A Chat with Tengku Kery, Founder of Tuan.
Tuan by Tengku Kery is a proud Malaysian label known for giving a fresh new take to the almost extinct and invaluable legacy of batik. Just recently, we managed to spend an evening with the founder and batik aficionado, Tuan Muhamad Khairul Azhar. Catch the interview below where he speaks out on how he started the label, his inspirations and the business side of it.
First things first, let’s start with a proper introduction.
Hello! My real name is Tuan Muhamad Khairul Azhar Bin Tuan Muhamad and I am turning 30 years old this year on the 22nd September. Hmm..what else? Oh ya, I was born in Terengganu but spend most of my time in the city as I was raised in Kuala Lumpur. And, in case you are wondering, Tengku Kery is the nickname that was given to me when i was small. There you go, short and simple or...was it not? *laughs*
Can you share the story of how Tuan by Tengku Kery started?
The inspiration to kick off the label came to me when my friends and I went on our first trip to Indonesia. I was surprised and fascinated when I saw a huge number of teenagers donning their batik oh so casually and proudly! And, It is not exclusively at the airport, my whole trip was basically filled with plenty of intricate batik designs, worn by the young crowds on every corner of the streets! Which is quite the opposite of what we normally seen back in our very own land, where only “Dads”, “Uncles” and “Government Servants” are usually the ones decked out in batik, either to the office or weddings.
I realised that perhaps the reason for our young Malaysians to shy away from batik is due to the material, the soft and shiny look makes them look old! Let me be frank, as a batik lover, I too, find it nearly close to impossible to find a batik that I like. I then started a cut & sew project where I designed and incorporated my wardrobe with a roll of batik that I purchased from the trip. The next thing I know, l received demands from friends and family for my creations. Fast forward to now, what started out as a small project has now become my bread and butter for almost 4 years.
When did you realise that you want to work with batik?
When I noticed nobody else is doing it. *laughs*
The most challenging part of developing Tuan by Tengku Kery?
I was not exposed to any form of formal education on fashion and design, nor do I have a guru from the industry for me to guide or learn from. So, the most challenging part for me is having to cope with the steep learning curve as I have a lot of catching up to do. My other hurdles are the trial and error phase, it is costly and time consuming too.
Tell us the inspiration behind your latest collection.
Ideas can come from places that you least expected. It could be the buildings that I saw or the people that I have met, or perhaps from the experiences that I get from travelling. However, the bottom line is that the everyday people is what inspires me the most.
How is Tuan by Tengku Kery different from the other batik brands available in the market?
The strongest selling point is that Tuan by Tengku Kery was the first to modernise batik. We are also using the finest cotton available on the market, our cottons are easy to iron, breathable and comfortable to wear. Plus, we take pride in every single detail even to the smallest ones, ensuring everything is made exactly and according to our standards.
If you could describe your label in three words, what would it be?
Exclusive, comfortable and affordable.
How do you bridge the gap between modern and traditional wear?
The way I do it is by adapting to the demand and time without ruining the essence of traditionality into each of the design. Updating the material from silk to cotton and cutting it to a more slimmer fit are part of the bridge that connects modern and traditional.
Who do you love to see wearing your collection?
Teenagers...adults and hmmm..everyone I hope! *laughs* On a serious note though, if the other countries can be proud to wear batik, why can’t we? Kan?
Will there be more designs for women and children soon?
We have recently dropped a collection that includes both women and children for the upcoming Raya and they are now available at SOGO! And, we have plans and looking forward to expand it even further to include more selection too. So, stick around!
After Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, what’s next for Tuan by Tengku Kery?
What else? Taking over the rest of Asia!
Tuan By Tengku Kery Raya Collection is now available at SOGO’s 3rd Floor Fashion Arena!