Local label Corak Clothing embraces quirky and unique designs

The products are made from premium satin and cotton as the materials are the most suitable for the Malaysian climate.

Ooi highlights the beauty of bold patterns with Corak’s loose-fitting shirts and shorts sets (Photo: Low Yen Yeing/The Edge Malaysia)

Making a change to something we like or are familiar with can be difficult. But sometimes, a small shift can make a big difference. That was the case for local label Corak Clothing, which pivoted from selling minimalistic souvenir tees to producing garments with a greater range of graphic elements, in the hopes of improving the position and awareness of its brand during its early days.

“We were selling ‘I Love Malaysia’ tees but the market slowed down a bit after a while. I thought to myself, ‘What other products can I make that would help my business grow?’ Then I saw a gap in the market for clothes with prints or, like the brand name says, corak on them. That’s when I started focusing on printed shirt-and-bottom sets,” says founder Ronnie Ooi.

The 55-year-old has been in the fashion industry for over 30 years. Besides helming Corak, Ooi is actively involved in manufacturing clothes for other local streetwear and women’s wear brands. “I studied fashion design in my younger years, so I have always had a passion for this. I have constantly been around fabrics and sewing machines since I started my own textile manufacturing company right after college.”

Corak, Malay for “pattern”, stands out from other enterprises owing to its loud and dashing designs. “I would describe our aesthetics as quirky and bold,” says Ooi. Although some might feel that his creations are not suitable as daywear, the pieces — fashioned with a variety of motifs and emblems — can be styled in multiple ways, he assures.


Corak stands out from other enterprises owing to its loud and dashing designs (Photo: Corak Clothing)

Sold as a set, the loose-fitting shirts and shorts can be worn together or separately. To maximise one’s wardrobe, pair the shirt with jeans, skirts, trousers or similar-designed shorts. It is possible to achieve more than three looks with one item from Corak, making the pieces versatile and practical for beach getaways or long trips abroad, especially during summer.

“Our products are made from premium satin and cotton as the materials are the most suitable for the Malaysian climate. Our customers love the satin option because it is lightweight and comfortable for day-to-day use,” says Ooi.

In essence, anything with shapes and colours can be called corak. Where does the team draw inspiration to constantly produce new patterns? “Usually, the team and I will go through ideas we have seen online or in stores and we think about how we can make them better or combine different motifs and such. We usually look at Japanese art, pop culture, music and other quirky things. Basically anything around us that we think will be nice to have on a shirt.”

Ooi stresses that the label does not limit itself to a certain theme when making clothes. “We don’t go by collections unless it’s the festive season because it gives us more space for creativity. We see what works for the brand and market at the present moment. Most of the time, we just go with the flow and hope customers enjoy our designs.”


Corak makes the pieces versatile and practical (Photo: Low Yen Yeing/The Edge Malaysia)

The brand has started rolling out its Chinese New Year collection and one of its best-selling items is a lion dance-inspired design. A celebration of the traditional performance, the shirt has vibrant shades of red, orange, blue and white, and features the papier mâché head of a lion in different sizes. Some patterns have sold out, and the brand will restock those products to meet demand.

For Corak, the biggest challenge is understanding customers’ wants and needs. “Getting the right design is something we continuously work on. Although the industry itself has not changed much over the last three decades, other aspects such as costing, styling and clothing silhouettes have definitely advanced,” Ooi observes.

Fashion, across the globe and all walks of life, is used as a tool of expression and for making a statement — sometimes at the cost of comfort. Corak stays true to its ethos, that is to bring style, comfort and functionality to wearers. “I think fashion should be comfortable yet give the person confidence when he dons something. We are proud to say our designs are always conversation starters, as per feedback from customers.”


The brand stays true to its ethos, bringing style, comfort and functionality to wearers (Photo: Corak Clothing)

While Corak was established in 2016, it started to gain popularity among the younger generation during the pandemic when the brand began utilising social media to its full potential by creating and sharing content with a wider group of people. “Our target audience is anybody who likes or wants to try wearing bold prints. We have a growing younger audience now that we are more active on various platforms.”

Years of hard work and persistence have come to fruition for the label which is set to open its first bricks-and-mortar store in the first quarter. “We have two factories currently and will be opening our physical store in Kuala Lumpur. We are also looking at similar opportunities in Singapore.”

As Ooi highlights the importance of staying open to new ideas and possibilities, we like to think this receptive attitude is what makes Corak relevant and well-loved by customers to this day.


This article first appeared on Jan 15, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.


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