the official launch of XALF at the Bentley Gallery KL. A close second will be seeing them on the feet of Mizz Nina, Datuk Yasmin Yusuff, Dato Ruby Khong, Dynas Mokhtar and more. Even TVB [a commercial television station in Hong Kong] actress Shermaine Sheh, Supermodel Ai Tominaga and other international artistes has a pair. It is really satisfying to see our label grow.

What are your future plans for XALF? Do you have any plans to diversify your products or to expand globally?

We’re aiming for more collaboration. Pushing the brand as far as it can go and possibly branding out into accessories. Also, we want to open a concept store.

Where can your shoes be found? Where can customers get a hold of them?

Each creation is specially designed and accessorised according to the preference of anyone who logs on to our website (xalfdesign.com) or give us a call for an appointment at 012 649 3735 or 03 7733 9065.

What are some of your best-selling designs?

Wedding and classic designs.

Tell us about yourself, what is your background and what led you to found XALF?

“Confidence without arrogance” has been my tagline since young. Coming from a single parent family, I understood the need to work hard to achieve my dreams. I strongly believe that nothing is impossible if one strive for success. On the journey towards his goals, many people have given me help, and I have never forgotten anyone of them.

I have wanted to be involved in the media field since secondary school days. My inspiration has been Hong Ju Khee, a former anchorwoman from ntv7. A versatile personality, she was known as being the only newscaster who had excellent command in English, Malay and Mandarin languages. In turn, this had convinced me to take those language papers in his STPM because I realized that being multi-lingual would be a very useful skill to have with my career choices.

When success as a purveyor of bespoke woman’s footwear was still a dream, I had already enjoyed a fair measure of accomplishments as public relations consultant, where I have plied my trade with a personal touch.

I’m lucky to be in an environment where I can discover new ways to increasing the prominence of brands and labels. Often, when I first meet an interesting individual, it’s like, ‘let’s work on something, who knows how it going to turn out.’ It’s more than just the label – it’s about a lifestyle proposition, inspiration and an emotional affiliation with the product.

It is that same personal touch that I impart as the brainchild of XALF, eventuating into a line of bespoke footwear. Private runway shows for XALF has since taken place at the prestigious Bentley and Lotus showrooms.

I realize my purpose in life is to do my very best wherever I am at any moment, by thinking about what I can do to improve the lives of those around me. I want to fill each day with a sense of exhilaration and purpose, a sense of tasks accomplished and deep fulfillment. I believe that each person has their own path in life; a unique mission that only they can fulfill with.

What advice would you give to other budding designers/young people?

You must:-

1/ Believe in Yourself

2/ Take 100% responsibility for your life

3/ Be clear why you are here and always ask ask ask.

What is your philosophy when it comes to work, life and fashion?

Family, friends and the will to live life to the fullest. You see youngsters nowadays screening “YOLO!” and whatnot. My perception is less irresponsible and hopefully more fulfilling, because you don’t always remember the winning and gaining an advantage over the competition. Rather, it’s the intimate moments where you’ve made an impact on the life of another human being that will be remembered. Try giving a brand new smartphone to a complete stranger, that takes gumption and the sheer joy of selflessness. That’s (hard as it may be) what I’m trying to achieve.

Personally, who are your favourite designers/people who inspire you artistically?

My all time inspiration idols are Audrey Hepburn and Karl Lagerfeld. They never go out of style.

Besides running XALF, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Besides operating XALF, I am also running my own PR & event firm, Xavier Mah Consultancy Sdn Bhd.

Well, I’m an unabashed fashionista, so I could spend an entire afternoon devouring fashion magazines of every genre. I feel alive when I see beauty brought to life. It might be considered superficial, but other than buckling down when life calls for it and pushing though the daily grind, we do have to make time for ourselves. I also enjoy watching movies and hunting down new places to eat a good meal.

You’ve probably travelled around the world due to the nature of your job. Where have you travelled to and where are some of your favourite destinations and why?

I have travelled to New York, Paris, Italy, Beijing, Doha, Dubai and Singapore. Well, I personally love New York city very much.

“If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” that’s what the song says. I fell in love with New York because of the beauty of its landscape, its light, its sunset, because I met love at every street corner, because smiles are always offered to me, because I see happiness whenever I need it, because young entrepreneurs have so many opportunities to meet great inspiring people that will help them to achieve their dreams, because people have the courage to take risks to succeed. Positive energies are all around and that’s what you feel right away when you move to New York City.

I know that it is not as easy as it appears to succeed in New York but Big Apple, the city that never sleeps has something that Paris and France didn’t offer me: HOPE. And that hope is the lighthouse that I need to achieve my dreams and live my greatness.

Read about The Yum List’s experience with bespoke shoe design with XALF here.

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  1. This is a very good interview and I really like the advice given to young people!

  2. Great! Love to see such enterprising young men, all the best to the two of them.

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