Plain, mono-coloured clothing with little print on them is the most concise way to describe my fashion style. That also describes KITA MADE’s T-shirts to a tee (pardon the pun), as the startup sells white T-shirts with just a hint of batik print for a touch of vibrancy and personality. Hence, the appeal of their shirts to me requires no further explanation.
However, my colleagues, who actually like full, intricate batik pieces, couldn’t wrap their heads around it. They wondered, “Why not commit to a full-blown batik shirt or just a plain white tee?”
Minimalist, but make it daring
“The reason that we didn’t approach the usual way of going for a full-blown batik button-up that you see everywhere is simply because we ourselves couldn’t pull it off,” KITA MADE’s director, Marcus Ling explained to Vulcan Post.
The team hypothesised there was a possibility that others shared the same issue, intimidated by batik’s vibrant prints that can come off gaudy.
“We always joke that we look like those Guru Besar wearing batik back in the days giving out awards at assemblies. So our designer came up with this great idea of strategically incorporating batik elements into our daily wear, and the rest is history,” Marcus added.
Stitching ‘em up
To begin making the shirts, the team of 3 hand-picked the best of locally printed batik designs that were available to them, accounting for movement restrictions in 2020. They would then sew the batik textiles onto T-shirts to come up with 2 designs that feature batik accents across the chest, or at the tip of both shirtsleeves.
Marcus shared that the team is currently working on a new collection featuring handmade batik terap and hand-drawn batik designs.
Dictionary Time: Batik terap is batik that’s created using the method of a stamping block that prints designs onto cloth.
Priced at RM89 per piece, I found the shirts rather pricey, which the team agreed was fair to think so. Their justification for it was that their products are made up of high quality, pure cotton fabric to ensure that they’re long-lasting, regardless of fashion trends or wear-and-tear.
“We are fortunate to receive a lot of love from them after their purchases so I guess we did something right,” said Marcus who added that the Malaysian market was surprisingly open towards their designs.
The startup’s customers consist of young male adults who are open to trying new things. Now with demands from Malaysian women too, the team is looking to launch clothing that will serve that market.
This positive feedback from customers gave them the confidence to keep KITA MADE going, especially when the team consists of founders with no background in fashion design.
Marcus added, “I think the faith initially came from us wearing the products and genuinely enjoying them ourselves, that’s why we felt the need to share this feeling with everyone.”
Finding a common ground
Marcus himself is a 25-year-old medical student who’d recently graduated. He’d returned from Moscow when COVID-19 cases were rising there, and his classes were shifted online.
Back in Malaysia was where Marcus and 2 other friends conceptualised the possibilities of KITA MADE. It sounded like an unattainable goal, seeing that business in every industry—including fashion—was collapsing amidst the pandemic. It was also riding the waves of uncertainty as none of the guys had any design experience.
“But I do clearly remember this so-called crazy idea gave me multiple chills, almost like a sign of hope seeding out of a chaotic ground, if you will. We are all fans of different fashion looks and fortunately, we found a common love for batik fabric. So after sufficient preparation and some sleepless nights we launched KITA MADE in January 2021,” recalled Marcus.
But that didn’t mean the team was ignorant of the challenges that launching a business would bring. The lack of experience was an imminent concern, especially so when they were fueled by passion but had absolutely no knowledge.
“We made a tonne of mistakes in order to just learn. There’s no better way to open your eyes other than immersing yourself in the process,” Marcus decided.
Although the pandemic was a strong catalyst for starting KITA MADE, Marcus admitted that movement restrictions have been challenging for the team to unleash the business’s full potential. However, Marcus is optimistic that the lockdown serves as a preparation period for the team to strategise for their future.
“The way we see it, we will be able to change the way our people view batik and have KITA MADE as an option in everyone’s wardrobe, and hopefully put our country on the map,” envisioned Marcus.
Featured Image Credit: KITA MADE