Friday, December 19, 2008

What Malaysia (Batik) Needs

I know it's the year end and all things are in a merry mood. And I hope that this post will not spoil any general reader's merry year end season :)

But, it is also because of the year end that I would like to share a few more things which I've been observing (and large extent experiencing as well)... and hopefully throw out all these 'baggage' before the year end.

Specific & General
I'll be sharing about the industry that I once worked closely with (much less now)... and though it is rather specific, the points that I'll be writing can be used in general to any other country or even to a country.

I thought this will be a good follow up to my previous post: Batik!

So what does the Malaysia (batik) need?

1. Good Visionaries
The batik industry was at its peak back in 2005, when the former First Lady was still alive. I do not know her personally, but from what I read, she has set a vision and mission for the batik industry.

Her aim was simply to introduce batik in high end (to the world) and bring the industry to a higher level - that was where batik was introduced with high fashion.

However, today, I do not see a clear vision for the industry, but instead scattering of events - where each their own, not united together. And personally, I think the hype created then is now much less today (and I wonder about the substance, if any).

2. Clear Vision
With good visionaries, they will have a clear vision. And with a clear vision - that also means to respect other industry players treating them not as enemies, but instead fellow supporters (for all are heading in one goal).

Afterall, the industry is only so big and unity amongst the players is the only key it can move forward.

Alas, this is not what I experienced, (despite producing something that meant to help the industry as a whole).

It dampens one's spirit of helping the industry - and maybe that's why the industry doesn't seem to grow. In fact, has it shrunk?

3. GOOD, no, make it GREAT batik artists & designers
The other problem that the industry faces is actually the human capital. I would say - the big A: attitude.

Many artists live by the weather - and in fact blaming everything on the weather and weather alone. Yes, batik is an art that needs sunshine, but artists should find their own solution should they want to grow (I've seen those that do, flourish).

I personally had an experience with one designer who delayed a project months after months - and each time blaming on the weather.... and when that excuse exhausted, he simply blamed that he didn't understood me. This designer obviously missed the peak period (though I doubt he cared).

There were many other incidents that happened with this designer - but let's leave it there.

This is of course a bad example, and not even close to Good, what more Great. It is tough - every business is. But we need everyone to work together and not spoil the industry's name by just a select few.

4. Humble Industry Players
Further on attitude, I suggest designers to get rid of those moody habits or even the "I'm the best designer" attitude.

Seriously, go beyond the country, and batik is very much unknown. So there's no point in being the 'jaguh kampung' (homegrown winner) only - and bragging about it. Who hears - and who cares?

The same goes to the other industry players - if you ain't up there, it's better to lay low - that way, you'll get more respect. Just continue to do your work, but don't brag loudly, just inform nicely - honestly, that will suffice.

I'll add one more - be humble when others approach. We've seen big global leaders falling, they too were once at the top... imagine some of them are now in game zero, especially if they were once high & mighty (or so they thought they were). I'd give this same advise to fellow batik industry players.

5. Non Copycats
Now copycat sometimes work. Whatever A does well, B do it too... and because A put all the money and thought into it - and it worked, copying seems the 'pot of gold'. Right?

Well, yes in a way. But haven't we seen many copycats are just that - copycats! They don't add value to the industry. And usually, it's only worse, because these copycats can't copy well!

So if we want to be batik leaders, then stop the copycat. Don't copy a design just because it's popular and make a quick buck out of it. (Ok, if really one can't be more creative and copying is the last resort, then do acknowledge. Don't go claiming it's yours).

In fact I'd recommend to do one step better, I'd say copy with style - ie ADD VALUE, and make it into something NEW! It may take more effort, but this brings value to you, to your clients, and to the industry.

*You'd be surprised to find copycats in not only designs but also in publications.

6. Education
I do not come from an arts, culture or heritage background. And in fact, I only knew bout batik while publishing the book.

And in fact, without publishing it, I won't know that batik is a technique and not a motif/ design. That is because I wasn't educated on this back then.

Because this is our culture (I emphasize the word OUR), I think, everyone should learn this - at least experience it once. (This should of course go with our other local MALAYSIAN cultures - be it Malay culture, Chinese culture, Indian culture, Iban culture, Dayak culture, etc etc etc).

We go overseas and go ga-ga with the overseas dances & performances & their other cultures. Well, that's because their countrymen take pride in their culture - and so should we, should we want to see this industry blossom.

And one more I'd like to add here - if we don't care about our culture - who does? Seriously.

I know this is a heavy topic - I think my heaviest so far. I just felt that I have to write this down. It may sound a bit of anger emotions, but it is because I care and wish that somethings can be changed.

Am I dreaming too much? Maybe.

Though, seriously, I hope not.


  1. Well said! :)

    Wow, batik is a technique? That's something new!

  2. Never heard you sound more serious, Quachee! What you said makes sense, but I just hope those in the batik industry will sit up and listen! Otherwise, we'll see the batik industry shrink further into oblivion.

  3. I love batik. But not because I love to wear them but it's because my late grandma n mum wore it. So I believe the batik industry needs a revamp or something to put it on the map of the world again. Publicity is important IMHO. Of course efforts needed to be done too.

    Yeah! I saw Endon back in 2004/5 i guessed in Bukit Bintang during the launch of batik. It was such a glitzy event that day. But now...

  4. @宝茹
    ya i wouldnt have known its a technique as well. haha. i think many dont know :)

    as much as i like to promote it further, im really saddened & disappointed. im not sure if a revamp is possible... cos they dont listen (they have this HUGE ego!)

    yr words - But now...
    its so true! seriously i wonder who buys batik malaysia apart from a certain group of malaysians? (ps: do you know many buy batik look like shirts - but those are not batik - those are machine) lol

  5. Hi Quachee, I completely agree with u. Every single words. Based on my fresh but limited experience with batik and the industry. I got my first taste of batik when me and my brother participated in the Sri Endon's competition this year. We actually won 2nd place for furnishing and consolation for handicraft. As a newbie, I was quite disappointed coz I personally feel the entries lack originality, most are either copycats or the same old same old stuff. And YES!! The industry people(at least the one that we encountered) are very insecure n quite hostile...very very scared that u will steal their business :-)
    ps. Just wondering, do u know where I can get some statistics on batik eg batik industry annual worth (sales) in Malaysia, the growth trend etc. Have tried googling but can't find the info.

  6. @mellymilly
    ah finally a batik person in the industry agrees with me :)

    btw, on the info, there is a batik organisation - which may be able to help (though...). but let me give u the contact when im back from my trip ok? :)

    ps: wish you all the best in yr batik career :)


Oh hey, thank you for commenting! :)