Malaysian artist Sharina Shahrin decided to start Baju by Sharina in an effort to bring forth the intricacy and beauty of the South East Asian batik. The label showcases a wide range of authentic batik prints on the traditionally simple silhouette of the baju Kedah.
Having done her degree in Creative Design at the London College of Fashion, Sharina founded Everyday Studios, to focus on her paintwork during her gap year. Through this, she has been able to work with a number of creative talents and aims for the studio to be a space whereby creative talent is fostered.
We found out about Sharina and her work sometime during Eid last year and were amazed by how tradition was expressed through her clothing. Intrigued by her methods of styling and play on colour, we had the chance to ask her a few questions about her inspirations and what art means to her.
Beginning as an artist and branching out into making traditional wear – what made you decide that you wanted to venture into this medium of visual art – and why did you decide to use traditional clothing as your medium of expression?
As mentioned in previous interviews I never started Baju by Sharina to be known as a clothing designer by any means because I really am not. My intention has always been to simply promote batik – an art form in its own right. Clothing is a platform of expression and I just felt that there was something missing, culturally, in the way my generation dressed. Instead of connecting to our roots, we were drawing further and further away from it.
The way you style and match your batik prints is one that we feel is unique and exudes a sense of effervescent spirit and youth – has your style been influenced by anyone or anything?
I would say from a young age I have always been experimental in the way I dressed. When I was young, I would mix and match patterns and colours (which did not look good half the time). However, as I got older and just exposed myself to art and design it made these kinds of choices a lot more sense. Frida Kahlo has been a huge inspiration for me both through art and how she expressed herself through clothing. I felt empowered by her elaborate and extremely colourful traditional clothing – she embodied her cultural identity so beautifully.
What is the creative process like, when creating batik prints for the pieces you make?
This is a common misconception I often have to correct. I do not design the batik prints on my own (just yet). I collaborate with batik makers in Terengganu as I have always wanted to promote the already existing artists who specialise in batik. What we do is discuss colour schemes and overall design themes for each collection and I give them full license to exercise their creativity. I respect the art craft too much to dive into with without full knowledge and skills however I do plan on incorporating my own artwork in the future.
The photographs taken for your campaign shots feature a variety of different body sizes, skin tones and girls that we, as users can relate to – something you don’t often see, even in local fashion designers. What are your thoughts on inclusivity in the fashion industry and how it affects the people who wear your clothes?
I honestly believe that this aspect of the brand is what attracts people – the inclusivity. Our ethos is “Batik for all” and we pride ourselves is not conforming to fashion standards. I use Baju by Sharina as a platform to communicate self-love and positivity and also to celebrate individuality which really allows people of various shapes and sizes to enjoy the product. What we put out visually manifests itself into society so we need to be mindful and responsible for its possible effect.
On the topic of visuals for Baju by Sharina, are the shoots, styling and creative direction done by you, alone or is this a collaborative effort? If so, who and how have they helped with the creative process?
When the brand first started I would model and style myself and get my good friend and favourite local photographer Amani Azlin to shoot for me, she has shot a few of my collections in the past with the help of Dhaniyah Illani who has both styled and modelled for the brand as well. When I was in London I also got another friend and equally amazing photographer Karisma Pranjivan to shoot for me. I make it a point to work with women because even in Malaysia I feel that the fashion industry is male-dominated. I am always enthusiastic to work with other creatives because that is what art is about- sharing and challenging each other to create new and exciting work. Since I moved back to Malaysia about 5 months ago, however, I have taken full creative licence with all the content for Baju by Sharina having style, photograph and edit all the images from the shoots. I have taken a new direction for the brand but really enjoying the shift in visual style.
Having recently done an installation at Nelissa Hilman’s store in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, are the issues pertaining breast cancer and female empowerment ones that hold significant meaning to you and why?
Yes, yes and yes! The installation for Nelissa Hilman was created for my late-grandmother who passed away from breast cancer. Her name was Maznah and she was my maternal grandmother. I have been so fortunate to be surrounded by truly amazing women in my life, be it family or friends. They exude drive, strength, confidence, kindness and constantly inspire me to pursue what I do with that same energy. I believe it is essential to empower other women in your life and community because we cannot perceive our gender as a disadvantage, we need to help each other grow and achieve.
Photographs courtesy of Baju by Sharina
Written by Jane-Menn Cheong