Behind The Scenes: Batik

A Better Batik

“Batik” has become something of a fashion buzzword—but authentic, traditional batik is much more complex and time-consuming to create than the prints found throughout the fashion industry that bear its name. Unlike these “batik-inspired” motifs, Kayu’s batik styles are painstakingly crafted through an age-old process that’s still done completely by hand today.

To create a batik fabric like those used on Kayu’s Suki bags, a batik artisan first crafts a pattern block out of brass or copper. These blocks, called “sarang” in Malay, require careful attention to detail and can take anywhere from one to four weeks to complete, depending on the intricacy of the design.

Once the sarang is finished, an artist dips it in melted wax and then stamps the repeating pattern on fabric—usually silk or cotton—in a cohesive manner until the entire length of fabric is covered in print. The wax causes the fabric to resist absorbing dye in the areas where the stamp made contact, so when the fabric is later hand-dyed, the pattern from the sarang is revealed. Each stage of the process is completed by hand, and since little or no electricity is used, the creation of batik material is eco-friendly and truly artisanal.

Meet Pok Ya. A resident of Terengganu, Malaysia, he’s the only person left in his city who still knows how to make traditional sarangs. Batik has declined drastically in popularity over the course of Pok Ya’s lifetime, due to the availability of cheaper alternatives. Whereas the area used to boast nearly 50 batik factories, there are now less than ten, and Pok Ya observes many younger locals moving to nearby cities instead of learning—and passing on—this time-honored process.

Nonetheless, Pok Ya is eager to share his expertise and tries to impart a bit about batik to anyone willing to learn. Kayu is proud to support artisans like Pok Ya and bolster the revival of traditional Malaysian batik with our exclusive batik bags.