IT’S the time of year when beautiful traditional clothing adorns the windows of boutiques and retail stores across the country.
Business owners and vendors are in the midst of a frantic season where customers will continue to spend the next couple of weeks looking for that special outfit within a pool of almost unlimited choice.
Women in particular, seem to love this Hari Raya season where they shop for traditional clothing like the baju kurung and baju kebaya as they are abundantly showcased at already attractive prices thanks to nationwide Mega Sale Carnival that runs until Sept 1.
“Aside from Chinese New Year, this is definitely one of the busiest times in the year for us. Our stock for this month has been increased by about 20% and we’re currently displaying our full range of traditional clothing such as various styles of tops, batik baju kurung, songket baju kurung, colourful modern designs with batik prints and different types of baju kebaya as well as headscarves,” said Saerah Atan, the owner of Kriteria Boutique.
Saerah says there is a surge of customers for Saerah’s boutiques in Midvalley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur, Amcorp Mall in Petaling Jaya and Plaza Angsana in Johor Baru.
Customers frequently purchase clothing for themselves as well as for their families and friends. During Chinese New Year, Kriteria features traditional Chinese clothing like cheongsam and sam fu.
All of the boutique’s items are made at a factory in Subang Jaya and although Saerah admits that she’s not a fashion designer, she loves conceptualising and creating the designs for her dresses and blouses.
“I’ll also find out from customers about the particular designs that they like. For example, there is currently a trend and demand for chiffon material to make the baju kurung as well as the use of bright and sparkly sequins, so you’ll see all this in our designs.
“We have always maintained versatile cuts for our clothing, which fits customers of most sizes very well, especially the peplum-style tops that are popular because of their ‘slimming’ effect,” explained Saerah.
Her baju kurung still maintains their traditional appeal thanks to variations in colours and patterns. Each traditional outfit starts from RM300 and while it may seem a little steep for some, Saerah said that it’s the cost of quality and workmanship as each piece is designed by hand. She added that she tries to maintain a profit margin of 50%, which helps to cover the company’s largest expense, the rent for the boutique locations.
The business was set up 10 years ago and it was one of the first retail outlets in Mid Valley.
“I had a little shop in Kompleks PKNS and a business contact informed me of an opportunity to open a store in Mid Valley.
“But I was also working in the cosmetics line so I wasn’t very confident if I could manage a fashion/clothing business. But when I realised that my clients were women, I knew that most of them would be interested in fashion as well. When I opened the shop in Mid Valley, my cosmetics customers became my clothes customers,” she said.
With online shopping fast becoming the preferred choice in retail therapy for many, Saerah said she is constantly working to keep her brick-and-mortar boutiques popular.
She believes that her loyal customers who help to spread the word about her clothing and through her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/saerah.atan), are enough to keep the business moving along nicely for now.
Tailor-making traditional attire continues to be in demand because of the vast range of fabrics and materials available.
VOG Collection, a clothing and textiles retailer in Hartamas Shopping Centre imports a beautiful selection of its items from Pakistan to create baju kurung, punjabi suits and sarees.
“All year round, baju kurung and punjabi suits seem to be the most popular choice for customers and for this Hari Raya, we’ve received up to 50 orders in July for baju kurung alone,” explained the store manager Nin Zi Sao.
The boutique carries over 1,000 designs and fabrics. Many of the clothes are in chiffon while a smaller number are cotton. There is a new shipment of clothes every two weeks and each piece features unique designs as they are all hand- made.
“Sometimes customers like a particular design a lot and they request for more than one piece, so we’ll order it again from Pakistan.
“But no one design will be the exact duplicate of the other, so it makes every individual piece unique,” said Nin, a Myanmar native.
Customers select their preferred fabric and have their measurements taken with Nin’s assistance.
After about two weeks, they can look forward to collecting their finished clothes.
Some regular clients order up to 10 pieces of fabric to be made into clothes for themselves and family members.
Aliza Redzuan, a shopper who happened to be in the store remarked that most of her traditional clothing are tailored.
“I’d rather pay more and wait longer for a tailor-made item because it will fit me perfectly as all the measurements will have been done.
“I don’t buy ready-made traditional clothes because they don’t fit right and I’m very particular when the designs are not completely symmetrical or specifically how I want them to be.
“The only issue I have with some of these Pakistan made material is that they are very delicate, so they might get holes and tears easily if not handled with absolute care,” said Aliza.
The outlet also features an assortment of shoes, bangles, earrings and headscarves.