Fun fact: ‘Batik’, is the Indonesian word for ‘drops’.
It refers to the process of dyeing fabric using a technique that resists certain areas. Although we think of batik as being Malaysian-born, its genesis in Asia is thought to have been brought by travellers from the Inidan subcontinent.
Batik has been integral to Malaysian culture and its identity throughout the history of Malaya and Malaysia as we know it today. In all this time, the production of batik has been reworked and updated till the point of stamping with wax directly onto cloth, a technique Malaysians have learned from our Indonesian (or then, Javanaese) friends.
For Malaysians, batik is like wearing your heart on your sleeve. And it’s not as easy as you’d think to find ready-to-wear batik designs around Kuala Lumpur! Luckily, there are homegrown brands that specialise in batik as they marry tradition with modernity. Here are 10 that have our hearts:
Founder Franki Turner began her brand in 2014 as a reminder of her Indonesian heritage and childhood. Each piece of clothing and accessories are hand-woven by men and women mostly in villages of Indonesia, Malaysia, Uzbekistan and Cambodia.
Ultimately, Frankitas imagines building a sustainable community of weaves in Asia and preserving their traditions. Community, is the essence of Frankitas, which works closely with the Fugee School for refugee children in KL, and Fugeelah, a lifestyle brand created by the school.
Batika specialises in Nusantara traditional wear, just as you see above. The brand was born in 2012 by founder Noorul-Hudaa Abdul-Rahman. Inspired by her Indonesian mother, Hudaa wants to bring back a tradition that’s slowly taken over by fast fashion. Batika’s designs are so unique to anything in the market, preserving heritage that never goes out of style.
Raz Bahari launched her brand with three reversible dress designs. The designer shares that her clientele are mostly non-Muslim as these designs do not adhere to strict Islamic dress codes, but that her brand receives positive, encouraging responses.The fabrics are sourced from Terengganu and Kelantan locally, as well as from Indonesia. The difference between batik cloths from both countries is that Indonesian batik uses more earth tones, and Malaysian batik is more colourful.
Gérson Custom Made Batik
Cute backstory: the brand was simply a family tradition of custom making batik during festive seasons, and has now grown into a small family-run business. They’ve expanded their catalogue but one thing remains, and that’s tailoring unique batik pieces so every pre-order promises a one-of-a-kind design.
FERN is no stranger to Prestige – we’ve always loved Fern Chua’s elegant designs! Fern founded her brand after winning the Fashion Pitch 2013 by MyCreative Ventures in Malaysia. The line of batik creations feature mostly resortwear designs with all the right accessories to go with them. Just last year, FERN unveiled its revamped flagship boutique in Bangsar Village II.
MaryamBayam – Better in Batik
Batik with a twist — not just in the way these pareos are tied, but in the very essence of Better in Batik where it preserves the culture of batik through contemporary design. The brand is passionate about giving new life to scrap fabrics in an effort to reduce its carbon footprint.
Suria Artisan Batik
Suria names the Malaysian rainforest as its inspiration, an influence undeniable in its tropical, resort-like designs. Its workshop is appropriately located in nature itself at Janda Baik, Pahang, home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world. The brand is also a sponsor of a local environmental NGO called TRCRC.
Batik Boutique is name familiar to many after proudly winning the MaGIC Amplify Award for Social Enterprises. The boutique was founded with a mission to disrupt the cycle of poverty in Malaysia, training and working with low-income and rural families locally. More than 150 artisans are currently working with Batik Boutique.
A brand that’s gained international traction, Bujins Batik has Master Craftsman Amir Harith bin Mat Kashim to thank. More fondly known as Bujin, he was awarded the Golden Hand Award by our Prime Minister in 2009 and then went on to win the Piala Seri Endon’s Fashion Category in 2012. Bujin now has a batik gallery in Putrajaya, and at he same time, teaches rural communities the art of batik at the Bujin Academy.
Kapten Batik was founded in 2017 with a focus on menswear. The brand promotes sustainable development using artisanal handicraft and traditional textiles. It describes its designs as everyday wear, something you can wear by the pool while still looking smart enough for lunch after.