Jul 9, 2012


I have been slightly crazy over prints (this is not a new occurrence at Dunia Fashyon - I just dabbled in paisley prints recently), and, following my subsequent jaunt to the Jonker's Walk, I have acquired this batik print backpack from a store called Next KK.

It has never crossed my mind that this seemingly souvenir-laden shop which aims at the flocks of tourists offers something that I myself would really buy... the memories of backpacking days in the Europe crept in: I had history of falling into such tourist traps where buying overpriced Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts, town-specific fridge magnets, key chains and postcards was the objective proof that you have been in, say, Paris or Berlin.


The bag is a juxtaposed patches of batik prints in a myriad of colours. I believe it is an Indonesian product, judging from its classical repetitive patterns. Never mind its country of origin - basically what determined my decision to purchase this seemingly simple product is its vivid colors, despite its flimsiness which explains the rather cheap price. Nevertheless the backpack can still hold a small bulk of my dirty laundry and a 13-inch Macbook simultaneously - a feat on itself to me.

I also tried to portray the recurring theme of batik with this similarly printastic vintage shirt, a property of my father. He had this shirt made roughly at my current age; I am astonished at the petit size of his body which is consequently passed down to me genetically. 

An unconventional mix of old and new - vintage batik shirt with new batik backpack, old tattered H&M jeans with new Marni at H&M sandals and Ayame socks. Posing for the camera in outlandish outfits can be quite embarrassing at times. The role of the Ajumma visor? To cover my face from the peeking next-door neighbour, of course!

Beneath the batik shirt: Topman striped tee I acquired on sale

Again, the pattern highly reminds me of Indonesian batik, which is historically characterised by small recurrent motifs in deep colours like indigo and brown. After a brief Googling it dawned on me that in Indonesia there is a custom of wearing certain patterns, i.e. special motifs can only be worn by a certain social class (typically by the aristocrats). And back in the day where everything was handmade, the batik-making process involved a lot of intricate canting / tjanting (a special printing technique where thin wax lines are drawn onto the fabric, and this wax retains the dye that was soaked within the cloth beforehand). 

Not that I'm trying to say how unpatriotic I can be, but personally, my batik affinity veers towards Indonesian products. I particularly like the predominantly geometric and repetitive patterns, and also the rich deep hues that batik crafts from this country usually come out with. 

Malaysian batik, on the other hand, is said to be influenced by the original Javanese batik (which is an Indonesian region), when the Javanese people migrated to peninsular Malaya. I'm sure most of my Malaysian readers are aware of the fact that there is an apparent difference of batik style in comparison to the Indonesian counterpart - the patterns are larger - mostly consisting of paintbrush techniques, predominant floral motifs and more vibrant colours. This, when not done the proper way, repulses me ever so frequently. (Don't get me wrong, I do have a few Malaysian batik shirts, despite them hanging unworn in my wardrobe. It's just that I'm not very keen with the overall finish and flimsiness of the shirts).

My mother's personal Malaysian batik, in the form of Baju Kurung

Either way I still support Malaysian products. I'm not very sure about the promotional measures by the Indonesians, but the Malaysian government holds the annual Piala Seri Endon (a batik-oriented fashion and crafts competition); civil servants are encouraged to wear batik shirts and dresses on Thursdays; there are private/ government-linked organisations carrying the task of promoting Malaysian batik around the world. And last but not least, renown local designers like Tom Abang Saufi play an important role in promotional aspects in the form of fresh and innovative batik outfits.

Note the paintbrush technique predominant in Malaysian batik. The print on the top image almost has a cosmic effect. Inspired by Christopher Kane, perhaps?

Of course there are a multitude of ways to improve all of this in the future. Alas, like most of the government-run programmes in the country, organisational mismanagement and execution defects hinder improvements ever so frequently.

Nevertheless, the possibility of transforming local batik industry into a global retail venture always exists. It's not like the Westerners are not well-informed about batik - ethnic print is a phenomenon these few seasons: conceptual designers like Dries Van Noten has already been churning batik and ikat prints few seasons back; there are influential fashion bloggers who can likely spread the love of batik, like Susie Bubble, who recently flaunts her beautiful ethnic haul from mainland China.

P/S: I rarely write ethnic-focused fashion. For another similar topic regarding ethnic/national-type fashion, have a look at my entry on the Philippines' Barong Tagalog.   

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