Experiments with colourful clothes bear fruit for couple

By Zieman
  • Business
  • Thursday, 06 Mar 2014

The company is moving beyond just clothes and is making shoes using the tie-dye method.

YOUNG couple Khairunnisa Azman and Abdul Hafiz Shafiee are in sync with one another to such an extent that they have gone into business together to set up their company Wondercolours.

Engaged last month, the two say they bring together the elements needed to run the business that produces tie-dye clothing.

Abdul Hafiz credits Khairunnisa for being the one who understands the fundamentals of colour while he takes on the role of designer.

“Colours are an important part in the tie-dye process. Nisa knows how to combine the right colours, making the end result harmonious. Some colours gel well together when mixed while some clash with one another. Nisa’s choice of pastel shades is also a winner with our customers,” said Abdul Hafiz, 29.

For Khairunnisa, getting the right third colour for the tie-dye process is of absolute importance.

“It’s impossible to get the right third colour if you do not know about primary and secondary colours. When you mix scarlet and golden yellow, you will get orange. Royal blue and green form aqua or turquoise, while pink and blue create purple.

Khairunnisa showing off some of the tie- dye T-Shirts made by Wondercolours.
Khairunnisa showing off some of the tie-dye clothes made by Wondercolours.

“The temperature has to be very hot for the dye bath process. The hotter the dye bath, the stronger the colours will be. The final step is putting it out to dry under the hot sun to get the best result,” said Nisa, who started the tie-dye business with Abdul Hafiz two years ago.

The two decided to create something new with tie-dye here after seeing a lot of young people wearing t-shirts made from the distinctive fabric.

Khairunnisa, a business graduate who is pursuing an accounting degree part-time, went into the tie-dye business full time after she came back from Jakarta and Jogjakarta in Indonesia at the end of 2011. While there, she realised that the uniqueness of Indonesian tie-dye designs were not available in Malaysia.

“The pieces were so absolutely unique and colourful that it made me want to do it myself,” said Khairunnisa, 28.

She received moral support from her enterprising father, Azman Anas, who runs the Selero Negori chain of restaurants that serve Negri Sembilan and Padang food.

With her parent’s support, the couple formed Wondercolours and started a home-based tie-dye business.

Abdul Hafiz and Khairunnisa demonstrating how the tie-dye process is done.
Abdul Hafiz and Khairunnisa demonstrating how the tie- dye process is done.

Since there were so many tie-dye techniques, they ended up trying the spiral tie-dye technique on faded t-shirts first just to learn. Within several weeks, they were getting orders from friends and relatives.

“We went into the business for fun. Then, as it grew bigger, we realised we had to sell, handle customers, work on our products and manage our small business, all at once.

“So far, publicity has been by word of mouth and via social media,” said Khairunnisa, who enhanced her knowledge by reading books, watching YouTube videos and seeking assistance from an Australian friend experienced in the art.

She said the initial stage of the business was taken up with experimenting on almost any clothing, towels or any cheap fabrics to see the results. The first month saw them experimenting, doing research on tie-dye and learning through trial and error.

The first experiment using the spiral technique proved successful so Hafiz proceeded to try the yin-yang, and heart-shaped techniques. After many attempts, the results started to look good enough for customers.

And the list of customers grew from friends and relatives to VIPs and celebrities.

“Each tie-dye product is crafted meticulously on 100% cotton fabric and handmade. We were inspired to come up with more exclusive designs. But the turning point was when we got a bulk order of 100 pieces from a prominent businesswoman.

“She wanted all the pieces to be of the same colour and design and we had one week to deliver the order. That was a true challenge for us and from then on, we knew we were in serious business,” said Abdul Hafiz.

Three months into the business, Wondercolours was going places and generating buzz at bazaars, Sunday markets and online. And when they started posting pictures of their clothes on Instagram and Facebook, the response was overwhelming. They also began receiving bulk orders from a few VIPs in Brunei and Singapore.

Seeing the progress, Nisa’s father allocated a small section of his then newly opened Selero Negori restaurant in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur for a small Wondercolours boutique. Wondercolours now also has a shop in the Empire Hotel in Brunei.

“We strive to do better with each new tie-dye design. We’ve tried folding, shading, crumbling, striping, swirling, pleating, wrinkling and mutilating the fabric in every possible way imaginable,” said Khairunnisa, the eldest of four siblings.

Wondercolours only uses the best imported fabric dyes so that the vibrant colours will not fade.

“Our brightly coloured tie-dye goods are a hit because they are easy to manage. You just have to hand-wash it separately for the first time. After that, you can put it in the washing machine,” explained Khairunnisa.

According to Abdul Hafiz, the spiral or sunburst is the easiest tie-dye effect to master.

“You just have to tie the fabric a particular way, focusing on a large spiral with small flecks in the centre.

“Then pinch the centre of the fabric and twist it. The fabric should begin to form a spiral shape, but you have to flatten the fabric after each twist,” he said.

He said there are no limitations when it comes to trying out the different techniques.

“We have explored the double spiral, bullseye, heart-shaped, ombre and spider techniques. The dyeing technique has long existed, but the best part is it is still fashionable today,” said Abdul Hafiz, who also runs his family’s food business.

Khairunnisa observed that the tie-dye is versatile enough that it can be used for modern or retro styles.

“The thing about tie-dye is you can try it on almost anything — t-shirts, jeans, bedsheets, scarves, pillowcases, blankets, shoes or bags. The best part is you are the only one with the design because it’s unique. The amount of dye used depends on the weight of the fabric.

“For a two-tone dyed top, you have to be more creative. The younger generation loves bold colours while older people prefer pastel and subdued tones,” said Nisa.

The couple is all geared up to experiment on friendship bracelets, flips-flops, towels, gift tags, bags and totes next.

“Tie-dye is great for those who want to be unique. The Boho chic effect is another interesting technique, which we have yet to explore. There are so many awesome tie-dye patterns you can do on sleeves like striped, side circle, pleated or marbled,” said Hafiz, who uses rubber bands to create tie-dye patterns.

The tie-dye process has to be carried out in stages. First, the item to be died is tied before putting in the first colour. A rubber band or string is used to tie a particular area of the T-shirt so that a tie-dye pattern is produced.

“The real challenge is creating a vibrant tie-dye pattern and choosing the right colours. You can choose one, two or three colours and its best to use the lightest colour first,” said Hafiz.

But not all fabrics can be tie-dyed. Materials made of cotton, rayon, ramie, nylon, linen, wool or even silk can be dyed, but not fabrics like polyester, acrylic or materials with special finishes.

Their next experiment will be the Shibori technique, a Japanese style of shaped resist dyeing.

“The fabric is squeezed by using wrapping, stitching or folding techniques, which creates a ‘resist’ when dyeing the fabric,” said Hafiz, who feels challenged each time he stumbles on a new technique.

The couple also plan to expand the company and its business.

“Expanding would involve some financial costs and proper planning. But first we hope to hire an assistant since we are getting more orders than we can handle. Operating from our new premises in Taman Tun Dr Ismail also excites us because we are able to offer more to our customers,” said Hafiz.



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