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For the love of Malaysian batik

18 Feb 2020 / 10:52 H.

AT THE age of 25, Ariffa Maryam Yeop Abdul Mutalib can already see the bigger picture. Looking forward to the future, but with her roots steeped in heritage and culture, Maryam walks a path not travelled by many in her age group – promoting local batik and making it contemporary for the younger generation.

Maryam actually has a background in the culinary arts. Growing up as the youngest of seven siblings, she learned how to cook traditional food from her aunts, whom she declared “the best teachers she ever had”, while her restaurateur mother specalises in Negeri Sembilan cuisine.

In fact, Maryam once made traditional Malay kuih for her mother’s famous Aunty Aini’s Garden Cafe in Kg. Chelet, Nilai, which she was meant to take over.

However, Maryam found her calling to promote batik, and about two years ago she became an accessories designer and owner of the label MaryamBayam.

“Batik is something that won’t go out of style. It is timeless,” explained Maryam, who uses traditional batik material to create modern statement accessory pieces such as Batik Bow Hoop earrings which appeal to the youth.

“Batik can be fun, contemporary and anything you like. It is a way of self-expression. It is Malaysian identity.”

How did you get into designing accessories?

“I always loved wearing the headband. It was my first product in my whole collection. I thought: ‘Why do I need to buy if I can make it myself?’. I started learning how to make headbands from YouTube, as I knew how to sew since I was 12 years old. I went to a sewing class because I wanted to become a fashion designer at that time.

“I started to make headbands and my friends and family were interested in them. I had this idea to make headbands with batik material. It wasn’t common or [readily] available in the market. I thought it would be unique as [batik] is our identity.

“Initially, I did not plan to sell. It was only meant as a gift, but some of my friends said it would be really good if it was in the market.

“I don’t design batik at the moment. Currently, I am getting my batik supplied from Terengganu. All my batik material is made locally.”

What motivated you to create accessories instead of dresses using batik fabrics?

“The market is too saturated with clothing. Accessories like what I am doing are unique and hard to find. They have their own identity. It is a statement piece accessory, a niche market.”

How has the response been, especially from the younger generation?

“Alhamdulillah, It has been wonderful. I got so many good comments and people are grateful. You will be surprised that my main customers are Chinese, and they really appreciate what I am doing.”

Do you think the younger generation is not keen on batik?

“It is not that they are not keen, I think they are not exposed to it. We are so caught up with modern and Western [trends], and we are so ‘whitewashed’. We are so caught up with ‘in the now’, or whatever is trending that we don’t realise that we have something unique, and it is our heritage, our own culture.

“I guess a part of my mission for MaryamBayam is to promote local batik, it is contemporary and fun and attracts the younger generation through accessories.”

What is the difference between local batik and those from neighbouring countries?

“We have our own style. The abstract motifs are unique, funky and the colour combination is so attractive to my eyes.

“[Indonesian Batik] is mainly brown and black. They have pastels as well as red, but our batik has more floral motifs, which is made by the older generation. It has a vibrant colour, which is what really attracts me towards Malaysian batik.”

What is your next plan?

“I want to take MaryamBayam into retail, and I want to have my own store. I want to have different products that cater to everyone, including men, not just batik shirts, but batik ties, batik bow-ties and others.”

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