The friendship between Yez Yusof and Azrina Lasa goes a long way back. Acquaintances in secondary school, they ended up in the same boarding school. But it was not until they did their A levels in the UK that their friendship solidified. “We bonded because we were housemates. And it was always the two of us doing all the naughty stuff,” jokes Yez.
They parted for tertiary education, Yez studying architecture and Azrina, accounting and finance, but their friendship stayed strong. While the former is now an architect based in Terengganu, the latter works in a bank in Kuala Lumpur.
Batik Tektura began when Azrina got tired of her work clothes. “You wear all these standard outfits to work and after a while, I started bumping into people who were wearing the same shirts as I was. That was when I tried to find some batik for myself to wear. I wanted something different, something unique,” she says.
Unfortunately, Azrina could not find anything that suited her taste. “I went to Terengganu and found very standard batik. All floral, very bright, very busy and I couldn’t find anything that I liked.”
Azrina shared her woes with Yez and asked for her help. “She called me, saying that she needed someone who could design batik and I said, ‘Okay, I can design for you’. I was actually designing a scarf for myself,” says Yez.
Their causes were aligned and their similar taste for abstract designs and muted colours was an added boon. The ladies began bouncing ideas around.
Their first product was a batik shawl that they gave to family and friends, who quickly started placing orders. Things grew quickly from there. At the time, Yez was only comfortable with batik canting, so they began getting familiar with batik terap (hand blocked batik). Having no experience in this area, the ladies struggled to find the right artisan to work with and ended up making some expensive mistakes. For instance, they bought the wrong kind of material for batik. “We bought metres and metres of this cloth and we sent it to the workshop and when I received the material, everything disappeared and the design was gone,” says Yez.
Their brand name —Batik Tektura — is a play on the Malay work for architect which reflects the unique patterns on their material. “We spent a lot of time trying to come up with a concept for our batik because we didn’t want to be the same as everyone else. We reflected on what we wanted and decided to anchor our design in architecture and we infused its concepts and elements into the batik,” explains Azrina.
It was through trial and error that the duo found patterns that translated well from Yez’s drawing board into wearable fabrics. “When we did the first print, the lines didn’t come out the way I wanted. So, we slowly learnt what could and could not be done,” says Yez.
According to them, the designs could not be too complicated, or take hours to complete as the artisans would not find the work commercially viable. Juggling practicality and artful designs while learning and perfecting their batik skills proved a bit of a challenge.
Nevertheless, Yez and Azrina decided to turn their hobby into a business at the prompting of their loved ones. “When we moved from the shawl to batik terap, we were very cautious and produced the batik pieces on a small scale. We received encouragement from our friends and family, who told us that it was quite saleable,” says Azrina.
After some thought, they decided to take a step forward. “We also needed money to fund our next designs. If you want to innovate, you need money for the next project. So, we started to participate in small bazaars whenever we had the time,” Azrina adds.
“When we had our first sale from non-family members and friends, we were very happy. Now, we have people who collect our patterns so they have something from every series,” says Yez proudly.
Batik Tektura has even made custom designs for Tanamera, a local skincare brand.
While Yez handles the designs and making the batik itself, Azrina handles the marketing and sales, and often turns the material into something else. Batik Tektura also sells items, such as iPad covers, clutches, cardigans and dresses, made from their beautiful creations. “Initially, when we started the business, we were a designer of textiles rather than ready-to-wear. Some of our customers said they didn’t know what to do with the material, so we started to make things to show them,” explains Yez.
While content with how their hobby-cum-business is growing, Azrina and Yez still maintain their full-time jobs. Having fun and enjoying the creative process is an important aspect for them. “I’m designing things for Azrina to wear to the office, so it’s so much fun. She’s my No 1 client actually. If she doesn’t want to wear it, I say, ‘Okay, I’ll redo it’,” Yez laughs.
To buy Batik Tektura's items or find out at which bazaar it will be at next, search for @batiktektura on Instagram. You can also buy its materials at Kedai Bikin. This article first appeared on Nov 19, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.