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Sunday May 25, 2008
Story and pictures by GRACE CHEN
While all that glitters may not be gold, Rosita Jaafar has found that sequins and beads are worth their weight in gold.
IN every sense, Rosita Jaafar, 43, is as glamorous as her sequinned dresses. This is best seen from her expressive eyes and how she cocks her head when she speaks.
Sequins and beads are very much the focus of the former beauty queen (first runner up in the Miss Malaysia Central 1987 pageant).
“There is magic to be found in sequins, you know,” the sultry siren purred. Rosita's got a point – from the virtue of their shine and myriad shapes, beads and sequins will turn even the most drab garment into a million-dollar outfit.
Rosita fell in love with these shiny objects at the tender age of six when she watched her mother sewing them on to the costumes of entertainers and singers in Johor.
“When I was older, I’d even take over the sewing for her when she went to work. When she came back, she’d find a new piece of ‘art work’ in addition to her own,” Rosita recalled with a laugh.
Today, sewing with sequins and beads has become her livelihood. She has authored no less than six instructional books on the subject of dressmaking and is the owner of Fashion Trade Institute of Malaysia (FTIM) which offers classes on dressmaking and of course, beading.
“Beading is a value-added feature to dressmaking. Take, for example, a plain sarong which will cost no more than RM10. Sew on a design of sequins to it and it can fetch as much as RM1,500. But of course, there has to be a sense of technique, creativity and colour matching to the scheme,” said Rosita.
And beading, said this entrepreneur from Johor, is no different from any art form which requires creativity and passion.
One has to understand the concept of shape and texture to create, for example, a water lily or cherries hanging from a tree.
“For me, inspiration comes from the things that I look at daily. The way the sand looks after a crab has walked over it, flowers, leaves, the rain – these are the motifs behind my designs.
“And because this art form demands a lot of patience and concentration, embarking on a project often takes me to a trance-like state where everything else, including my stresses and worries, becomes secondary,” said Rosita.
Tactile senses, she said, also plays an important part in beading.
“It’s all in the feel. You have to gauge with your fingers the tautness of the thread when sewing the beads in place.
“Pull it too tight and the fabric will crumple around the beadwork, too slack and the bead composition will look loose and the beads may even fall off over time,” she pointed out.
What drives this sultry entrepreneur to stick her needle into such an intricate art form?
“When I started my business in 1996 with my own funds, I wanted to do something which could empower women.
“I saw that beading could be a sustainable skill because it requires no paper qualifications and little capital to start with,” she said.
And Rosita would know how difficult life can be for many disadvantaged women, having grown up in a single parent family of three siblings.
“From age 8, I was earning my own money,” she revealed.
During her childhood days, Rosita would take two bags to school. One plastic bag held school books while another contained fruits like langsat which she would sell for 5 sen or 10 sen to her school mates. The money she earned went towards helping her mother make ends meet.
Today, Rosita conducts motivational workshops all over the country for women’s groups. Having seen how her own mother struggled, she understands how beautiful, brilliant women who have no paper qualifications or work experience are often left in the lurch when their spouses leave them.
“Life is not easy but it is not impossible either. The important thing is to set targets and to learn as you go along.
“It is no use for women to have this presumption that they are incapable of anything except to bear children and be homemakers,” insisted Rosita.
Beading is also a pleasurable hobby and her classes at the 3C Complex in Bandar Sunway is where beading enthusiasts gather for their art and to indulge in chit chat.
Sundays, says Rosita, are always good days to come by because that’s where everybody is in a relaxed mode.
As for this busy beader, she says that she has not had a Sunday off for the past 12 years.
“I take time off during weekdays instead,” said Rosita, who has a child.
To sign up for Rosita’s beading classes, contact 03-5638 2949 or browse www.ftimdc.com.
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