WESTERN influences may be a big part of the fashion scene in Malaysia but many are still aware and working hard to preserve our heritage fabric, songket.
With only a small number of elderly women in rural areas of the country having knowledge of songket weaving, the cottage industry would have died off had it not been for the work of foundations like Royal Terengganu Songket (RTS), which is training the younger generation in the craft at its two centres.
Many countries have their own version of the songket, especially in South-East Asia.
Malaysia’s local textile is said to have been greatly influenced by fabrics from the Middle East that were brought here in the 7th century. Songket has been our royal court fabric from that time.
For many years now, leading Malaysian designers have been incorporating songket into their work.
“We have designers like Datuk Tom Abang Saufi, Melinda Looi and Tangoo (Eric Yeong and Moses Law) who use our fabric in their designs,” says RTS textile and design director Dr June Ngo.
These are prominent figures in the industry who understand and support RTS’ cause and more importantly, appre- ciate the fine work produced by the songket centre.
Transforming a piece of songket into a fashion garment is painstaking and can pose many limitations because the material is very delicate and is made through a lengthy process which ensures that every inch is well designed and protected.
However, through innovations at RTS, the stiff textile is now produced in a variety of textures.
“Working with a textile expert like Dr June makes it easy for me to convey exactly what I want for my designs. She’s efficient and very adventurous when it comes to experimenting with new yarns.
“She hands me songket fabrics that can stretch a little – and that enables me to do more with it,” Tom says.
“With more innovation and creativity, you may just see our songket on international runways in the future,” Ngo adds. – ■ Songket products are available for viewing and purchase at the Royal Terengganu Songket showroom at 83, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, from Monday to Friday (9.30am6pm). Call % 03-2284 8253 for an appointment. Purchases are eligible for tax exemption.
Clutches featuring beautiful songket motifs are available at the RTS showroom in Bangsar, KL.