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Gillian's Farewell

Hi there. If you’ve seen our website, visited our boutique, or perhaps met us at a pop-up bazaar in the past year, you may know me. My name is Gillian. I graduated last June from Union College in New York with a Minerva Fellowship meant to instill an entrepreneurial approach to solving social issues in developing nations, and moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to volunteer for Batik Boutique. In my time here, I have gotten to experience a little bit of everything, and I’ve been witness to the growth of Batik Boutique.

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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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Things To Do in KL: Petronas Twin Towers

Things To Do in KL: Petronas Twin Towers

Look up the meaning of Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur, and you might raise an eyebrow or even two. Why in the world does Malaysia’s biggest city and one of fastest growing metropolitan regions in Southeast Asia have a name like “muddy confluence”? 

The name refers to the junction where the Klang and Gombak rivers meet, where the first tin mines in the area were established. A 15-minute drive away and 150 years later, Malaysia built a 452-metre tall building that quickly became an international icon after its completion in 1996.

I promise you that the splendor of these towers never disappoints. I have found myself in wonder of the Twin Towers ever since I was a child on short family holidays to even now as an adult working in Kuala Lumpur.

batik Malaysia twin towers

You always need a good, reliable bag to fit all your stuff for a day out! Today I brought my Malaysian batik tote bag from The Batik Boutique. If you love the look bright-coloured batik, Malaysia is the perfect place to visit!

As soon as you arrive, you’ll start to see how fitting of a metaphor “muddy confluence” is. Hurried office workers grab takeaway lunches impressively chatting while still walking in perfect formation. Other families are out for a meal together on their day off. A foreign business man hurries from shop to shop trying to find a gift for his wife before his flight out from KLIA. And definitely tourists. Both the large boisterous groups and that one confused couple whisper-arguing in the corner.

batik malaysia things to do in KL

Before taking this photo, an older Korean tourist in her visor instructed me to hold up peace signs. “You have to do it! It’s cuter!” she explains. 

 

Going Up The Towers

The observation deck on the 86th floor is the tallest view you can get of Kuala Lumpur. There are guided tours that take you to the Skybridge that connects the Twin Towers on the 41st floor and the observation deck. Find out more information here if you that interests you. Booking ahead is recommended on weekends and if you wish to go during sunset hours.

But here’s a secret: a view of the Towers is just as much of a novelty than a view from the Towers.

Don’t just take my word for it, but Madonna was absolutely right in saying, “You can tell how fun a city is going to be if Nobu is in it.” The reputable Japanese restaurant chain opened up a branch in on the 56th floor of Petronas Tower 3, located just a three-minute walk southwest of the Twin Towers. There is also a bar on the 57th floor which accepts walk-in customers to their bar and lounge called Marini’s on 57
So go ahead and splurge a little. The view is worth it.

batik scarf Malaysia

My beautiful mother enjoying the view of KLCC Park Marini’s on 57. Of course she stole my eco-dyed mangosteen scarf, it matched her 3-Way Clutch… which she also borrowed.  

 

Things To Do In The Twin Towers Other Than Shopping

But let’s be honest for a second. As much fun as it is to have a luxurious night out, there are days we don’t feel like dressing up just to be ushered into a dark restaurant where no one can really tell what anyone else looks like anyway.This is why I love the Twin Towers. There’s something for everyone. Take a few steps outside of the crowded shopping centre, and you can enjoy the greenery of the 50-acre park and a fountain show on Lake Symphony while enjoying a drink at one of the ground-level restaurants.

batik Malaysia journal

Even when I’m on the go, I still make the effort to spend a few minutes enjoying the sun in front of the fountain. There’s just something so calming about the sound of moving water.

A place I consistently recommend is Kinokuniya, a bookstore with an extensive range that is unmatched in all of Malaysia. If you have kids who hate reading, plop them here and watch them turn into booklovers. Just remind them that they need to take their book to the counter to take of the plastic wrapping before they start reading away!

bookstore KL Malaysia batik


There is also an art gallery on the third floor. The Petronas Gallery provides a look through the keyhole of the city’s obscure art world. Currently, a free exhibition on indigenous art and culture with a few installations by Malaysian artists.

batik clutch Malaysia

Can you spot my batik clutch?

 

My Malaysian batik clutch fits in so well because much of contemporary Malaysian fashion today still keeps its roots
in the ancient craft of batik. Practiced in Southeast Asia for over 2,000 years, batik painting and blocking is still prevalent all across Malaysia. You can learn more about batik fashion here.

After learning about the art traditions of different regions in Malaysia, it can feel a bit disheartening to walk back into a mall where global brands reign. It makes anyone feel a bit detached from the excitement of travel and exploration.

 

Making Your Shopping Count 

But what you must know is that there is a section unique in the Petronas Gift shop located on the concourse level which features products that are sponsored by Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre, or MaGIC. Here you can find products made exclusively by Malaysian startups.

batik Malaysia souvenir kl

Checking out the Petronas gift shop at the beginning of your trip is recommended because it’s located a floor down from the Philharmonic Hall entrance. Once you arrive, just turn left after you enter the building. There will be escalators on your right to head down to the concourse level. The gift shop will be on your right next to the check-in for the tours.

 

Pick up a Malaysian-blocked batik scarf or a pouch with an intricate batik pattern, which are all made ethically and by people who envision a stronger entrepreneurial spirit in Malaysia. Through your support and purchase, you’ll leave the Malaysian fashion scene a better place than you found it.

batik scarf Malaysia

Good to see that I have good taste. There’s only one left! This specific scarf is hand-dyed with mangosteen leaves, so each scarf is unique. If you’re looking for a batik scarf, Malaysia has shops selling them at almost every corner. However, be mindful that you pick up a hand-painted or hand-blocked one rather than a printed one. 

malaysia batik gift shop

I’m so incredibly proud of how far our artisans have come along, having their work displayed at the most famous building in the country. You can meet them here.

If you’re feeling especially inspired and creative, come try your hand at batik painting or blocking at a batik workshop. You can read reviews of our batik painting or blocking workshops before you make a decision.

While Kuala Lumpur is no longer a muddy confluence, its name symbolizes Malaysia’s dedication to remembering and honoring its humble beginnings. Similarly, when you look at The Batik Boutique products and other budding Malaysian ethical fashion brands, be reminded that each product was made by hands that believe in preserving Malaysian history through creating a sustainable future. 

 

You can find all the products featured in the blog post at www.thebatikboutique.comOr pop by our studio at:

The Batik Boutique
3, Jalan 26/70a, Desa Sri Hartamas,
50480 Kuala Lumpur

Hours:
Monday-Friday
8:30 am – 5:30pm

Call or e-mail us about arranging a batik workshop at +60 3-2303 6052 / info@thebatikboutique.com

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Empowering women entrepreneurship

Zarina Zainal Abidin is the Malaysian artisan behind Zarina Craft, an online business where she shares all her crafting. Zarina worked at The Batik Boutique and is a good friend of ours. In 2011 she lost her full-time job and was forced to look for other sources of income. Since she was able to sew, she thought to work part-time for TBB while looking for ways to expand her then side business, Zarina Craft.

Since I lost my job, I had to find something to earn an income. Getting a full time job now is difficult due to the world’s economic issues. The Batik Boutique helped me regain my confidence to push for my handmade products. In addition, TBB has been very generous in sharing their experience and expertise with me. With this help, I had a stronger platform to make my online business more successful – Zarina remembers.

zarina_batik_artisan

Zarina was the one who came up with our table runner and coasters set designs, which became one of TBB bestsellers. She also designed prototypes for our notebook covers and bookmarks.

Partly raised in the US until she was 12 years old, she found many common grounds with TBB CEO, Amy Blair. Talking to an American was second nature to her and the two ladies built a good rapport. The empowerment Zarina experienced through working at TBB pushed her to pursue her dream of running her own online business on a full-time basis.

Zarina’s dedication for sewing came from a very early age. Her mum was passionate about crafts and took many crafting classes. In the beginning, her mum would not allow her to go anywhere near a sewing machine, but later when she was 12 she managed to make two blouses for herself using purchased paper patterns.

zarina_quilt_handmade

From all the techniques she was exposed to, she was drawn to quilting the most; she loves sewing anything with straight edges! She developed her quilting skills to the point she decided to write a book. Zarina’s book is entirely written in Bahasa Malaysia, so it’s perfect for starters who don’t speak English well. She feels fortunate that the leading publisher in Malaysia, Karangkraf, liked her idea. Her book, titled Seni Asas Jahitan Quilt, is available in all major bookstores in Kuala Lumpur, and can be purchased directly from her for a signed copy. Additionally, she offers complimentary copies to everyone who takes patchwork lessons from her. Many of the fabrics that Zarina uses in the book are batiks from TBB, so check it out to explore new applications of beautiful Malaysian batik. We couldn’t be more proud of her!

zarina_book_quilting

Zarina never thought she would end up with an online business. She always wanted to be a teacher and she hasn’t given up on that:

I don’t have any background for teaching and getting teaching jobs now is a bit difficult. However, starting this year I will be going back to my beloved career – as a quilting/patchwork instructor. I am able to get places to teach at Bandar Baru Bangi, all the three Spotlight branches, Shah Alam, and Subang – Zarina says.

Her plans for the future? She will continue striving to make Zarina Craft a successful business, focusing on doing workshops and selling quilted products. In addition to that, her publishing house is requesting a follow up of the book. She has some ideas, but what’s for sure is that she will continue using TBB batiks, and we love that!

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