Batik art and fashion found new fans at this annual fest held in Kuala Lumpur recently, writes Nadia Badarudin

WHEN it comes to preserving and promoting awareness of our traditional art forms such as batik, it is wise to start young. And Batik Fest has been doing just that for the past three years. It is an annual event which aims to educate the younger generation on the art of batik.

This year, children were given the chance to shine on an open-air runway dressed in their best batik. Held at Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC) in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur from February 8 to 10, Batik Fest 2019 saw kids below the age of 10 take on the challenge to stride down the catwalk in batik ensembles that they had styled.


Kids ruled the runway at Batik Fest 2019. (Picture by NSTP/Nurul Shafina Jamenon)

It was a good initiative to spark interest in young minds and give them early exposure to the traditional art form; the mini runway was graced with little girls owning their OOTD-moments in pretty dresses featuring floral batik motifs. They matched these with sneakers or kiddie kitten heels, and accessorised with traditional dokoh.

Some girls stole the limelight in playful combos of cropped tops paired with printed leggings or skirts, while the boys looked cool in batik shirts and shorts in vibrant colours.

MIX OF OLD AND NEW

Themed “Batik & Classic”, Batik Fest 2019 saw the participation of more than 20 established brands, and homegrown players, offering various batik apparel and fashion accessories.

Noor Arfa Batik was among the industry heavyweights present at the event. Boasting 70 in-house brands, the company has been in the business for 39 years. At the fest, it sent the message that Malaysian “batik pastel” — or batik fabrics in pastel colours — are the current go-to items.


Kids took the challenge to stride down the catwalk in batik ensembles that they had styled at Batik Fest 2019. (Picture by NSTP/Nurul Shafina Jamenon)

The aesthetic appeal of batik pastel adds a modern touch to traditional wear like baju kurung, and makes it more versatile for modern cuts and styles. Besides the batik designs, the company also brought its bestsellers such as the batik sarong all the way from its headquarters in Terengganu.

Karyaneka, the marketing arm of Malaysian Handicraft Corporation, invited visitors to get a hands-on experience on batik “chanting”, apart from promoting batik-inspired accessories like handbags as well as souvenirs. Its batik painting set that consists of a batik design with wax and watercolours, were among the crowd favourites, particularly with tourists from abroad.

CHIC AND FUN WEAR

Batik Fest 2019 was an avenue for batik fans and fashion enthusiasts to check out new products or the latest styles brought in by industry newcomers, mostly independent fashion labels. Little Tatara offered a collection of comfy ready-to-wear classics like baju kurung for kids. Lembayong By Vee Izhar retailed colourful batik neckties and bowties — a simple, somewhat bold, fashion statement that would amp up a man’s mundane ensemble any time.

House of Tie Dye Malaysia, also known as Empayar Kaki 5, showcased tie-dye art pieces on T-shirts, loose pants and whatnots — a collection re-defined as “batik pelangi”. The famous Japanese ancient shibori tie-dye technique applied on pants was among the unique boho-influenced summer wear creations displayed at the event.


Chic accessories by MaryamBayam. (Picture by NSTP/Nurul Shafina Jamenon)

With the tagline “Better in Batik”, MaryamBayam was among the homegrown brands selling accessories at the event. It featured simple yet trendy handmade items made of batik Terengganu.

MaryamBayam was founded in March, 2018 by Maryam Mutalib, a culinary graduate who developed the brand from her passion in styling with handmade accessories. “I love to dress up. Statement pieces are a must to me, especially those which are handmade.

“Most of the time, I wear accessories that I make myself. Then, I started selling the items to my friends and eventually it turned into a business,” says the young and stylish entrepreneur who hails from Negri Sembilan. “Malaysian batik, especially from Terengganu, is unique and versatile. That’s the reason I choose the material to make my products,” she said.

The brand’s cute chic hairbands, scrunchies and earrings (available in two designs, batik bow hoops and wrapped hoops), were a hit. The price range was between RM6 and RM30.

LITTLE TWIST

Gajoh & Co. offered menswear and children’s apparel with minimal batik details. The brand was founded last year by architect- turned-entrepreneur Jamree Mohd Jawaini.

Apart from mainstream batik shirts made by block-printing, the brand’s signature items boast a minimalist concept and fluid details made of batik Terengganu. With stiff competition coming from Indonesian batik, it is crucial for local entrepreneurs to come up with distinctive designs, says Jamree.

“Gajoh & Co. produces cotton and linen batik shirts and T-shirts with a little twist. For instance, we put batik applique on the sleeve, the collar or the pocket. Sometimes, we put lighter-coloured, subtle batik art in fauna motifs like koi fish on the chest. Each shirt has that clean, contemporary look. Something which, I think, would appeal more to the young or those who prefer a mix of both modern and classic styles. Such a look makes it easier to mix and match and is practical for both casual and formal occasions, he adds.


A foreign tourist testing her skills in batik-chanting at Karyaneka’s booth. (Picture by Nurul Shafina Jamenon)

COUPLES’ OUTFITS

Since 2017, Selangor-based Karina has built a string of followers for its “couple batik” – matching batik ensembles for couples. The brand has been retailing outfits for women and men in modern and contemporary designs, with the vibrant-coloured Indonesian batik being the main feature. Most of its customers are young couples.

“Couples’ outfits are ideal for those who like to dress in like style with their significant other. Each design comes with a matching pair for the partner and is available in 12 colours,” says Karina founder Dhamirah Amar.

The brand retails batik wear with fusion elements too. “We have patterns that combine common songket motifs with batik,” she says.

Besides its own social media platform, Karina is also available in-store at Loka Malaysia.

Despite being a good marketplace to showcase batik, Batik Fest 2019 was not without its downside: If only there had been more batik entrepreneurs onboard.

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