Creating high fashion from Borneo textiles
By Jude Toyat
RECOGNISED AS ONE OF THE finest woven fabrics in Sarawak, pua kumbu has also enjoyed increasing popularity in contemporary fashion, with fashion designers incorporating the fabric’s unique and singular motifs in their work. Pua kumbu made its first appearance on the world stage during the Miss World 2012 finals when Sarawakian designers Von Jolly Couture incorporated its earthy design and colours as part of Miss World Malaysia Yvonne Lee’s evening gown.
On the home front, there are a number of designers who find tireless inspiration from this fabric, one of them being 37-year-old fashion designer Noraini Alision Salleh.
Hailing from Miri, the ambitious fashion designer confessed that she had been designing since she was eight years old but it wasn’t until 2013 when that dream became realised.
Once serving as a diplomatic administrative officer, she has a law degree from University of Malaya, a syndicated certificate of English Language from University of Cambridge and a Diploma in Public Administration from the National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN).
In 2013, she took the time off to refine her personal goal in fashion and became inspired to base her fashion line on Borneo’s ethnic art and culture.
“Sarawak’s nature, surroundings and identity sparks such purpose and drive in setting the trend of diversifying the use of pua kumbu among the younger generation locally and internationally,” Noraini said.
Her fashion house, Pua Heritage Boutique, became a way for her to facilitate and incorporate the love of Sarawak’s beautiful and unique art and culture, but it wasn’t always easy.
She faced diverse challenges within the local market in the beginning, with so many other ethnic-inspired designers out there as well as the effort involved putting pua and ethnic motif into the modern niche market. That being said, she worked on putting stress on creating in-trend fashion. “It is our fashion, we set the trend. It showcases the element of bravery and exploration in fashion.”
More from the Miss Borneo Kebaya contest where Pua Heritage Boutique participated in the fashion show:
The clothing is created by in-house designers Hussein Majeni, Jessica Eismail, Anis Amira Azizan, and Maria Victoria, each with their own talent and focus to bring to the table.
Hussein started working retail in 2004 as a designer specialising in leather before joining Gading Kenyalang Sdn Bhd in 2013 and leading Pua Heritage in the middle of 2014 and produced the first collection of menswear and Raya collection in 2014.
Jessica who has a Diploma in Architecture from the International Urban Training Center (IUTC) started work at a wedding boutique in Wangsa Maju in 2008. She joined Pua Heritage in 2013 and has co-designed and produced Pua Heritage’s first collection of ready-to-wear and Raya collection in 2014.
Anis, a young designer at the age of 26 from Sungai Buloh, Selangor is a graduate of fashion design from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Shah Alam. She has significant experience in wedding dresses, Muslimah wear, art to wear, and paintball outfits. Anis’ working experience in fashion line started since 2009 with her expertise in womenswear.
Maria is a graduate of Master Degree in Corporate Communication from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and is talented in crafting handmade custom accessories.
Noraini’s own in-house brand N-Inspired, which is “a brand of sensational, unique, legacy, untold – ‘S.U.L.U’ – in art, culture and fashion” carries a distinct ethnic feel from Sarawak, its designs and materials. Interestingly, all their designs which integrate the pua motif and hand-painted batik are made in Malaysia.
“All materials are collected from across Sarawak, especially the hand-woven pua kumbu being supplied by the weavers from the longhouses,” said Noraini.
Although Pua Heritage has yet to receive any fashion awards, Noraini is delighted to have penetrated the international market, especially Manila and Berlin.
“We have been very thankful to be part of an event arranged by a government agency in marketing our products internationally. It is a great pleasure for us to be able to showcase our line during our fashion runway in Manila and Berlin in 2014,” she said.
They have also collaborated on many well-recognised events such as Miss Borneo Tourism 2014, Malaysia Borneo Cultural Festival 2014, and Mr Borneo Tourism 2014, with their clothes being donned by the contestants.
“Currently, our products are being displayed at government agency offices in Melbourne and Manila, endorsed as a Malaysian product,” Noraini added.
Pua Heritage’s fashion philosophy is to develop awareness and appreciation of ethnicity and culture in arts and fashion.
Noraini also added that, “Failure builds experience in life, and the same goes to fashion, it has never discourage us from exploring further.”
Pua Heritage Boutique is committed to promoting pua kumbu as a commercially marketable product with endless application and uses, and for Noraini, this is a part of their effort to give back to the ethnic community and provide fresh young designers a platform to market their products made from the pua fabric and eager to show the world their designs.
Noraini calls upon the creative, talented, expressive and adventurous young designers to come and join the family of Pua Heritage to enable them in exploring their true potential and can be contacted at 03-79325333, Facebook page at Pua Heritage Boutique, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.