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MaryamBayam aims to keep batik traditions alive with a modern perspective

Keeping traditions alive is Maryam Mutalib, creative director and founder of Malaysian brand MaryamBayam, who brings batik into the modern age with cool designs. 

I first laid my eyes on this brand back in 2019 at Riuh Bazaar. What struck me was the catchy ring to its name and the beautiful array of batik pieces on display. Commonly found in Indonesia and Malaysia; batik has been embedded in our tradition for generations – adored for its unique patterns and wax-dye technique. 

However, Maryam aims to take things a step further. Growing up, her parents had hopes she would take over the family restaurant someday by sending her to culinary school. Though she graduated, she knew culinary wasn’t what her heart desired. On the contrary, it was her love for crafting and that rekindled her passion for sewing. 

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“Sewing allowed me to create wearable pieces – that I would have to buy – and batik was what I had on hand during my R&Ds. When I successfully made my first headband, it was suggested that I should try selling them,” Maryam shares. 

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Maryam loves headbands. As she hated the idea of purchasing one, naturally the headband was the first batik accessory she created. Since the birth of MaryamBayam (in 2018), her brand has expanded from accessories and scrunchies, to face masks and RTW pieces. Sourcing her batik from Terengganu, she hopes to elevate the brand by designing her own batik someday. 

She reveals that she first fell in love with Batik Terengganu for its unique aesthetics. “The colour combinations struck me and each print had a distinct floral design to it, which led me to create products that I would want to wear that wasn’t available in the market,” she tells us.

“We all know batik as something traditional and associated mostly with our older generation. It never seemed to be included in our modern trends, as we weren’t exposed to the culture and history behind batik in Malaysia,” she explains.

Her endeavours not only shed light on the traditional print, but it creates a modern approach for batik to be included in contemporary dressing and to suit every personality. There’s nothing like bringing a renewed sense of pride to our traditions. Check out our interview below about Maryam’s favourites and her brand. 

All images credit: Instagram/@maryambayam

How has batik been an inspiration to you?

Growing up in a kampung (village), I was taught the value of our customs and culture at an early age. Batik has inspired me, in a way, that has given me a deeper appreciation of how things are made and how we Malaysians can offer so much in the world of creative arts.

When you’re working with this fabric, your options are limitless. This gave me a chance to explore my creativity and push myself to learn new skills along the way. Batik sparked a sense of patriotism within me that I wanted to share with the world.

You first started with batik headbands and accessories that have now expanded to the baju kurung and pareos – how has the journey been for you as a designer?

It has been a rewarding experience. My products and designs are nothing revolutionary – they have been around before. Creating traditional wear in Malaysian batik was a natural progression to where the brand was headed, as I was inspired by my late grandmother, who wore them as a staple. Seeing my customers love and appreciate my work gives me a sense of fulfilment that I would never have imagined.

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What usually comes first? Picking the perfect batik print combination or the design process?

This actually happens simultaneously. I do a lot of research based on what’s already in the market and do the exact opposite by creating products that are unique which speak to everyone’s personality.

The market has been saturated with Batik Indonesia, so I always try to make products that complement the liveliness of Batik Malaysia. My accessories and clothing are specifically designed to be bold and distinctive. It speaks to my personal style that is fortunately welcomed by the public.

If you were to pick three items from your brands, what would it be and why?

My first pick would be the Batik shorties, which is inspired by the Hermès twilly, simply for their versatility and practicality. Here’s how I would style it: I wear them as a necktie, tie them on my bag, and when I need my hair pulled back from my face.

Secondly, the Batik Pareo; a skirt I basically live and breathe in. I love its versatility, as it can be worn from casual to formal occasions, depending on how you style it.

Last but not least, the Batik Earrings. They’re petite yet packs a punch to liven up any outfit to wear them with.

How do you intend to keep the spirit and love for the traditional batik print alive?

For us, batik is not just a trend, it’s evergreen. Through educating myself and sharing what I’ve learned with the public, my hope is that it would create more awareness and appreciation for local batik and its artisans.

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Since the pandemic began, how has it been for you as an entrepreneur and designer?

In recent months, I’ve partnered up with Aziza Ghebllawi, who’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s now in charge of streamlining the business side of the brand, while I focus on the creative side.

The pandemic affected us in a way where we are no longer able to exhibit our products at live events. This compels me to learn to create content in order to promote my products online. It has taught me to pivot and learn to adapt to the current state we are in – leading us to release our own face masks.

Lastly, what do you have in mind for the brand coming up?

We intend to create and design batik products that reflect the Malaysian lifestyle, hence going into creating more lifestyle products as our next trajectory. We want to focus on promoting batik, not just internationally but locally too. Additionally, we hope to create an appreciation for the Malaysian Batik culture for generations to come.

Amalina Anuar
Senior Writer
A writer by day and spin instructor by night. Amalina fuels her day with anything that’s covered in chocolate and breaking a sweat in the spin studio. With fashion and music as inspiration, you can find her obsessing over her favourite artist's music videos or swaying to funky tunes at live gigs.