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Behind the Brand: Meet the founders bringing South East Asia to the Western world

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Anita Nair and Dee Sember are the founders of Batik London, an online shop selling the finest hand-crafted bags that connect South East Asia with the Western world. 

The pair work with female artisans across the globe, to make sure that each piece is unique and handmade with love and care. But what inspired them to start Batik London? And what is the story Behind The Brand?

Dee Sember and Anita Nair // Image courtesy of Boxed Out PR

Creating a brand inspired by South East Asia...

First and foremost, what is the main ethos behind Batik London? For Dee and Anita, it's all about keeping culture and heritage alive; "Batik London’s main ethos is to be the bridge that connects Southeast Asian style with Western fashion, sourcing beautiful and unique fashion accessories directly from the Far East. Our vision is to showcase the work of artisans from Southeast Asia and bring their creations to consumers in the UK who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy these treasures unless they were travelling to the area where the piece originates. We want to bring a little bit of our second home, home!"

It was their love of travelling around the world that gave them the idea for Batik London. Dee says: "We were both travelling in Malaysia in December 2018 and it was whilst we were exploring the markets of Kuala Lumpur when we discovered all the amazing accessories and unique pieces that South East Asia had to offer. We immediately both had a lightbulb moment and realised that these pieces are so different from what you see in the Western world and they could really be cherished and loved by consumers outside of the region. Anita’s family come from Malaysia, so it was an idea that was close to her heart."

What does the name 'Batik' mean exactly? "Batik is an art and craft of the Southeast Asian world – it’s basically a traditional technique that uses wax dying to produce colourful Asian motifs, patterns and designs that can be used on fabrics. We wanted to combine both the Southeast Asian world and the Western world and so the name ‘Batik London’ just popped up and we fell in love with it right away!"

The Kaktus, £88, Batik London // Image courtesy of Boxed Out PR

 

Getting into the fashion industry...

How did they both get into the fashion industry –  was it something they studied at university? Anita explains: "Getting into the fashion world came about more organically and naturally. We’re both quite into our fashion but we never thought we would ever create our own business based on it!

"Dee is in the property world and I come from a finance background – so quite a world away from Batik London! But I think this is what we enjoy about having our own business that is completely different to our normal day jobs. We get to be creative and use our imaginative skills. We enjoy keeping up with the latest trends and styles, however, when we came across all the various fashion accessories in Malaysia, we immediately wanted to shout out about it and share them."

Sustainability...

A huge part of Batik London is its sustainable ethos and the fact that the founders work closely with the artisans who make the products. Is sustainable fashion something Dee and Anita have always been interested in? "We both very much believe in the idea of sustainable fashion and the need for promoting both environmental and social awareness for the human planet. It can sometimes be hard to keep this in mind when fashion is an ever constantly evolving form of expression, but we think that if everyone does a little bit to contribute towards this important movement, then small changes can create big positive differences."

Travelling also became a turning point in the way they viewed the fashion industry: "A turning point was being in Malaysia and having the opportunity to meet the wonderful and inspiring local artisans who handcraft the rattan bags. They were quite knowledgeable about the latest sustainability status of their country as well as their neighbouring countries. Southeast Asia faces some of the world’s toughest environmental challenges. They also have an ever-growing plastic pollution problem. China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are responsible for more than half the world’s plastic use. Hearing about these facts made us realise that everyone needs to play a part in reducing their environmental and social footprints and therefore our underlying ethos for Batik London incorporates sustainability as much and where possible."

Batik London want to tell the stories of the individual artists, and this is something that was important to Dee and Anita from the very beginning. "We met one artisan in the markets in Malaysia and we instantly fell in love with her products as well as her as a person. It is important for us to expose both the culture and heritage of the artisans as well as their livelihood stories, as this is also what makes each piece special and unique. We feel that consumers should know where their products are coming from, how they are made and who made them as it enables people to be more conscious of their purchasing behaviour and ultimately choosing more environmentally-friendly products."

Top Picks...

If they could pick just one product each from the site, what would they be?

Anita would pick The Kaktus (a rattan bag in the shape of - you guessed it - a cactuds) and Dee would pick The Cinta (a round rattan bag with a colourful lining), we're told - but "we love them all, so it is really hard for us to pick just one!"

 

The Lantan, £72, Batik London // Image courtesy of Boxed Out PR

Words of wisdom...

Finally – what advice do they have for students wanting to get involved with the sustainable fashion industry? "We have learnt so much along the way of setting up our own business, especially within the sustainable fashion industry realm. Our personal advice would be to always stick to your personal values. It can be easy to change your values and standards or have them skewed when entering the fashion industry in order to please others. But if you have your own set of ethics and morals and you make sure that they are always at the forefront of whatever you do, then others will also recognise this, and it will come out positively and clearly in your work. You’ve got to be so transparent in such a fast and ever-changing world. Just be yourself and everything else will fall into place!"

Shop the full range of Batik London products here.

For more from our Behind The Brand Series click here.

Lead image courtesy of Boxed out PR




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