Written by Batrisya
Prior to COVID-19, we never truly realised how much of a blessing it is to step outside and visit our favourite cafes and shop at our favourite stores. A simple shirt bought from a store can put food on the table for families who are struggling to make ends meet.
Now that large businesses are closing down, people are forced out of their jobs. Families are now struggling to find a financial loop that can save their homes and ultimately save their way of life for the sake of their children.
For those of us who are relatively more financially stable, we may be guilty of going online to binge shop during this pandemic (I know I am too!). But if you’re looking for a way that would not only bring value to your money but also to the lives of others, especially the marginalised (and often forgotten) communities in Malaysia, here’s how!
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1. Style your quarantine look with a little flair of Batik – Maryambayam
Need something new, but something traditional in your jewellery box? Check out Maryambayam’s beautifully handmade collection of Batik accessories made out of 100% Malaysian batik and crafted by the skillful fingers of the folks from Kampung Chelet, Nilai.
Maryam’s batiks are uniquely designed by her supplier from Kuala Terengganu who provides jobs for her village folks and employs her family members to craft these magnificent batiks.
By purchasing any product from her collection, you’re helping families living in the rural areas Maryam works with, who lack daily household necessities such as rice, eggs and more, those who hold minimum wage jobs, and OKU folks who are currently living in poverty.
Personally, I love her earrings! I find it so refreshing that she promotes our culture with a modern twist and I’m glad to know that my purchase is able to help those in need.2. It’s more than just a headband, it’s a fabric of tradition – Knotjustheadbands
The art of batik block painting is one that is very old and quite uncommon these days. The workmanship that goes behind it is something that shouldn’t be easily forgotten, as it holds a very sentimental value to our heritage, having been around in the Malay Archipelago since the 16th Century.
Knotjustheadbands is a brand that aims to preserve this heritage and provide a sustainable income for underprivileged communities. The fabrics they used are handpicked from block batik factories in Kelantan, then hand sewn by housewives to make what you see – colourful batik headbands.
So shake up your look and shop these pretty batik headbands!
3. Grab a unique bag handwoven by regional artists – Frankitas
Beautiful to see and beautiful to hold, but the true beauty lies within the skillful hands of the men and women from Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, India, and Central Asia.
Handwoven to its finest, Frankitas incorporate traditional textile motifs such as Ikat, Batik, Songket, Tenun and Rangrang on their bags made by villagers across Asia. And all these textiles are purchased at fair prices either directly by the weavers themselves or NGOs that represent them.
Together with the villagers and NGOs, Frankitas aims to build a working community that helps those who are economically disadvantaged in remote areas by supporting them to earn a livelihood by creating these adoring traditional pieces.
They offer a range of products from housing to accessories, though their products lie on the higher-range spectrum. If you’re looking for something more affordable, check out their wall art!
4. A beautiful gift for you is a gift of education for refugee children – Fugeelah
Today, millions of children aged between 5 to 12 years old are unable to read or write because of poverty, discrimination, lack of quality education or their survive needs simply override their learning needs. It humbles me sometimes to think of how fortunate I’ve been that my parents are able to afford an education for me. This is often not the case for refugee kids.
Fugeelah aims to help keep education free for refugee children and youths at the Fugee School through their project which eventually turned into a lifestyle accessory brand.
Although their products are priced slightly on the higher end, all these products are made from high quality raw materials from different parts of Malaysia and every RM 10 from your purchase will go towards the immediate food and medical needs of refugees in Malaysia.
5. Decorate your home with fairtrade art pieces that support women’s cooperatives, refugee groups and indigenous tribes – Earth Heir
Whether you’re moving into a new place or simply need a lil’ change in Feng Shui, check out these fair trade art decor by Earth Heir; they will surely give your home the oomph you seek.
Working with over 100 artisans including women’s cooperatives, indigenous tribes and refugee groups across Malaysia, Earth Heir helps change the lives of these talented artisans. They’ve helped impact the lives of more than 500+ artisans and all their products celebrate and value the true Malaysian heritage by combining traditional artisanal skills with modern, contemporary designs.
Wholesome, with a twist, their products range from household items, bags and cases, to clothes and accessories!
6. A plug for all your sustainable and environmentally friendly needs – U N P L U G
Looking for a one-stop shop that houses many meaningful brands under one roof, especially those working towards environmental and social change? Check out UNPLUG.
This online store houses many driven conscious brands like Earth Heir, Mama Thoko, REAL.M and more. You can find household products, apparel, personal care, and even stationery here.
7. A women empowerment brand that cares about what you wear – Batik Boutique
We love women empowerment movements, especially when brands work together with mothers, sisters and aunts to create a product that not only generates stable incomes for their families but also lifts the overall curve of employment among lower income families as well. Batik Boutique has worked with more than 150 artisans to create beautiful and high quality fashion pieces and gifts.
Seamstresses who work under Batik Boutique are able to gain a fair, sustainable income and marketable skills as well as having the freedom to set their own wage and hours. To accommodate these artisans even more, Batik Boutique has also established a sewing centre, transport and childcare facilities.
Peep at their gorgeous reusable batik face masks as well! 😉
8. A hand signed bag tells a lot more than you think – INKAA
Through the power of storytelling, INKAA works towards bridging the gap between you and the people who make the products for you. How? All of their products come with a unique trademark, a hand sign if you will, by the artisans themselves.
Through their signatures, you can learn more about their stories on the website, so you can truly appreciate your item – they create colourfully patterned batik scarves and travel sets!
INKAA partners with marginalized communities and talented artisans to produce these products and ensures fair wages, which ultimately allows them to have a sustainable income.
1. Let’s help out our fur babies as well! – The Coote Store
Here’s one for all the pet owners out there. I’ve noticed that since the start of MCO, my cats have been confused as to whether I am supposed to be home this long! And they are pretty much getting restless with seeing me every day at this point. Does your pet feel the same way too?
If so, maybe it’s time we get them some new toys or accessories to keep them entertained! The Coote store sells pet items and by purchasing any of their products, a percentage goes to a Malaysian animal shelter, My Pets Haven.
So you can go ahead and pick out a new gift for your fur babies! They sell adorable stationeries, bags and accessories as well!
Let’s do our best to take care and support our local businesses as much as we can. One tiny contribution can be enough to feed a whole family that needs our help. If you have any other suggestions or local businesses you’d like to support, give them a shout out here too in the comments below!