WHEN Jayakumar Vanialigam launched JK Fashion as a brand under J Signature Sdn Bhd in 2018, his inspiration was the tribal designs in Sarawak, and his dream was to promote these ethnic designs to the world. The result manages to be contemporary, traditional, and unique.
“It started in 2017 when I was studying in Sydney,” said Jayakumar, better known as JK. “My friends encouraged me to start a fashion brand, and I did when I came back in September the next year.
“My first fashion show was in Sarawak, at Borneo Fashion Week 2018, the theme was Borneo to the World. My first collection was a men’s collection which had elements of Borneo with an Indian touch.”
It was this stint in Sarawak that inspired him to embrace ethnic designs, and present them in a contemporary format by combining them with the sensibilities of the younger generation.
“I realised that these ethnic designs were under-appreciated, and are relatively unknown to the world. And that needs to change.
“Each Borneo design tells a story, and has unique characteristics. Each tribe has their own patterns which symbolise strength, longevity, courage and so much more.
“During a visit to the Sarawak Textile Museum, I also learnt and saw the different ways that patterns are used, and how the costumes that use these patterns are worn. This is where I got my inspiration,” said JK.
The designs that he uses in his fashion line currently takes inspiration mainly from the Orang Ulu tribe and the Pua Kumbu tribe. JK hopes to incorporate designs from other tribes and the people of Borneo as he continues his research.
“My designs received good reviews from East Malaysians. The shirts that I designed are a hit. But, I wish to take these Borneo designs even further,” said JK.
Continuing his dream of using contemporary fashion to highlight traditional designs, JK recently launched a line of face masks that uses these tribal patterns.
“During the MCO (movement control order), The MBDA (Malaysian Bumiputra Designers Association) – which has gracefully adopted me by adding a 10% non-Bumi allocation in their association – encouraged me to start doing masks.
“I followed their advice, and I designed a mask that I believe to be safe, simple and elegant.”
He explained that the mask he designed uses three layers of fabric and a 5-ply insert filter.
“I was honoured when our Prime Minister (Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) wore the mask I designed for one of his events.
“This encouraged me to be more creative with my designs. And this is where I added a Borneo touch to the mask,” added JK.
Meanwhile, JK has also been championing autism awareness by combining his platform of fashion with the talented artwork of children with autism.
“I have been a volunteer at the Pertubuhan Sayang Malaysia (PERSAMA-2gether4autism) for many years. There, the kids go for art classes as a part of their therapy.
“I wanted to help them share their art with the world, and at the same time help them generate an income, and that is when I decided to help them using fashion as a platform.
“I took their artwork and printed out fabrics and designed them into apparel.”
But that is only one part of the plan. JK Fashion is an associate of a programme called Autism RuL3s Fashion – Powered By Gifted Minds, which allows children with autism to monetise their creativity. A percentage of the sales of designs with their artwork will go back to them as income.
“This is a new project which still needs a lot of exposure and support from the public. I hope that the public will support local designers to give our best, to support these kids, and make a difference in their lives,” said JK.
All apparel and masks by JK Fashion are available through the JK fashion.official Facebook and Instagram pages. An official website, www.jkfashionofficial.com, will be launched in mid-August.