Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pop art with a local touch

original source ->

Pop art with a local touch

Zul (left) and Adam at The Super Sunday shop

Television personality Juliana Evans in her PopRina outfit for Anugerah Bintang Popular 2008

Ell, one half of PopRina

A group of youth turns to Andy Warhol and the quintessential Malaysian fruit, durian, for inspiration in their T-shirt designs. MAX KOH talks to the founders of PopMalaya and PopRina

The motto on the T-shirt says it boldly: “Pakai buang, suka hati korang” (Wear it or throw it away, it’s up to you).

Another has a picture of a durian with the line, “Eating durian is not a crime.”

The T-shirt designs are the brainchild of Azizul Abdul Latif (Zul) and Izham Fazely Pakhorarazi (Ijam).

Bored with their daily daytime jobs, they started PopMalaya two years ago, an independent T-shirt label designed to grab people’s attention.

And they certainly did, with most of their initial designs sold out just through word-of-mouth and on MySpace.

Independent musicians also took to wearing the designs.

The duo was inspired to come up with PopMalaya by the 80s M. Nasir film, Kembara Seniman Jalanan.

“The image of M. Nasir wearing a headband just resonated with us and we wanted to channel that carefree, hippie attitude in our designs. I mean, we didn’t know there were hippies in Malaysia,” said Zul.

The duo then added the provocative tagline, Pakai buang, suka hati korang, that is sure to turn heads on the street. “I know it sounds a bit arrogant but that is the spirit that we want to channel to our buyers. The confidence. The carefree attitude,” adds Zul.

Together with two other core members – known only as Adam and Azyzeer – PopMalaya was formed in July 2006.

What sets them apart is that they try to inject local flavours into the designs.

“We didn’t want to be another street wear label but one that reflected local culture and flavour. So our designs are eye-catching and modern but they also have local elements like the durian and sardine tins,” says Zul.

One of PopMalaya’s earliest popular designs had a girl in a corner of the T-shirt and the label PopMalaya spelt out in Jawi.

Another had the silhouette of P. Ramlee with the tagline Takkan Pop Malaya hilang di dunia? (Surely Pop Malaya won’t disappear from the world?)

It is this unique combination of old Malay themes and modern kitsch art that continues to keep the brand chugging along. Add to the mixture the group’s creative marketing methods.

“We sell most of our T-shirts at gigs and events. We also roped in independent band Free Love as our ambassadors. We try to get our brand out there as much as possible,” says Zul who works full-time for a shipping company.

PopMalaya also has a sister brand called PopRina, which is headed by another dynamic duo – Nurul’alam Mohd Yaakub (Ell) and Noor Khairiah Baizura (Keri).

Ell is an old college friend of Zul. “Just like PopMalaya, we wanted to merge the traditional Malay aesthetics with modern designs,” says Ell.

She uses traditional textiles such as batik and songket and comes up with designs that are modern and hip. The colours are bright and most dresses have batik prints on them.

“With PopRina, I want to draw people back to their roots. Nowadays, people seem to wear the same designs over and over again. PopRina offers something different by presenting Malaysian cultural tastes with the latest designs for women,” Ell explains.

And just like PopMalaya, PopRina also has an equally provocative tagline: Awak terok! (You suck!).

Ell explains: “We just want to show that PopRina is for the girl who is confident and outspoken.”

Ell says she got started by watching her grandmother sew, back in her kampung.

“I used to watch my grandma sew when I was a kid in Kota Kinabalu. My mother also taught me to sew baju kurung. What I try to do is to incorporate these old tailoring styles and modernise them for the youth today,” says Ell who makes all the clothes by hand.

“We also make special designs for certain occasions and customers.”

However, PopRina’s focus is still on street wear and the label tries to emphasise functionality, avoiding unnecessary elements like frills in the designs.

Both brands are fast getting recognition as they have been featured in Razaisyam Rashid’s independent film Konsekuensi.

PopMalaya was also featured in KAMI- The Series on 8tv while actress Sherry Ibrahim can be seen wearing PopRina batik dresses in Renjis on Astro Ria.

“We were having a photo shoot in a club when Sherry saw our designs and liked our vibrant colours. She loved it so much that she wore it for the show,” says Ell with a beam.

PopRina also made its red carpet debut when actress Juliana Sophie Evans wore one of its designs to the Anugerah Bintang Popular recently.

The brands showed their designs at a recent Pecha Kucha night organised by British Council at The Annexe Gallery, Central Market, KL. The British Council is currently looking for its International Young Design Entrepreneur of the Year, who will go to Britain to network with design industry preofessionals.

Both brands are trying to save enough capital to open their own retail stores.

“We hope to develop a full-fledged clothing line that will offer cardigans and jackets in addition to our T-shirts,” says Zul.

For now, these T-shirts retail for RM30-35 and can be found in Dolls Store, The Super Sunday Store, Push Skate Shop and Defy Store at The Summit.

PopRina can be found at Super Sunday and OSixNine in Subang Jaya and retails from RM25-40. You can also order them through or

Both brands have been touring as part of “Angkatan Baju Malaya”, a collective of independent clothing brands which is going across the nation to promote independent bands and clothing brands.

Its previous stops were Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Kuala Terengganu and will end in Johor Baru on July 5.

If you’re wondering what PopMalaya is all about, make sure you make a stop in JB! For more information, visit

No comments: