Monday, 26 Oct 2020
30/09/2020 03:46 PM

By Shanika Abdullatib

BACHOK (Bernama) – The humble sarong is synonymous with Malay culture and once upon a time it was held in high esteem and was an integral part of one’s daily wear.

Fast forward to present times, the sarong has been relegated to something people, especially the older generation, wear at home. Won’t it be nice if this garment regains its popularity of yore and people start wearing it more often like, for instance, when they go out shopping or meet their friends for a cup of coffee at a hipster cafe in the city?

With this in mind, the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation’s (Kraftangan Malaysia) Kelantan branch launched a project at the end of last year to “breathe new life into the sarong and uplift its image”.

Its in-house designer Mohd Nazlan Mat Nasir, 37, and his team have been charged with the task of designing batik sarongs for men under its new Sarung Maskulin range.

Featuring bunga telang or butterfly pea flower (Clitoria ternatea) as the main motif, the sarongs are a welcome change from the boring striped or checked kain pelekat (sarong) usually worn by Malaysian men.

“We (Kraftangan Malaysia Kelantan) wanted to see a transformation of the kain pelekat and that was how the idea (for the floral-themed “masculine” line of sarongs) came about,” Mohd Nazlan told Bernama in an interview here recently, adding that they are confident the revamped sarong will attract the attention of youths who may consider it for casual wear.  

He said the butterfly pea flower was selected as the motif for the sarongs as the vivid blue/violet bloom is popular in Malaysia. Moreover, the blue-coloured nasi kerabu, a popular rice dish in the east coast states of the peninsula, owes its colour to the natural dye extracted from this flower.  



The new sarongs for men come in attractive designs. --fotoBERNAMA (2020) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

It is not much of a surprise that Kraftangan Malaysia Kelantan opted for batik prints for its inaugural Sarung Maskulin range as the traditional textile art is a heritage of the state.

While most batik textiles feature more feminine flora and fauna motifs and geometrical designs, Mohd Nazlan made the bold decision to experiment with the butterfly pea flower motif for the new sarong collection.  

This writer, who managed to take a look at a few Sarung Maskulin samples, was surprised to see how masculine the butterfly pea designs turned out.

In fact, recently the designer and his team organised a fashion show featuring their new men’s sarongs and there was positive feedback from the audience who liked both the concept and designs.

According to Mohd Nazlan, who has 15 years of experience in batik designing, the Sarung Maskulin project is still in the research and development stage as he and his staff are still trying to get the designs and colours right before marketing the sarongs.

Using the 'canting' to draw a batik design on the surface of a cloth. --fotoBERNAMA (2020) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Using the canting (a traditional tool consisting of a wooden handle and a small metal cup filled with melted wax), block and screen techniques to produce their batik textiles, he said in order to lend a masculine image to the sarong, they also incorporate other artistic elements such as straight lines and geometric and abstract designs based on the bunga telang motif.

“Featuring background colours such as purple, mustard orange and turquoise, we are confident our sarongs will attract the attention of both the young and old generations,” he said.  

He also expressed confidence that their sarongs will eventually replace the more commonly worn kain pelekat, which are mostly imported from Indonesia.

“I believe our line of sarongs for men is capable of bringing about an evolution in our nation’s batik textile and fashion industry and it’s going to attract the attention of our youths,” he added.

Producing batik using the silk screen technique. --fotoBERNAMA (2020) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

While the process of creating the designs takes only a week, the rest of the process involving producing the patterns, batik textile and sewing takes about a month.



Some of the blocks used by Kraftangan Malaysia Kelantan to produce batik patterns. --fotoBERNAMA (2020) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Kraftangan Malaysia Kelantan branch director Nor Azmi Ismail, meanwhile, said the agency is currently in talks with the Kelantan authorities to gazette bunga telang and bunga ketam guri (arrowleaf sida) as batik design icons that carry the state’s identity.  

He said the gazetting process is rather complicated as it has to be supported by history and heritage experts.

“But we want to get it done to ensure that we made the right choice of using the two flowers as the motifs for Kelantan batik,” he said, adding that so far they have discussed the matter with the state government and Kelantan Museum Corporation and the response has been positive.

He said gazetting the two flowers as state icons will benefit the 350 or so batik entrepreneurs in Kelantan who are registered with Kraftangan Malaysia.

“We want to promote batik that carries the state’s identity. Kelantan has the highest number of batik entrepreneurs in the country and without any identity, it is difficult for them to penetrate the international market,” added Nor Azmi.


Translated by Rema Nambiar




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