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New Sewing Centre Launch

Batik Boutique proudly launched our new sewing training centre in Kota Damansara, which will help provide training to more seamstresses with sewing and other marketable skills. The official launch was attended by industry partners, NGOs, our seamstresses, and friends, and the launch was officiated by the Kota Damansara children's drum group.

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FR Week: #6 Wani’s Family - Passion That Doesn’t Wash Away

FR Week: #6 Wani’s Family - Passion That Doesn’t Wash Away


The last post for Fashion revolution week is about a fierce family that has been working with batik for many years while facing many challenges and difficulties through living from their passion.

Ani’s family runs a batik workshop for the past several decades. They work with Batik Boutique to produce marvelous fabrics for our corporate gifts and apparels. We had the pleasure to spend the afternoon at their family run workshop in a village in Malaysia.

fair trade batik artisan fashion revolution

“I am Ani. I've been working in batik for the last 31 years. I started turning scraps of fabrics into batik, something I learned from my sister. My husband had an important role in my learning as well - he is a well-known batik block maker. He gained his skills and knowledge from his family. I am very grateful to my husband for teaching me and passing this knowledge to our daughter as well.

My inspiration for batik comes from everything that surrounds me. I am always working with themes like nature or abstract, accordingly to the tastes of my customers. In all the years I learned that we need to know where we are going to market our products. For instance, we have orders from Australia and New Zealand, they like more traditional looking batik.

I am grateful to our customers, to the Batik Boutique. Thanks to my work I was able to raise 4 kids and provide them a good education. Our efforts paid off when one of our daughters decided to work with us after her studies.”

batik fabric fair trade

 

Wani is one of Ani’s daughters. She is aiming to leverage her family’s business to an international level. We work together to turn their marvelous fabrics into high quality batik products.

batik artisan malaysia fair trade

“My name is Siti Noorizwani - or just Wani. I am 29 years old and have been working with batik for 6 years, after majoring in business. This is my family’s business for generations, so batik has been part of  my life since I was kid. I have to say that the batik tools were my childhood toys.

I don’t have any kids but I have already started initiating my nieces and nephews into batik. I would love to have my family carry on this tradition to the future. For me, batik is a heritage that can regain its former glory with a modern touch,  fulfilling today’s market requirements.

Two years ago a great flood destroyed our workshop, and we lost everything. We started over from scratch, working just with whatever we could repair. Even after a year we are not able to recover our loss of liability and assets.. Most of the area you see here will be damaged forever, losses we will never be able to repair.

I was determined to help my family and business step by step. I started buying new tools and marketing to cover all our loss. This was an awful incident, however I am grateful for it as it provided me opportunity to pay back the hard work of my family. I am glad I have skills and knowledge to carry on rebuilding my family’s business.”

batik village recovering from massive flood(the remaining damages caused by the flood)

As Fashion Revolution comes to a close, we hope awareness and fashion consciousness remains. Keep supporting artisan products, and let’s do our part to empower artisans worldwide. Join the Revolution!

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FR Week - 5# Aznan’s Family - the frames of batik

FR Week - 5# Aznan’s Family - the frames of batik

Aznan’s family has produced vibrant fabrics for several decades, and is regarded as one of the most traditional families working with batik in Malaysia. Their specialities are blocking, canting and discharging.

hand drawn batik canting fashion revolution

Their workshop is filled with batik blocks of all sizes and shapes. Walking through the rows of stretched fabrics give off the aroma of the sweet smell of was drying as we try to stay cool in this unusually hot season in Malaysia.   

Aznan’s staff are humble and simple people - it’s unusual having strangers visit. Establishing a conversation was challenging for both sides - most of them are shy and speak an east coast dialect of the local language.  One of the ladies we spoke with is Che, a hand-drawing (canting) artisans. She’s worked in batik for the past 15 years and has good insight regarding colors and fabrics.

According to Che, there is competition among the batik artisans and block makers in Malaysia. They compete trying to create varieties of new batik fabrics in order to attract new customers. Aznan’s family works differently. They keep to their style, keeping traditional and trying to innovate at the same time by watching for the market’s trend and how to incorporate trends in their designs.

Che told us her sister was the person who introduced her to batik. She started doing batik for school uniforms and then moved to canting (hand-drawing) on fabrics. Her favorite motifs are flowers and nature , and she was eager to teach us how to color beautiful flowers.

There are variations in the way batik artisans work. Aznan introduced us to his way of preparing the fabrics, waxing, dyeing, discharging, etc. This exchange of knowledge is important as we create new designs and understand his process and how to incorporate them in our products.

Empathy is also part of the process of understanding artisans. Our relationships must deepen in understanding as our goal is empowering people. We need to consider their dreams and aspirations and how we can support them.  It’s Fashion Revolution - fulfilling your dream for fashion and stewarding the dreams of artisans who make it. Show them some love and spread the word.

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FR Week - #4 Mokhtar: Driven to Be The Person He is Today

FR Week - #4 Mokhtar: Driven to Be The Person He is Today

Fashion production covers a broader scope than fabric, dyeing and sewing. It includes machines, tools and gadgets. Batik includes tools as well - artisans need blocks and canting tools. The Batik Boutique values each person involved in the production of our corporate gifts, garments and apparels, and it’s our commitment to show you the people behind the block production as well.

Finding block makers is becoming a very difficult task in Malaysia. There are just a few people working on this demanding craftsmanship. Block makers translate pattern designs  into a waxing matrix, mastering copper into motifs. Block making is a heritage apprenticeship that is learned from apprenticeship.  

Mokhtar has been working in batik for the past 25 years. He is a serene man from a village in the state of Kelantan, Malaysia, where the pace of life forces you to slow down. For him, working with batik is rewarding and challenging - and sometimes he is forced to speed up and innovate in order to fulfill the needs of the always-changing fashion industry.

batik block fair trade malaysia

“In fashion everything moves really fast. We have to come up with new batik designs in a very short period of time.” To overcome this challenge, Mokhtar teams up with other batik artisans. They discuss, experiment with new designs and techniques, and study the marketing demands.


Mokhtar is passionate about what he does. We asked him about how he felt being a batik artisan. He is a man of few words, but very powerful ones:

“I don’t know how to put it in words… batik has driven me to be the person I am today. What I do makes me who I am. I feel like this heritage should remain forever. It’s about protecting our cultural tradition and protecting who we are in the days to come.”

fashion revolution mokhtar batik block malaysia

 

Talking to Mokhtar was a rewarding experience. We loved listening, seeing and knowing that our work is supporting people’s livelihood, passion, and culture. Empowering artisans like Mokhtar means they will be able improve their own lives through their work and craftsmanship. And that is what The Batik Boutique is all about.

It’s Fashion Revolution. Join us! Don’t forget to show your love to amazing people like Mokhtar.




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FRW - #2 Syafik & Batik: stamping ancestry and passion in your clothes

FRW - #2 Syafik & Batik: stamping ancestry and passion in your clothes

Batik fabrics are nets of thin lines of time, telling stories that take us back generations. They tell us the stories of humble people trying to live off what they love, what they know, what they made for you. Technically speaking, batik is a fabric dyeing process using wax to create patterns on fabric. In Kelantan, West-Malaysia, it is the main income source of many families  – artisans, block makers and pattern makers.

 

syafik imadeyourclothes fashion revolution

 

 

Syafik Akram (22) is a talented young artisan we have the pleasure to work with – a very shy guy working in the heat among hundreds of batik blocks hung all over the place. A few minutes chat turned into a long conversation, and the shyness turned into sparkling eyes. Syafik is trained in batik, one of the few options of education for young people available in the small village he lives in.

 

syafik - batik - artisan - malaysia - blocking

 

Syafik was born and raised in Kelantan, but moved away from his family in order to deepen his knowledge in batik. These were hard times as he is very attached to his family. Now he is back in Kelantan and doing what he loves. He enjoys waxing and dyeing the fabrics, but his favorite role is creating new patterns – which will be turned into a copper block by an artisan called a block maker.

“A block takes from one to four weeks to produce after I give them the directions of what I need. My ideas come naturally every time I try to fall asleep. It’s all about being inspired by the nature and our surroundings. For example, by looking at a flower I can literally break it down into parts, so I can play with the shapes to create a motif.”

Syafik’s family worked with batik for several generations. His grandmother passed him the responsibility to carry on the batik tradition after his uncle fell sick – the person who introduced him into batik. He admires the work of his uncle, one of the most skilled artisans from Kelantan in his opinion.

 

syafik treasure batik blocks(Syafik's treasures - his batik blocks)

Shafik then brought us to a very small room where he keeps his treasures – blocks made from his designs. Among those blocks, a very old one caught our attention. It was a block from his uncle, the only one he was able to save after the place they stored collapsed during flooding. He lamented about it and explained that blocks are becoming scarce as the number of block makers is decreasing rapidly.

 

syafik - uncle - old - batik - block(Uncle's last block)

“Batik is a tradition passed from my ancestors. I need to give my best to keep the cultural heritage of batik.  My family gave me this responsibility.”

Shafik’s dedication is stamped in his work. His designs are masterpieces, resulting in his responsibility to continue the heritage of his family, of his culture. The Batik Boutique exists to keep the tradition of the batik alive, empower artisans and seamstresses - people like Shafik. Leave a comment showing your love for the amazing people like Syafik who made your clothes.

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Fashion Revolution Week - #1 Empowering Women

Fashion Revolution Week - #1 Empowering Women

I made your clothes

It’s Fashion Revolution Week, and we want to highlight to you the people responsible for our high quality fashion products, corporate gifts and home goods.

These ladies live in one of the communities in which our work directly impacts. Located Selangor, Malaysia, , this community flat provides housing to hundreds of families, mostly from a very low-income background. Fair trade is the key to empower these women.

The Batik Boutique has worked with this community for the last 2 years. They are incredible women aspiring for a better life. They are wives, mothers and dreamers who hope for  better futures for their kids – the reason they spare no efforts on family and community matters. Their commitment and engagement is remarkable – it’s stamped on their faces, as in a Batik fabric.

Community Flat in Malaysia(Community flat)

The Batik Boutique provides sewing training and life skills – and many other non-job-related small needs. We realize the difficulty in working a full-time job, caring for children and keeping a house tidy. Learning a new trade, working inside the community, flexible shifts and childcare are very simple measures that make working possible for these women – things you can only learn by asking and listening.

 

(Ladies being trained)

We are working with a team of international volunteers. They are here to help us to improve our training program, empower the community and bring awareness to our cause. At first, they were concerned: “How would this group of women react to us? We are outsiders that want to teach a completely new trade to them.”. Those concerns faded away within a few minutes after the first encounter. These women are full of energy, very curious and extremely brave – facing industrial sewing machines is a true challenge!

VIP Volunteering Malaysia(Ana, in the center, taking a picture with the volunteers)

Ana is one of the new seamstresses. She was very excited about being featured in the Fashion Revolution Week. Even though Ana has basic sewing experience before the training, she joined the classes with great humbleness, helping the other women with difficulties. “I have a small sewing machine at home but had no idea how much more I could do using it.”

Each women has a personal story to tell. Every product they make carries  part of this story. The challenges they face, the better future they will grant due to their work. Some of these women have never worked  before. Others have never dreamed of  doing something different than what they have done for their entire lives. Learning, interacting and earning for it - being part of something that can help many other women discover new possibilities in their lives.

seamstresses practicing(new seamstresses practicing)

Your purchasing has power.   It can be used to give hope to people doing the hard work behind the scene who do everything they can to support their families. And by supporting ethical products and companies, you have the opportunity to create value to the people and stories behind the products.



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