Batik designs are timeless and versatile. While designers like inisaya have taken on creating more traditional-looking batik prints with floral patterns, some like batikTEKTURA inject modern lines and geometry.
For Spirit AnimalCo, its founder and designer, Miki, who’s a graphic designer by profession, is adding her own modern twist by fusing the prints with traditional Chinese wear.
Born and raised
Proudly born and raised in Malaysia, Miki has a strong fascination with the local culture, its rich traditions, and breathtaking nature, as she described.
She told Vulcan Post that being a graphic designer is also a valuable skill to have in her fashion career when it comes to developing and maintaining the aesthetics of Spirit AnimalCo.
Incorporating batik pieces into her personal style has become a staple for Miki, particularly during her travels as she believes they are her perfect go-tos for mixing and matching.
“There’s also something about bringing a little part of my culture and identity wherever I go that makes me feel proud and confident,” Miki added.
Closer to home, she’d push the style envelope by wearing Nyonya Kebaya during Chinese New Year, or pair batik pieces with other festive outfits.
Miki’s love for fashion and keen eye for styling extended to also dressing friends and family, which was something she found super energising and enjoyable.
After gathering positive encouragement over the years, this organically evolved into a possible career path for Miki.
Couple that with her dream of founding her own fashion label, and it seemed like a natural transition to starting Spirit AnimalCo during the confinements of MCO.
Confident and bold
“As a brand, the Spirit AnimalCo identity is deeply rooted in our love and reverence for culture, tradition, and nature in all its beautiful and free-spirited ways,” Miki shared about the brand’s name.
Hence, the aim is to create a brand that evokes the feeling of being spiritually guided, encourages self-empowerment, and embraces one’s right to be as confident and bold.
Bold is certainly a way to describe the brand’s designs. Spirit AnimalCo is combining two forms of traditional attire from the Chinese and Malay cultures, while adding a modern twist.
I wondered, might this brush traditionalists the wrong way? Particularly older generations with more orthodox beliefs and ownership of their cultural identity and how things “should” be?
Miki reported that this hasn’t been the case at all.
“Since our debut, we have received encouraging feedback across different age groups via our socials and during our pop-ups, including elders who are not just accepting of the evolution we are making, but also appreciative that we are using new ways to revive one of Malaysia’s most treasured prints,” Miki explained.
It’s these heartwarming comments and seeing how much people loved wearing the designs that keep her going when the going gets tough.
Miki is very much hands-on with her production. She’s in charge of the day-to-day operations of the business, including planning, sourcing, design, and execution of collection launches.
“That said, I am extremely thankful to be partnered with my aunt, who is also the co-founder of the brand,” Miki shared. “She has an extensive tailoring resume of over 30 years in the business and is in charge of production.”
Each piece in Spirit AnimalCo’s collection is hand-sewn from start to finish by the team. Most of the clothes are sewn with Miki’s grandmother’s trusty sewing machine, and handsewn by her aunt, Kim, along with their team of seamstresses.
These seamstresses are women who might be marginalised due to their age, or specific skill sets in today’s society. “It is also really meaningful for us to be able to create flexible employment that not only helps them, but enables the batik storytelling to continue in a more contemporary way,” Miki said.
Priding themselves on maintaining exclusivity, each capsule collection is consciously designed as a limited edition with approximately 50 pieces per design. This, Miki said, ensures quality, uniqueness, and customer satisfaction.
The prices for Spirit AnimalCo’s clothing range RM89-RM299, which is arguably more economical for handmade clothing that also carries a slow fashion slant.
Stitching plans together
Because the products are crafted by hand and require up to five days to make, according to Miki, challenges may arise for Spirit AnimalCo when it comes to scaling its production.
When probed, Miki stated that she is proud of the scale of her capsule collections for now.
“It’s also something our loyal customers appreciate about us. That said, we are also receiving inquiries for increased production, which is something we are carefully looking into,” Miki shared.
In keeping with its brand ethos to prioritise women, Spirit AnimalCo’s priority is to work with local organisations in recruiting more marginalised women with the right skills.
Hopefully, the brand can create more employment, while increasing its production to meet new demands for new pieces.
There are longer-term plans in the works already, Miki teased. They include setting up a studio and showroom to allow customers to browse and try before they buy.
“A big part of my vision is to keep the Malaysian tradition alive by creating an inspiring space for local artisans to exchange ideas and skills,” she added.
Miki also hopes for the studio to act as a platform to launch new collaborations and joint ventures that can create new and lasting legacies in the history of Malaysian fashion.
- Learn more about Spirit AnimalCo here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Miki and Kim, co-founders of Spirit AnimalCo