Batik Malaysia – Forging Ahead Remains the Only Solution
Writers: Raja Fuziah & Wairah Marzuki
myBatik was privileged to meet with former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Mahathir Bin Mohamad in June 2009 where we had a delightful discussion on the subject The Unique Batik Malaysia.
We are proud therefore to share with our readers Tun Mahathir’s insight on the subject and his advocacy of the task ahead. This article reflects on the issues discussed with Tun Mahathir and we record herewith our impressions:
The Unique Batik Malaysia
Developing batik as handcrafted textile – hand-printed and hand-drawn, has made us all acutely aware of the importance of three essential elements in producing a new product. They are, namely, Design, Colour and Technique.
We need to pay attention to all of the three above elements giving emphasis to Design which requires the most and urgent attention.
Secondly, Malaysians love bright colours and batik in bright colours has become a manifestation of that expression. However, we need to think of the market and the consumers we are targeting. Therefore, we need to study how they perceive colours and their receptivity to our selection of colours.
And thirdly, the need to take an aggressive approach in R&D and to engage in experimenting new technologies that can expedite and enhance batik production process as well as to solve problems related to attaining quality production. Learning from the experiences of other countries such as Japan and Korea, and adapting their practices to meet our needs would indeed be a real asset. Another aspect of R&D, relates to acquiring knowledge about the characteristics of fabrics in order to appraise their appropriateness for making batik.
What makes Batik Malaysia unique is that we have been able to develop it through innovation by observing and learning from the tradition of batik–making of other countries, and successfully creating our own indigenous batik–style.
We must therefore continue to challenge ourselves to develop the product further and aim for excellence.
From Batik Sarong to Batik Yardage
In the last 50 years, batik has gone through an evolutionary process. Originally, the traditional batik cloth is the batik sarong, a functional cotton wrap to cover the body worn mainly by women and some men at home and at work.
Its transformation from a two meter patterned cloth to batik yardage (1960s) indeed had posed a serious challenge which demanded and involved extensive support in design and product development.
The task and challenge to innovate batik design has continued until the present day where the business of batik-making has reached the level of a highly competitive industry with producers ranging from that of a single-operator batik entrepreneur to that of an atelier/factory type of production vying for the discerning consumer.
Trends in Fashion
The world of fashion has created an immense consciousness with the designers and batik – makers who recognise the need to constantly innovate and produce new designs, introduce new range of colours as well as to experiment with new production techniques to meet with the fast changing consumer taste and fashion trends. As a result, batik crafted from a variety of materials such as silk, cotton and linen of varying texture have emerged in the market – place.
Batik as an Art form
Malaysian artists have made an inroad with their innovative adaptation of the batik technique on canvas. Henceforth, a new genre of batik as an art form was born. Batik paintings depicting images of Malaysian flora, fauna, forest, food and fiesta themes are providing a glimpse into the rich diversity of natural and cultural heritage of Malaysia through Batik Art.
The Design Challenge
A good design should create a pleasant virtual experience: the customer should perceive the product as aesthetically pleasing.
In this respect, batik designers should develop batik design to respond to the particular needs of the consumers thereby promoting the concept of special design for specific usage, such as batik for school wear, batik for uniform, batik for daily wear, batik for formal day and evening attire and batik for special occasions. Each particular design with special motif, pattern, colour and fabric created would therefore give batik that exclusive look and this would impact on batik not only as a versatile textile for clothing but also in popularizing it to a wider market.
Malaysia’s natural environment offers limitless source of inspiration from which new ideas, patterns, motifs and colours could be derived. At the same time, the uniqueness of each community in Malaysia, the people and their living traditions and cultural heritage are yet another source for design input.
Towards A Design Solution
Batik has to be taken seriously if it were to achieve the status of brand excellence.
Towards this end, designers, batik-makers and all concerned would have to work together in meeting the quality standard specified. Whether batik is for the domestic market or for export, criteria such as finishing, presentation and packaging are important in determining the quality of the product.
One positive way would be for the local institutions who are already working in the development and promotion of batik to jointly cooperate and collaborate in their R&D efforts. Hence, to consider the idea of establishing a Batik Design Laboratory aimed at making a strategic thrust forward in research and product development envisaged for batik. This could be either as a programme or project. The lab should steer the direction and harness the best of all human, professional and technical resources made available to it by the collaborating institutions.
This institutional framework should act as the tool responsible in realizing the agenda to develop further the unique identity of Batik Malaysia.
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