English: There, here and over there. Basically, in a sense, to mean restless. A collection of thoughts, musings and ramblings...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Awesome Buys: Custom-made Kain Dastar Bag

Being trendy or glamorous is not something that is me. I might have been, in my teenage years, always tried to follow the latest fashions in an attempt to be 'one of the crowd' and sort of 'disappear' unnoticed. But I've noticed lately that my idea of fashion has turned towards the colourful, DIY types and sometimes pre-loved in my attempt to upcycle (which is why I started up Garage Sales at Farida's in the first place).

By default setting, I am actually more of a t-shirt & jeans-wearing gal. And my closet is filled with tons of t-shirts that I couldn't bear to give away. I just got terribly bored with my clothing selections. Maybe I should explore the idea of making them into a quilt or bags.

I shun big brands like Coach, or Guess or MNG and the such. Well, I will have some pieces, if they are at like, rock bottom prices. But I recently walked into a Coach store, just for fun, and saw that the wallets cost like RM700++... OMG! And seriously, NONE of the bags and stuff I have browsed through is worth the price tag. Seriously, if that is the price of being trendy..... (Sorry fashionistas!)

But if there's anything that I really really love... that's accessories. Earrings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches..... depending on the design. Shoes, nope. Bags... maybe.

I have huge issues finding a bag that I truly like. I have like browsed through hundreds of shops, in the malls and online, but nothing came close to what I liked. When the Hari Raya season came up, I was desperate. No way I was going to fork out close to RM200 to buy something with a brand, but is not up to my expectations (now... if only I had the same kind of choosiness when it came to men ;-p or do I?)

The answer: Custom-made bags.

Last year I purchased one from a local bag-maker Cinda Stephens of This Side of the Island Shop, and I absolutely loved it. So this year, I went back to browsing.

My first purchase from This Side of the Island
I wanted something functional, something I could use everyday, something unique. I saw a couple of designs that went up on the page a day or two before I checked it out, and it was all sold out! Especially the ones in patterns that I liked.

Tough, very tough. So I decided to ask for a custom order bag. I've seen Cinda make some really lovely bags using Kain Dastar (which is used to make Sigah), just that I didn't like the bag design.

A Kain Dastar with horse patterns, one of many designs depending on district or area of origin
I remember my first close encounter with a Sigah, a traditional headgear made out of folded Kain Dastar. Colourful, it sat majestically on top of our TV console in the living room, a gift for my dad at one of his final trips to plantations before his retirement. I wasn't Kadazan-Dusun, or significantly of any race at all (in other words, I am Rojak), so it wasn't something that I see often. But I loved looking at the weaved designs, wondering how it was produced.

How a Sigah looks like. Source: businessirranun.blogspot.com
The Sigah is such an icon of Sabah, it is also an important landmark for many who visit Penampang (who could possibly not recognise that roundabout?)

Sabah's possibly most famous (?) roundabout. Source: claab65 at www.panoramio.com/photo/33793464
For years, my dad's Sigah sat there on the shelf, collecting dust but still folded in its form, like some sort of crown, until one day we moved. Then the Sigah was unfolded and refolded as a square for easy packing to be taken away to the new home. And I don't know where it is now. 

Back then, I hadn't really appreciated the patterns or seen the beauty of local handiwork (blame it on too much American TV growing up ;-)) but of late, I am realising how much Sabah traditional crafts are dying due to lack of interest by the younger generation to continue with traditions. There has been many efforts to revive the local handicrafts, especially in fashioning hair accessories using local batik and designs, adopting some of the accessories such as necklaces into everyday wear or marketing dolls wearing the several unique costumes that can only be found in Sabah.

So back to my story about the bag...

I was informed by Cinda that if I wanted a custom designed bag using the Kain Dastar, I would need to make my order to Kadaiku, a souvenir shop managed under Seri Pelancongan (Sabah's tourism agency).

I did sort of expect the price to be above RM200, seeing that it is custom-made, and possibly one-of-a-kind bag in the whole world. Even if another bag was made, the design would not be 100% the same. But still I was shocked when I was quoted the price - RM298.

This was what was replied by Seri Pelancongan:-

Kain Dastar is a local tapestry, exclusively hand-woven by the Iranun Community in Kota Belud.  Due to the scarcity of this cloth, which is mostly done only by the old women-folks in Kota Belud, using aged-old method, makes this material a very expensive material as well as difficult to procure.

Of course, I also considered:-

1. I am the type that would use the bag every single day and wear it out anyway. It's a good buy, if I make the fullest use of it.
2. Unlike Coach, that costs possibly thousands of ringgit, this is still reasonable ;)
3. It's totally unique, exclusive and Sabahan!
4. The money I am paying for the bag is supporting local industry. It will go back to the ladies who weaved the cloth, to the local bag-maker... and of course, the staff of the shop.
5. It's wearable / usable local craft. Totally worthy of showing off.

With that, I decided to go ahead with my purchase. And I have not regretted it at all. It's the perfect accessory and I get tons of compliments on it.

Check out the pictures, it is gorgeous! Damn... I feel like a trend-setter ;-)


Friday, August 16, 2013

Story of A House... and my idea of groupwork

This story is inspired by some real life scenarios, and something I thought about just this morning when I was thinking about group dynamics and how it works...

Once upon a time, a married couple decided to acquire a piece of land and build their house of dreams. This had always been what they wanted from the start - a place they called their own, a creation from their own ideals. It would be unique, special.

The money mostly comes from the man's inherited wealth, but the wife too did contribute part of the cost from her savings. It wasn't much, but then she would be doing a massive part of the housekeeping to keep the house in order. (It's not money, but human labour is worth something afterall.)

The man, being very excited about the house, starts sketching his ideas about his house.

"Honey...." he asks the wife, "do you think we should have the bedroom on the 1st floor? Or should we keep everything ground floor level?"

His wife, feeling a little flattered he was asking her opinion, thought for a moment before answering.

"Well... you and I are not that young anymore. I also have a bad knee, and going up and down the stairs is going to be difficult for me"

"But I want a bedroom on the first floor. I want to wake up to the view of the sun rising and spend the evenings watching the sunset from the balcony" he responded quickly.

Wife shrugs in response, "looks like you made up your mind anyway" and the man went back to sketching his dream house as he intended.

A few weeks later, the man brings over a few workers to start building the house. Day by day, the house begins to take shape.

Wife looks sadly at the house "this wasn't really what I wanted", but her words were ignored by the man who said "this is much better!"

Within a span of few months, the house was almost finished and ready to be moved into. Ideas now shifted into how each room would look like - the colours & finishings.

"How about you pick out the curtains for the rooms?" the man asked his wife as they were browsing around in a shop.

The wife felt excited and happy. At last! She felt trusted and her opinions valued. Immediately, she set herself busy by picking out the nicest patterns that she could find, waiting almost impatiently for the finished curtains to arrive at the house so she could hang them up.

But when the curtains finally arrived, she was shocked to find them in a completely different pattern than the ones she had picked out.

"These were not the ones I picked out? What happened to them??" she said in horror.

"Oh, I don't think those were suitable. This one matches the colour of the wall much better" he said, completely oblivious to the way her face suddenly changed from excitement to bitter disappointment.


"I do not feel that the new house belongs to me at all. It is not mine. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING about the house I can claim ownership over. It is all his! So why should I unpack my things, and make it mine, when I don't feel like it is at all?" she commiserated with her best friend over tea.

"I can't even plant flowers that I like in the garden, because it 'spoils' his plan for the house. He would even uproot the plants, because he doesn't like it. Where is my part of this beautiful dream house? There is none. And the only thing I can do is leave, and build my own dream house and no one can stop me"

With that, she stood up resolute, and left.


The story wasn't supposed to have a happy ending. It is a little messy, but something I was thinking about this morning. Just writing that story above makes me feel frustrated. Blocked out, unappreciated and shot down.

I believe that building a team, an organisation, or a group is similar to this story of building a house. Everyone's opinion should matter, because be it a partnership, or a group of 3 and more people - decisions affects everybody. If someone's opinion is not taken into consideration, how can we expect them to be able to claim ownership, or feel like they truly belong?

Teamwork is about making compromises and creating win-win situations. Because we all do want to create a niche for ourselves, a real passion that gets us out of bed every day.

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