With the help of DESIGNation.co, we identify seven Malaysia-based brands that are making waves with their design-driven products and furniture, from the craft-influenced to the nostalgia-inspired. Will any of the creative minds behind them be our design stars of the future?
Who: Lisette Scheers, the owner of creative agency L. Inc is also the founder of nala, a delightful brand that draws from the wealth of inspiration of Malaysia’s melting pot of Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures. Scheers first started nala as a way to revive the forgotten art of letter writing and began the business modestly with a collection of stationery called Pretty in Peranakan based on designs found in typical Straits Chinese porcelain.
Over the years, the brand’s product range has grown to include personal accessories and home décor accents. The DNA of nala, says Scheers, is steeped in preserving Malaysia's rich and varied heritage but in a contemporary way. The word nala means successful in Swahili, and is also the name of Scheers’ young daughter.
“My ambition is to be the only aesthetically justified Malaysian brand because of its contemporary and tasteful flavour, and the ultimate pit-stop for Malaysian items,” Scheers says. “All the imagery nala is inspired by is intrinsically Malaysian, and I think there is enough heritage to last us at least five generations — there is so much beauty to be found here.”
What: The brand’s entire range of products includes stationery like notebooks, wrapping paper and greeting cards, tote bags and jewellery for women and lovely items for the home like wallpaper, pillow covers and patterned linen. The prints and patterns used in nala’s products are taken from Malaysia’s treasure trove of cultures and traditions, reinterpreted by Scheers so they suit a modern and contemporary palette.
The stationery sets from nala best describe the aesthetic that the brand is known for — clean lines, bold colours and an emphasis on art and design. For example, the greeting cards feature three different hand-drawn illustrations for each collection while nostalgic brown paper exercise books get a touch of sophistication with Peranakan porcelain designs on the cover. All nala stationery is printed on recycled paper, using soy ink.
Personal accessories and home décor items marry form and function beautifully, designed and made with a feminine touch. The Baise en Ville bags, for example, are reversible and feature two different patterns, and come with a sturdy leather lining while the bracelets are made with delicate sterling silver charms. Cotton cushion covers are emblazoned with bright and bold designs that make their roots quite clear while hand-printed and hand-drawn linen fabric is set to bring life to any table setting. The next product range customers can look forward to are embossed leather mobile phone cases, which feature some of nala’s best loved prints.
Apart from imagery from the Peranakan culture, prints and patterns at nala also incorporate elements like peacock feathers, blue-and-white Chinese porcelain and vintage Malay jewellery. “I can find inspiration from pretty much anything, actually — whether it’s a broken plate, a scrap of fabric or old paintings. In Malaysia, there is so much to be inspired by and I don’t foresee ever running out of ideas. Soon, I plan to create more designs around the theme of local flora and fauna, as well as Malaysian architecture.”
Scheers also hopes to form partnerships with Orang Asli NGO Gerai OA to create nala-specific rattan weave products, as well as Sarawak-based social enterprise Tanoti, which produces contemporary songket fabric.
Where: Explore nala’s lovely range of items at 8A, Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar Utama, 59100 KL (03-2283 4698), or shop on www.naladesigns.com. Nala is also available at DESIGNation.co.
This article first appeared in The Edge haven, on Issue #72 April + May 2015.