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This Valentine’s Day, Gift with Meaning

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

by Chloe Lee. |

Looking for a meaningful Valentine’s gift for your girlfriend? Look no further! Knot Just Headbands is a social enterprise that sells authentic batik headbands (that is a multifunctional accessory). Their products not only preserve the method of using Block Batik to print their unique designs but also supports a community in Kelantan.

For Valentine’s Day, they collaborated with a jewellery maker who resides in Australia – Fixxture.co – to come up with these limited-edition bundles – each bundle comes in a set of one headband and a matching accessory and ranges between RM135-173, head over to their Instagram to check them out!

Each product is handmade with love and coloured drop by drop! Beyond the Valentine’s Day bundles, their other designs are gender-neutral and are suitable for all occasions. We have spoken to founders Ceymone and Shazmone to find out more about this passion-driven social enterprise and what it is like to be young entrepreneurs.

What is authentic batik?

We come across batik prints very regularly in Malaysia, but how many of us know what goes behind producing authentic batik prints? The Block Batik is a wax design technique that utilizes stamps (chaps) which are made from copper. An ironsmith carefully constructs each block with hundreds of small copper pieces, bending them with pliers and delicately soldering them onto the blocks to create an intricate design.

The next person then uses these chaps, dips them in wax and then carefully imprints it on the piece of cloth. Lastly, each space is then individually coloured by dripping paint onto them. Each pattern is imprinted onto 4meters of cloth only, which also means that each design is limited edition!

Since the entire procedure is very labour-intensive, authentic batik can also be very expensive. However, big companies have now eliminated this process by replacing them with machinery, thus making the traditional prints rare and reducing job opportunities for factories in Kelantan and Terengganu.

Why authentic batik?

The Mone sisters grew up in printed batik pyjamas, which influenced their love for this traditional pattern. During a trip to Penang, they came across this girl hand-sewing some batik fabrics together and was mesmerized by the fact that there are people still willing to hand-make garments (despite the accessibility of fast fashion), especially with such an “old-fashioned” print. This was further reinforced by a trip to Kelantan (which is their mom’s hometown) where they stumbled upon a Batik fair, where the locals were friendly and showed them methods to differentiate between authentic and synthetic batik prints. It was also then that they realized that the Block Batik technique is a dying trade, whereby there are now less than 10 batik artisans actively producing prints in Malaysia.

Coinciding with Shazmone’s education, where she was pursuing a degree in Business, she realized that if she were to ever venture into starting her own company, it would be a social enterprise that gives back to the community. Until today, the Mone sisters’ philosophy of running their business is passion and not profit.

The mission of Knot Just Headbands is to then preserve the local batik industry in Kelantan and to provide job opportunities for local communities to generate side income. By having them in smaller pieces (instead of an entire garment which is often super expensive) which serves as a gender-neutral multifunctional fashion accessory, they wish to modernize authentic batik prints and to make it more accessible to the mass public.

Who Do You Support When Purchasing a Headband?

All prints are currently hand-stamped, hand-coloured and hand-sewn by the local community in Kelantan. This includes the ironsmith, the designers and the housewives that cut and sew the pieces together.

Many households in Kelantan are considered low-income, and often fall within the B40 group. Although the migration to using machinery has reduced the cost for many companies, it has also left these batik factories struggling for its survival. As a result, the younger generation are no longer interested in the trade.

With the expansion of Knot Just Headbands, they hope to be able to support more households in Kelantan. They are also exploring options to collaborate with NGOs to create job opportunities for other underprivileged or struggling communities.

As Young Entrepreneurs

The Mone sisters are both fresh graduates and have fumbled into this with a lot of uncertainties. Despite reading about business or marketing theories, they both have no experience in actually running a business. They also do not have a mentor to guide them. Not knowing a thing about entrepreneurship and unsure of how people would respond to their product, they relied on trial and error.

The biggest struggle was determining the right platform to launch their business. Some online platforms require fees just to have their products on its pages, they also take a percentage of their profits upon every purchase and also require a fee if the business would like to cash-out their own money. They realized that they were barely making any money because of all these hidden fees. Some platforms were too expensive to maintain and others failed to garner any attention. They finally settled on Instagram and liaise with customers individually via Whatsapp. Of course, they hope to one day automate this process via their up and coming website.

They pay a lot of attention to detail and do their best to provide the highest quality of headbands. With every design, they go all the way to Kelantan to choose the colours (because colours always look different on camera) or communicate with the factory often to decide on the tiniest of details. They are meticulous, but this also means they have to spend a lot of time (or money to commute) handling the logistics and trying to communicate clearly with the production line being rather far away.

Their passion has kept them going and they are grateful for the support from friends and family and how receptive the public has been towards their products.

The Future of Knots Headbands

They look forward to being able to tap into the international market, to educate others on differentiating authentic batik from synthetic prints and to continue supporting the marginalized communities in Malaysia through their accessories.

They are hoping to put the business on Kickstarter (a crowdfunding site) and are more than open to collaborate with others (photographers, models, brands, anyone who has a good idea to propose!).

If you would like to buy in bulk, special prices are available too!

Currently, you can purchase their accessories via Instagram, or head over to the Waka Waka Gelato to view their bundles in store!

If you are interested in their other designs or would like to collaborate, you can follow them on their Instagram or Facebook page.

If you would like to propose any ideas, you can also email them at headbandsbymone@gmail.com

You may find out more about Chloe on her Instagram too.

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