FORGET the Geylang Serai Ramadan bazaar. When it comes to finding the latest designs for Hari Raya outfits, more Muslim shoppers from Singapore are opting to shop across the causeway.
The reason? Malaysian designers have come up with creative ways to update the traditional baju kurung. Think shorter blouses, three-quarter sleeves and a more form-fitting silhouette.
Names such as Alia Bastamam, Jovian Mandagie and Nurita Harith have been gaining popularity over the past two years. Their designs are often spotted on some of the who’s who of Malaysia’s entertainment and social scene.
What appeals to shoppers is how their designs for Hari Raya outfits adhere to current fashion trends such as the peplum blouse or skirt and pastel, cotton-candy colours.
Traditionally, the baju kurung is a loose-fitting Malay costume comprising a long-sleeved blouse and matching skirt, usually made of silk or cotton. It is commonly worn during Hari Raya, which marks the end of the month-long fasting period of Ramadan.
However, these modern baju kurung are versatile enough to be worn beyond the 30-day festive season.
Singaporean flight attendant Natalia Yusoff, 30, says she has noticed how Malaysian designers no longer just produce the same design in different colours.
“These days, they experiment with shapes and silhouettes and produce designs that are not your typical run-of-the-mill traditional outfits,” she says.
This Hari Raya, she will wear a modern kurung Kedah by Jovian Mandagie. As its name suggests, the kurung Kedah is a type of baju kurung originating from Kedah in Malaysia.
The blouse is shorter than the traditional baju kurung, ending just below the pelvic bone, and has three-quarter sleeves. It is usually worn with a batik or songket skirt. A songket is a handwoven silk or cotton fabric with an intricate pattern made of gold or silver threads.
Natalia’s outfit, which features a cropped silk crepe top and a mermaid cut skirt, cost RM400 from Malay womenswear boutique First Lady in Johor.
She says: “I like that this dress can be worn beyond the Hari Raya period and it will still look just fine.”
Retailers here have started to court Malaysian designers to sell at their stores.
Second Chance Enterprise, which owns First Lady and Second Chance, is the exclusive distributor for Jovian Mandagie’s Hari Raya collection. Says Salleh Marican, chief executive of the home-grown fashion company: “We were planning to bring the collection earlier to Singapore for the Raya season, but the pieces sold out too fast.”
However, Marican has managed to secure a few hundred pieces for Singapore and these are available at First Lady boutique in Tanjong Katong Complex.
Prices for Jovian Mandagie’s ready-to-wear Hari Raya outfits range from RM180 to RM400.
For retailers and designers, Hari Raya is a “fashion season” on its own since it is a chance for them to show off their creativity.
Says Malaysian designer Alia Bastamam, 27, who has been designing for two years: “Malays are willing to spend more during this period and so it is the best money-making period for fashion designers.
“It gives us the opportunity to experiment with different looks and trends just as we do with our ready-to-wear or couture lines.”
Prices for her made-to-measure pieces for Hari Raya start from RM1,200 while ready-to-wear outfits start from RM400.
“Depending on the type of fabric used and the design, I’ve had customers who spend about RM4,000 on their first day Hari Raya outfit.”
While her pieces are not available here, shoppers can view her collection on her website, Aliabastamam.com, and e-mail her to place their orders. Next month, she will be going to Singapore to participate in 20by2 Fashion Across Borders initiative. It is a cross-border fashion pop-up store featuring 10 Malaysian and 10 Singaporean designers at the Red Dot Design Museum in Maxwell Road.
To many Singaporeans, travelling to Malaysia to get a unique piece for Hari Raya is not a problem.
As homemaker Farahdiba Adlin, 31, puts it: “The pieces from these Malaysian designers are unique and also trendy. Besides, the last thing you want is to meet someone wearing the same baju kurung when you go visiting. Going overseas minimises the chances of that happening.” – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network