Batik is to Malaysian fashion what our nasi lemak is to our palates – synonymous, ubiquitous, favourited and, most of all, timeless.
Its rich tapestry of colours and designs woven into all forms of smart shirts, feminine blouses, elegant baju kurungs and more are a reflection of our culture as a people who are equally diverse and eclectic as we are versatile and multi-faceted.
Our Malaysian batik has also continued to evolve over the years. Though it continues the same creation process of dyeing by means of painting over certain waxed areas to create the desired design, there’s a new wave of brands that marry tradition with modernity for refreshed forms without forgetting batik’s cherished roots.
Here are our favourites.
Fern Batik Collective
Founded by Fern Chua in 2015, the label is known for its distinguished one-of-a-kind creations, infused with a contemporary feel for its Malaysian heritage. With a clear sense of design skewed towards simple, versatile, and effortlessly elegant lifestyle resortwear, the pieces are luxurious to touch and uniquely handcrafted by in-house artisans using only the finest all natural materials. Since the inception of the label, the designer has come up with eight key collections all inspired by nature, each series representing an element that echoes to the creative. The Malaysian luxury resortwear has recently expanded its fashion label into an artisanal collective, where artisans from across the globe are invited to bring ethical bespoke lifestyle goods under three categories – home, jewellery, and accessories. W fern.gallery
Based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, Kapten Batik was launched in March 2017 as a more tailored approach to men’s batik and men’s fashion industry. Not so much a formal batik but a ‘batik you can wear everyday’, it offers something you can wear on any occasion, breathable enough for the poolside yet then smart enough for a drink in the evening. Having initially focused on classic slim fit men’s shirt, the range evolved to a complete modern and contemporary motive featuring geometrical to floral themes. It now also has a capsule resort collection featuring board shorts, tote bags and more. W kaptenbatik.com.my
At the heart of Brava Batik is a message of liberation, that of founder Raz Bahari , who is a transgender woman. Brava Batik was born as her way to show her pride in her identity, culture and heritage as a transgender woman of Malaysian heritage. She celebrates it with clothing for men and women as well as a series of accessories ranging from masks and bags to headwear. They all put front and centre the lively colour and intricate designs of the culturally-rich batik. W @bravabatik
Gérson started as a home tailoring business with three sisters serving the neighbourhood in Klang, Malaysia. As part of family tradition, they custom-made batik dresses every Chinese New Year celebration, which nurtured their love and passion for Malaysian batik. Fast forward 30 years later, they along with a cousin took up the challenge to digitalise this little family business to offer modernised batik designs, specialising in custom-made batik shirts, blouse, ties, face masks and more. W gersonbatik.com
MaryamBayam began with the simple idea to preserve the culture of traditional batik through contemporary design. It focuses on making accessories inspired by timeless designs and giving them a modern, batik twist. Each piece is meticulously designed to outlast fast fashion trends, done by finding new purpose for scrap fabrics, while constantly working on improving its supply chains. It believes that it is these little steps that will help reduce our impact on the environment, increase social responsibility and encourage more to embrace the sustainable fashion movement. W maryambayam.com
Suria Artisan Batik
Suria Artisan Batik supports marginalised/displaced artisans who create stunning pieces of kaftans, kimonos, shawls as well as a range of other fashion and home accessories in its stunning brand of batik wear.Beautiful, intricate patterns found within the Malaysian rainforest is its primary source of inspiration. Its workshop is appropriately located amidst the natural treasure trove of Janda Baik, Pahang, home to one of the oldest deciduous rainforests in the world. It is also a proud sponsor of TRCRC, a local environmental NGO. W suria-artisanbatik.com
In 2009, Amy Blair became friends with Ana, a single mother, who at the time was looking for more income to support her family. Together they bought some batik fabric that Ana transformed into unique gifts that Amy gave to family and friends. Soon, word spread and with it came demand. Amy founded Batik Boutique in the belief that women like Ana deserved a fair and sustainable income, and the ability to provide for themselves and their families. Batik Boutique’s vision is to empower hundreds of artisans like Ana by offering them a fair and sustainable income producing beautiful, high quality fashion and gifts. Today, more than 150 artisans have worked with Batik Boutique to gain a fair, sustainable income and marketable skills. W thebatikboutique.com
Better Than Blouses
Better Than Blouses gives batik an edge, transforming them into crop tops and matching shorts, pencil skirts with chic cinched waists and blouses with peekaboo fallaway backs that belong on tattooed musicians as much as demure office ladies. Its colour palate and design also deviate from the norm with sweet pastels and stunning psychedelics in modernised prints. Designed and stitched together in an old pre-war shoplot in Penang, Malaysia, it borrows the best of Penang’s Peranakan influence for collections that are fresh, cute and definitely modern. W betterthanblouses.com