Whether it's furniture, fashion or home decor items, these brands and shops are updating the classic Malaysian aesthetics into modern forms. Think batik clutches, coffee bags turned laundry bins, totes made out of vintage rice sacks, and more.
DESIGNation is where we first spotted MAD3 Studio’s creations – stylish powdercoated steel structures with hand-woven vinyl cords that reinterpret the nostalgic designs of classic Malaysian chairs of the ’60s. MAD3 Studio works with local craftsmen to weave their designs in hues of black and white or with splashes of colour such as yellow and blue. The furniture label started off with alphabet-inspired chairs and loungers (we particularly like the ‘b’ chair), but now the collection has expanded into benches as well. At time of print, an online store is in the works.
Reimagining a 1920s sarong with modern fabrics for pillows, using a patchwork of velvet and traditional weaving for cushions, creating pendant lamps with handmade embroidered kebaya fabric by local artisans; the Peranakan-inspired homeware brand Ahnya Chi was started by communication design graduate Gwyneth Lim. Driven by the tagline ‘lovingly made over some gossip’, this is definitely one brand that understands the heritage of the Peranakans.
To complement their architectural consultancy, local architects Adela Askandar and Farah Azizan decided to start Kedai Bikin, a home décor store. Through using (mostly) local material (think rattan, PVC cords, batik) and working closely with local craftsmen, Kedai Bikin gives new meaning to the phrase ‘Buatan Malaysia’.
At Jurema Creations, a palm frond can be redesigned as a fruit bowl, or a piece of bark turned into an elegant sushi tray. Using a complex and labour-intensive lacquer process that includes treatment of the raw materials and up to six layers of lacquer before sealing, Brazilian artist Jurema Walendowsky Baker makes highly sought-after home decor pieces from discarded palm and coconut tree fronds (as well as bamboo, durian and even coffee grounds) from Malaysian rainforests.
At Momage Art, old flour and rice sacks are repurposed as tote bags and pillow cases by simply adding hand-stitched designs and pieces, like the handles for the totes. The sacks come from a family collection that dates back to the ’70s and ’80s, and are from all over Asia including Singapore and China.
Batika by Hudaa
After looking through old photos of her mother in traditional Indonesian outfits, Noorul-Hudaa Abdul-Rahman was inspired to bring back the traditional pleat of the sarong, which is a fold resembling a fan, and incorporate it into modern wear. Batika does this with contemporary batik designs on skirts that can be worn for any occasion.
It’s a trademark design that we all recognise: vibrant colours with uniformed patterns inspired by the culture of Malaysia (there’s even one with kuih!). Apart from stationery, Nala has expanded their range of products which now includes bags, pillowcases, skirts and scarves.
Spice up your outfit with bags, clutches and purses from Frankitas that are made from traditional fabrics like the ikat, rangrang, songket, tenun and batik. It’s a lengthy process – some bags take between five to 22 days to be made – which are all hand-woven through methods of weaving and tie dyed with traditional patterns.
Craft goes beyond the cross stitch in Malaysia, and at the core of Johor-based brand HOMM is the notion of (de)constructing Malaysian craft practices, weaving in contemporary designs. It’s the best of both worlds: time-honoured local craftsmanship-meets-modern minimalist aesthetics. In their store, you’ll see items like bamboo (and rattan) baskets, typically used for decor and storage, getting a second lease on life as a woven wall clock – hanging on your wall, it’ll be in the right place at the right time.
Arcadia, formerly Outdated, stocks a whole load of vintage paraphernalia, unrelated except that they’re all cool. Old bicycle models lean against vintage cabinets, which are topped with tiffin carriers, typewriters and toys. Their latest claim to fame is the portable Arcadia 1.0 record player à la Crosley turntable, available in blue, black, brown and orange.
We’d put all our eggs in Mowgli’s baskets: The folks at Mowgli have managed to marry eco-friendly ethics and easy-on-the-eyes aesthetics with their #baloobakul. The baskets – traditionally used as rice baskets – are made from seagrass, and are harvested and hand-woven by village artisans from the Indochinese Peninsula.
Burlap coffee bags-turn-laundry bin, paper bags-turn-planter pots – twizs vows to pair simplicity with sophistication and above all, sustainability. There are also screwless side tables and wooden work desk stations. To take a look-see IRL, they’re a regular brand at pop-up bazaars; think Awe Gallery and Battery Acid Club.