A brand that promotes traditional craft in an ethical manner is enhancing appreciation for Malaysia’s rich heritage.
TRADITIONAL craft has a unique appeal. Many of us are captivated when we see such pieces during our travels.
We buy them as souvenirs to take home but once the excitement of the holiday is over, these products lie forgotten in some corner of the house.
Using traditional craft techniques to create products which are relevant, wearable or usable in modern life makes their appeal wider and pays due respect to the artisans who are protectors of these ancient skills.
At the Earth Heir Heritage Gift Store in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, which was launched on Feb 13, this concept has been well translated.
Gorgeously crafted bags, jewellery and other accessories stand as a tribute to the country’s rich cultural heritage but their designs are urban and contemporary in keeping with the needs of today’s consumer.
Earth Heir is a premier heritage craftsmanship and conscious lifestyle brand that presents consumers with thoughtfully designed, contemporary heritage pieces and customised gifts. It empowers artisans from marginalised communities, refugees and the differently abled.
An accredited social enterprise, Earth Heir celebrates quality workmanship, cultural narratives and disappearing heritage art forms.
The brand works with over 100 artisans from women’s cooperatives, indigenous tribes and refugee groups across six states in Malaysia and advocates fair trade principles, sustainability and ethical partnerships.
Malaysia has so much to offer in terms of heritage products, says Earth Heir CEO Xiao Cheng Wong.
“We don’t need to go to other Southeast Asian countries to get them.
“It’s just that these products are not well known so we want to showcase them to the world but in a modern, contemporary way, adapted to our current lifestyle.”
Xiao adds that people should be able to use craft products on a daily basis, not just store them away as souvenirs and that’s why Earth Heir products — whether handbags, clutches, laptop bags, passport covers or jewellery — have all been designed to suit modern living.
The brand’s California Dreaming collection, for example, offers a range of trendy mengkuang bags in a colour palette inspired by summery pink sunsets and blue waves.
The collection is handwoven by women artisans from Terengganu. The mengkuang leaves are harvested, dyed, dried and woven in an elaborate 11-step process.
The Mini Diana and the Stella bag, meanwhile, both of which will sit comfortably on the arm of any urban trendsetter, have been handcrafted by indegenous Kenyah and Penan women from Sarawak.
There is also a range of jewellery available, from striking cuff bangles and necklaces to statement earrings and rings, each offering multiple styling options.
Earth Heir’s new Glow jewellery collection, meanwhile, features gold and silver threads in elegant Arabesque and Nuusum patterns.
“As a social enterprise, we also tell the stories of the people behind these products but in a way that gives them due respect and dignity. Rather than saying it’s a charity product and people should buy it to support these communities, it’s more about recognising their work and talents and encouraging people to buy based on that principle. You are getting a beautiful product with an impactful story behind it,” stresses Xiao.
Earth Air founder, Sasibai Kimis, agrees with Xiao.
She says it’s all about showcasing our heritage to the world in a way that’s beautiful and respectful.
She adds that initially, Malaysians were rather unsure of social enterprises.
“It’s like, how can you make money and help people at the same time? I think the idea of doing good while making money was not a concept the public was used to.”
As a pioneering social enterprise dedicated to protecting the cultural heritage and traditional arts of marginalised communities in Malaysia, Earth Heir received Social Enterprise Accreditation from the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives (MEDAC) this year and is only one of two Malaysian organisations to be Fair Trade-certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation.
“Getting the fair trade certification was very important to us. It will help people understand what we are doing. It gives them the confidence to buy from us,” adds Sasibai.
To view Earth Heir’s full collection of made-in-Malaysia contemporary bags, clothes, accessories, and home and living products, visit the Earth Heir Boutique located at 102, First Floor, Lorong Mamanda 2, Ampang, Kuala Lumpur or online at www.earthheir.com.