Sakura founder Suraya Sharifuddin with the Srikandi Perak handbag collection
TEKAT, the Malay traditional art of gold-and-silver thread embroidery, is a mainstay at the Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex. The beauty of the craft is often displayed on the pillowcases in bridal bedchambers and elaborately decorated dowry trays. Due to its intricate nature, rarely is it seen away from this grand context.
Suraya Sharifuddin, the founder of Sakura Malaysia, wants to introduce the art of tekat to western fashion with her new line of handbags.
The inspiration to embellish her handbags with tekat motifs came after Suraya saw a live demonstration of the skill at the craft complex in Jalan Conlay.
“My husband said it would be a good idea but an expensive one as well,” recalled Suraya, whose tekat bags are priced between RM690 and RM1,120.
She launched her first collection — a series of bags featuring batik and woven pine leaf — at the Royal Selangor Golf Club where she did a joint show with celebrity Sazzy Falak who showed off her streetwear collection.
The search for a tekat embroiderer connected her to Azizah Adam, a craftswoman from Kuala Kangsar.
Their first meeting, said Suraya, lasted eight hours!
“We spent only two hours discussing the pricing. The rest was largely a sharing session about our lives,” revealed Suraya.
“When it comes to dealing with traditional craftsmen, they are not only interested in the business aspect.
“They want to see whether you understand the art and history behind it. Only when they like you, will they consider a business relationship,” explained Suraya.
The pair hit it off, which explains why Azizah agreed to to give a live demonstration of how traditional gold thread embroidery is done at Suraya’s recent launch.
The fashion-savvy crowd included founder of KL Fashion Week Andrew Tan, actress and beauty ambassador Natasha Hudson, Sazzy, Aishah Sinclair who emceed the event and Malaysian supermodel Hartini Mat Jasin.
Also on show were selected designs from Suraya’s former batik collection and lace-themed dinner clutches.
“This collection has a transcending quality as it brings forth tradition in a way that also touches the younger generation,” said Surah Shah Noor, an online fashion portal owner, on the tekat collection.
Garnering the most attention were the bags with leather tassels, which Hartini said gave the tekat a modern twist.
Suraya’s tekat handbags have also been showcased at Pure London, a fashion trade show in Britain.
“I went with zero expectations and returned with 35 enquiries, a good sign as there were over 700 other booths vying for buyers’ attention,” she said.