Wearable art: Juma’ani Pavilion designers, Centexs students preserve S’wak’s heritage through fashion

Shahren showing the one-of-a-kind piece made using songket fabric handwovened by inmates of Puncak Borneo Prison at Juma'ani Pavilion boutique.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Dec 27: Sarawakian designers, along with Centre of Technical Excellence (Centexs) fashion students at Juma’ani Pavilion (JP) are set out to preserve and promote Sarawak’s rich culture, nature, heritage and artistry with every piece of garment and accessory that tell a story about Sarawak especially the collections created using expertly handwoven and hand-embroidered fabrics like songket and keringkam.

Centexs Commercial general manager Shahren Yusri emphasised that JP prioritises local designers, including the students pursuing fashion-related courses at Centexs, as part of the design team to produce and bring ready-to-wear pieces that are uniquely Sarawakian to the market.

“We have four experienced and well-known designers in the team, namely Dato Asfarena Samion Mon, Harizan Khaider, Dato Raymond Jolly and Wan Bainun Wan Zaizodin, who also teach and train our students, apart from working on their own clothing that is sold at JP boutiques.

“As for the students, there are about 16 currently enrolled in the Centexs 2022 Fashion Technology programme who will be completing their courses sometime in 2023,” he told DayakDaily in an interview.

Shahren added that Centexs Commercial, which manages the JP, will look into absorbing its graduates, especially those unable to find employment outside, into JP as designers with offers based on their skills.

“Like the students who have completed the Industrial Upholstery (Interior Decoration) certificate programme at Centexs Lundu, we are willing to offer them to work in JP. They create products like cushion covers and table runners that are now sold at the Artisan Boutique,” he said.

Benz (left) and Aida posing with a unique and exclusively designed collection at Juma’ani Pavilion.

Many of the students are currently undergoing practical training at JP under the guidance of teachers Benz Afiq and Aida Mohamad, where they explore and improve their craftsmanship and work on designs, patterns and texture.

“They have yet to come up with a commercial product as they are still under training. Other than learning about couture which focuses on the technical aspects like sewing or needlework, they also learn about designing.

“There is also a group with about seven students learning handicrafts skills. All the products such as keychains, neckties, bags and clutches featured at JP are made by them,” Shahren explained, adding that they will sit at the JP production house starting next year.

Muhammad Shafiq showing some of his designs created on a tablet.

Student Muhammad Shafiq, 29, said he wants to improve his skills and techniques to become a better designer.

“We are blending Sarawak heritage into our designs and creations. We have to think out of the box if we want to bring traditional elements to the mainstream market by fusing contemporary and traditional designs to create a distinctive piece.

“Of course, I hope to one day be able to commercialise my own collection line,” he added. — DayakDaily