Kapten Batik reimagines classic motifs and pioneers eco-conscious practices

The homegrown brand prioritises sustainability in its production process, striving to guide its choices at every step.

Former engineers Ekram Faiz and Farhan Omar, the brains behind the Kapten Batik label (All photos: Kapten Batik)

The idea originated in 2017 when we noticed a lack of younger generations wearing batik. Through an in-depth study, we discovered that the main issues were the absence of modern cuts, quality materials and contemporary designs. To address this, we founded Kapten Batik with the aim of making the traditional art form suitable for daily wear, as reflected in our tagline ‘Batik you can wear every day’,” says Farhan Omar about the label he started in 2017 with his friend, Ekram Faiz.

Naturally, the former engineers’ main focus was to attract the younger crowd and encourage them to embrace the material by making it suitable for various occasions, such as poolside gatherings, lunches or smart casual events. The brand carefully tailored its approach to men’s batik and fashion by providing versatile day-to-day options.

“We revolutionised the entire batik process by introducing our first custom slim fit, catering to the stylish and modern preferences of younger consumers. After extensive research, we concluded that cotton is the most suitable fabric for our climate, and opted for fine cotton from the get-go. To ensure consistency, we established contracts with mills to exclusively use the same type of cotton in our production. Recognising traditional batik designs were outdated, we revamped them by incorporating elements from everyday life, such as local delicacies and traditional games.”

Over time, the men’s category expanded with additions such as linen, long-sleeve shirts, casual tees and activewear (the cycling shirt being a standout). The brand also introduced collections for children and women, and collaborations with The Datai Langkawi and Enrich soon followed, marking its unstoppable growth. Kapten Batik’s flagship is at Publika Shopping Gallery, and it has additional stores in the Klang Valley — Bangsar Shopping Centre, The Curve, KL East Mall — with presence in Isetan KLCC and The Gardens Mall.

“Last year, we expanded to northern Malaysia, choosing Penang as our base due to its demographic appeal. The city and Gurney Paragon Mall became the canvas for the second version of our boutique’s interior design. Our aim is for customers to not just shop, but also immerse themselves in the store’s beauty and exceptional customer service.”


The boutique at Gurney Paragon Mall Penang

Teaming up with Matthew Lim Associates, an award-winning ID consultant, Kapten Batik’s vision was brought to life with flying colours. “Our urban resort theme truly resonates with Penang’s vibrant lifestyle. To enhance the ambience, we collaborated with artist Pamela Tan from Poh Sin Studio to create our first batik tree inside the boutique and are really pleased with the outcome,” says Farhan, who gushes about the centrepiece and the overall northern outpost.

In its latest collection Mainan, Kapten Batik aspires to revive traditional games that many younger generations are unfamiliar with. It utilises motifs from congkak, wau bulan, batu seremban and more, entrusting its creative team to craft exquisite art pieces for shirts. “The designs evoke nostalgia and excitement among customers, sparking conversations during the recent Raya period. By celebrating these cultural elements, we are not only preserving our heritage but also encouraging a sense of connection and appreciation for traditional Malaysian pastimes.”

With any business, trials and, of course, milestones abound. The brand faced numerous challenges as the pair’s and direction diverged from the norm. Its batik designs and pricing were notably unconventional, with quality being a priority despite higher costs. “Recognising the labour-intensive nature of batik production, we assembled a very capable creative team to keep the motifs current. Our greatest concern often arise from individuals attempting to replicate our designs and pass them off as their own,” Farhan says. However, his legal team effectively addressed these issues, safeguarding the originality and integrity of the business.

Kapten Batik prioritises sustainability in its production process, striving to guide its choices at every step. “All our materials, including fabrics and colour dyes, are OEKO-TEX certified, ensuring that our products are safe for both consumers and the environment. Additionally, certain collections feature organic cotton certified by Global Organic Textile Standard or GOTS that promotes eco-friendly farming practices.”


The latest collection Mainan is inspired by traditional games

Moreover, the brand also incorporates REPREVE fabrics in its activewear and swimwear lines, utilising recycled plastic bottles sourced from the ocean, thereby reducing waste and supporting marine conservation efforts.

So, what sets it apart from other batik labels?

“Kapten Batik manages its own supply chain, sourcing materials directly from certified mills. Our designs and motifs are meticulously hand-drawn from scratch by our designers, while our batik is blocked and applied with tjanting tool by our own master artisans. Our products are available in numerous departmental stores and seven boutique locations. We serve both Malaysian customers and clients overseas.”

The label is also stocked at Four Season Kuala Lumpur, The Datai Langkawi, Pangkor Laut Resort, Perak and One&Only Desaru Coast, Johor, among other exclusive venues. “We are also very excited about our ongoing projects: The Kapten Batik x Enrich Malaysia x Alunan Resort partnership brings together three Malaysian brands with a focus on coral conservation and sustainable tourism in Perhentian Island.”

As excitement builds for Kapten Batik’s upcoming projects, it has a thrilling collaboration like never before to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Tetris. Details are still under wraps and in the finalising phase, but Farhan says this is one collection you won’t want to miss.

This article first appeared on Apr 29, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.


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