Malaysian by design, sustainable by choice

fashion January 16, 2019 01:00

By KUPLUTHAI PUNGKANON
THE NATION

15,720 Viewed

Nala brings colour and exceptionally beautiful motifs to a store near you



KNOWN FOR its vibrant spins on classic Malaysian motifs, Nala is loved for its uniquely vintage patterns that have evolved from paper craft offerings and fabrics to a range of apparel and fashion accessories. Today, the brand has a presence in France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Cambodia and Thailand, where it can be found tucked away in corners of 10 Central department stores. 

Lisette Scheers, proprietor, pattern artist and creative director, attributes her creations to her multicultural upbringing. For the past decade, when she opened her first store in Kuala Lumpur, no single motif has been computer illustrated. She believes each pattern and design has a soul and reinforces the brand’s heritage as a purveyor of beautiful hand-designed patterns and silkscreens as well adorning lifestyle products from bags, apparel, gifts and fabrics to household furnishings and even carpets.

“Nala, which is named after my daughter, came into being with a box of stationary and has grown into ready-to-wear. I’m a Dutch national, born in Singapore and raised in Malaysia. I’ve spent my whole life in Asia and I’d like to preserve the Asian rich heritage. Everything here has a story to tell. It’s not just a pattern created to look pretty,” says Scheers, who flew into Bangkok to introduce her shop.

Scheers finds her inspiration in the Malaysian heritage and says one of her objectives is to preserve the culture that comes with a strong sense of symbolism and stories. She pays homage not only to the country’s varied cultural backgrounds but also flaunts elements inspired by local flora, fauna and vintage motifs. Her love of prints and patterns translated to a stunning paper-based collection of writing materials and whimsical gifts before evolving into colourful fabrics and timeless fashion. 

“This collection is called ‘Over the Moon’ and is inspired by the traditional Chinese mooncake moulds that I found at a flea market in Kuching. The patterns cut a striking image with their vivid shades and ornate scalloped shapes. It is enhanced by the intricacy of traditional Malay Nonya jewellery, which inspired such patterns as Pinafleur, Broche Blush Pink, and Silver Songs. The 1950s are one of my favourite eras and I adore the skirts from that period. I think women looked really elegant dressed in a flared skirt with a tight top or Tutu dress. It’s just always pretty, I started with only four styles but now have 10 times more.

“I worked in advertising for more than 20 years and pattern making was something I did on the side. Whenever I have time, I always sketch. It is a challenge, like a number puzzle. It is complicated and you don’t know how it is going to come out. It is difficult to see where it begins and where it joins. I love that,” she adds.

“Colour is my biggest passion. I spend a lot of time working with colour and the Pantone check is my best friend and the first thing I do. I’ve never gone beyond 12 colours per collection. It’s a lot of colour |but it is controlled. My pattern is 100-per-cent Asian but doesn’t look Asian. That is also another challenge. They appeal to every walk of life and are ageless. The women of Nala are playful but always have their own opinions and I reflect that in my colours and fun patterns,” Scheers notes. 

As a special tribute to mark the brand’s introduction to the Thai market, Nala is dedicating a floral-inspired pattern to the kingdom. The motif, aptly named “bunga kertas” (Malay for “paper flowers”) after the bougainvillea, was influenced by the rose, one of Thailand’s favourite blooms. 

Scheers is also committed to sustainability and to the Zero Waste movement, taking steps to recycle left-over fabrics into toys, gifts and a host of practical items. She recently launched a soft toy, called “nalapinou” made entirely out of waste fabric. The name comes from a combination of Nala and “lapinou”, a French nickname for “lapin” which means “rabbit.” Nalapinou truly embraces the spirit of childhood while respecting the environment and its inhabitants. 

“We’re making sure nothing goes to waste,” says Scheers.