Warisan Angsari Busana Melayu is gaining popularity here and abroad for turning traditional Malay apparel into fashionable statement pieces, writes Nadia Badarudin
WHAT we wear is a reflection of our personality and expression. Our style or the way we dress do have an influence on how we are perceived or categorised in our society.
In traditional Malay culture, the attire as well as the choice of fabrics and adornments mark one’s social status or significance.
Traditionally, the aristocrats wear baju sikap or baju layang (both are Malay outfits for men) and pending (ornamental belt buckle) as well as the tengkolok (headgear) with its fold signifying the wearer’s hierarchy in society.
In the past, the fold of the sampin (the sarong worn around the waist) worn by traders indicated whether they were locals or not.
Inspired by the classic fashion elements of the Malay archipelago, a homegrown fashion brand — Warisan Angsari Busana Melayu — is gaining popularity in the local fashion scene as well as in neighbouring countries for turning traditional Malay apparel into fashionable statement pieces.
At Warisan Angsari, a traditional Malay attire goes beyond dress-coded functions or cultural performances.
The label rolled out its debut collection for men for Hari Raya last year, featuring ready-to-wear baju sikap and custom-made baju layang complete with relevant accessories.
Rather than a typical baju Melayu for that Hari Raya gathering, Warisan Angsari’s ensemble is like a blast from the past: Imagine a pendekar (Malay warrior) in an outfit complete with tengkolok, a kris tucked into the front fold of sampin and handmade leather capal (leather sandals).
“We offer complete traditional ensembles from top to toe. Our concept is making traditional wear more versatile and practical in our daily lives.
“We make the outfits more fashionable and affordable as well as readily and easily available to those who love heritage, without compromising on the age-old elements that make them unique in the first place,” says Warisan Angsari boutique manager, Putri Eliza Megat Nazam, 29.
Besides Hari Raya, the brand’s outfits are also tailored for martial arts like silat and specific sports such as horseback archery.
The story of the fashion label began from an antique shop, Kedai Antik Warisan Angsari, in Jalan Kolam Air Lama in Ampang, Selangor.
The shop, which opened in 2012, has as its founder Megat Telanai, the creative mastermind and designer behind the fashion venture.
“Vintage fashion accessories and traditional clothing sourced from all over the Malay archipelago are among the products available at the shop.
“The fashion business was born out of passion and inspiration drawn from the antique items. Both businesses are a perfect fit,” says Perak-born Putri Eliza who holds Malay heritage and culture close to her heart.
The brand specialises in men’s outfits, mainly baju layang and baju sikap complete with bengkung and pants in classic cut like gunting Aceh or gunting Cina.
Customers are also given options to choose the relevant accessories to go with each outfit such as tengkolok, long necklace, sampin and capal.
“We have ready-made bridal wear for women but it’s limited to only kebaya Riau with kain selisih and optional vintage accessories like veils with heritage embroidery such as keringkam, dokoh (traditional necklace), gold-plated bangles, silver belts and velvet slippers with songket embroidery,” says Putri Eliza.
Warisan Angsari offers outfits that do away with the features or factors that make wearing them a hassle and rigid in the first place.
The apparel comes with affordable price tags and with exceptional quality to match. For instance, a basic set of ready-made baju sikap made of cotton retails at RM230, while a basic set of custom-made baju layang of Baron-weaved fabric retails at RM300.
“To make the outfits more practical to wear, we use comfortable materials such as Baron and cotton. We also work with fabrics featuring more modern motifs or patterns.
“Rather than asking customers to learn the techniques to roll or fold the sarong, we offer improvised versions — like an instant tengkolok or ready-made kain selisih — to make them easier to wear,” says Putri Eliza.
Most of the fabrics are sourced from Indonesia. The fine workmanship is carried out by expert seamstresses both from here and in Indonesia.
Putri Eliza says they make sure that the unique elements of traditional fashion masterpieces are well-preserved in each design.
“We carry out thorough research, even referring to experts in traditional heritage and history,” she says.
To maintain the brand’s exclusivity, the company is very selective in taking orders.
“There are customers keen on making outfits from our materials but insist on their own designs or cut.
“We don’t cater to that because what matters most to us is the original cut and patterns. We value principles or philosophy behind every detail. That’s the beauty of the legacy,” she adds.
With Instagram and Facebook as its main marketing platforms, Warisan Angsari’s customer base is growing positively despite it being barely a year in the fashion scene.
“More young customers are coming to our boutique. Many of them are just curious about how to wear traditional outfits — which is a good sign,” says Putri Eliza.
“To educate our customers about our culture and heritage by making traditional masterpieces trendier and more versatile is always at the core of our business.
“At Warisan Angsari, we do our best to teach customers the art behind traditional outfits and the proper way to wear them,” she says.
However, the business is not free from cynical remarks especially from traditional fashion purists.
“There will always be haters and we take that as a challenge to improve.
“We know we have done something right when we see happy customers sharing snapshots of them in Warisan Angsari on Instagram or Facebook, or having repeat customers eagerly waiting for new collections.
“At the end of the day, we just want our customers to be happy and confident in what they wear, and proud of their own heritage,” she adds.