Enticed by the intricacy of batik

It was on a recent trip to Indonesia where Erna and Shariff of LovebyErna Empire saw first hand the intricate art of making batik and decided to start a batik-inspired fashion line.

“We actually witnessed the traditional way of producing batik, and that was the turning point for us,’’ said Shariff.

Starting the business just a month before the Movement Control Order (MCO) in March, they had first tried out the designs on friends who said they loved the workmanship, material and colours.

With ideas from clients on how to further enhance the designs, they also found some re-sellers to promote and sell the outfits.

Business was good during the MCO period. “We were surprised at this; customers were willing to wait despite challenges in production lead time and restrictions in importation,’’ said Shariff.

Even during this Controlled MCO, business has been constant; in fact, they are preparing their orders for the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t until after the MCO period that they started to promote LovebyErna collections on Facebook and Instagram.

They will step up their social media engagement in the second half of this year, having registered with The Artisans Haven and Shopee.

“We realize the online sector may take a while to gain momentum, and require lots of advertising and promotions.

“Our participation on The Artisans Haven, which promotes artisan products and local content, will be the first step in our strategy to introduce LovebyErna to the public,’’ said Shariff.

LovebyErna is known for its loud and bold colours especially in its popular Senja and Rembulan collections; versatile and suitable for multi occasions such as evening parties, they can also be used as beach wear.

SeribyErna, with its bold colours, is a one-piece suit with a self tie knot in front; it can be worn on various occasions and is the next popular collection.

The Mutiara range, with its traditional elements, appeals to various ethnicities.

The latest lace collection is Jelita, which features a long kurung with lace and a touch of kebaya; suitable for official functions, it can be paired with a wraparound skirt or palazzo pants.

Handmade and produced in Indonesia, the eight collections are designed by Erna herself, with occasions such as holidays, dinners and special events in mind, while also catering for casual wear.

“Each motif is an expression of love, happiness and beauty while the heart-shaped button on every piece symbolizes love and passion,’’ said Erna.

The plan is to focus more on chic apparel with some traditional designs.

Ultimately, they want to change consumer culture to appreciate how modern fashion is incorporated with traditional textiles.

LovebyErna is produced with affordability in mind; prices range from RM229 to RM299.

With its current focus on the Malaysian market, the company hopes to penetrate other regions in the near future.

Besides their fascination with batik, the couple’s love for fashion is also the driving force behind LovebyErna.

“We just love European fashions; basically, we would mix and match designer brands,’’ said Shariff.

If they were to choose a fashion icon, it would be the late Princess Diana.

Shariff, whose expertise is in operations management, deals with business strategy and supply, while Erna who is an executive secretary at an oil and gas company, takes care of the designs.

They aim to achieve a balance of taste and designs for all Malaysian women.

Ultimately, fashion is a personal statement; Erna’s advice is to ‘wear what you love and love what you wear.’ Be yourself.

By Yap Leng Kuen, Chief Storyteller, The Artisans Haven