Cover Back row from left: Cyrus Chin, Bernie Chan, Peter Low, Justin Hong, Key Ng and Peter Lum; Second row from left: Lim Ai San, Alia Bastamam, You Sheng, Geraldine Beh, Bella Rahim, Keng Foong, Celest Thoi and Elizabeth Soong; Front row from left: Nicholas Hah, Melinda Looi and Michael Lew (Photo: Khairul Imran/Tatler Malaysia)

During the first lockdown, Malaysia Official Designers Association (MODA) answered the call for PPE gear for our medical frontliners

Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdown had left fashion designers like Melinda Looi and Khoon Hooi in a bit of a spot as orders were cancelled and demand for new apparel fell drastically. Despite the gloom, Looi felt the need to turn this into something positive—and that was by harnessing her skill as a garment-maker to produce PPE gear for medical frontliners. However, she knew she couldn't possibly do much on her own.

As president of the Malaysia Official Designers Association (MODA), she rallied a community of designers to volunteer their services. Combining forces, they managed to raise enough money to buy the first sets of material for the PPEs—MODA eventually raised RM700,000 for this purpose.

The designers pooled their resources together, with their respective seamstresses working tirelessly to make the essential gear. Vivy Yusof introduced MODA to the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia Response and Relief Team (IMARET), who helped them to connect with the hospitals across Malaysia for distribution of the PPEs. This initiative brought much relief at a time when hospitals were facing dwindling supply of PPEs as the number of Covid cases increased. 

Watch the video below for a tribute by Dr Husna Musa, one of the founding members of IMARET, to the team at MODA.

Above Tribute to MODA by Dr Husna Musa

For their Covid relief efforts  MODA received Tatler's Community Award that recognises a group of people who have made a significant impact on society in the past year. Looi and members of MODA were invited to a luncheon at ATAS restaurant in RuMa Hotel & Residences to receive this honour.

In attendance were designers Celest Thoi (who was one of the first designers to respond to Looi's call for volunteers), Alia Bastamam, Key Ng and You Sheng as well as the gentlemen who coordinated delivery of the PPEs including Michael Lew, general manager of MODA. Looi also invited her mother who was one of the hardworking people who sewed and packed the PPEs.

In her acceptance speech, Looi credited her mom for instilling her passion to help those in need. "Growing up, every Chinese New Year, she would take us to old folks' homes and orphanages. She taught us how to give and understand that we're all very fortunate to be healthy, to have jobs and to have our family around us."

See also: Tatler's Diamond Award 2020: An Evening With Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew & Family