De­sign­ers’ choice

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE -

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.

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