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From Borneo To London, How A Sabahan Won 2nd Place In Fashion Design Competition

From Borneo To London, How A Sabahan Won 2nd Place In Fashion Design Competition

A Sabahan fashion designer has just made a case of how we should pay closer attention to the indigenous designs of Borneo when he won 2nd place in a clothing design competition in London on 30th November.

According to The Star, 31-year-old Shariff Amang, from Beluran, Sabah won over judges at the International Borneo Festival design competition with his ready-to-wear clothing inspired by the intricate pua kumbu ceremonial cloth of Sarawak’s Iban people.

Shariff Amang aka Hardi Roman (centre) with models dressed in his winning designs at London.
(Credit: Hardi Roman/Facebook)

The International Borneo Festival (IBF) is an annual event, focused in KL and London, to promote Sabah and Sarawak cultures internationally.

Hearing of the opportunity to showcase his talent alongside the unique colours of Sabah and Sarawak, Shariff, also known as Hardi Roman, submitted his pua kumbu-inspired-designs and won the Sabah edition of the competition.

Participants from International Borneo Fest 2019 in London.
(Credit: International Borneo Fest- Sabah Edition/Facebook)

A product of skilled Ibanese weavers, the pua kumbu is renowned for its beauty and the immense work that goes into it.

Made using the ikat (tie) and dye method – which is the oldest traditional way of making textiles – the process of creating a pua kumbu blanket requires great knowledge and patience. It takes months of dedicated work and the process includes a special numerical classification and counting technique of the threads that are known only to experienced weavers.

Master weaver at Rumah Garie in Sarawak at work on completing a pua kumbu.
(Credit: The Borneo Post)

As a testament to the great prowess of the Ibanese pua kumbu weavers, the process is known as ‘kayau indu’, which means the women’s war. The weavers also had protective tattoos believed to repel evil spirits.

These skills are often passed down from mother to daughter and the pua kumbu itself is inherited from ancestors, with spirits, good or bad, incorporated in the designs.

Pua kumbu cloth from the early 20th century.
(Credit: Dharmawangsa Art)

In the modern era, the pua kumbu designs are slowly but surely gaining international fame. The creation of Borneo Fashion Week, as well as the growing presence of Bornean designers at Malaysian Fashion Week, have carved out a special niche for these ethnic designs.

Names responsible for putting pua kumbu on the fashion map include Sarawak-born designer Christopher Anthony Ikus and shoe designer Najla Sarbini whose clients hail from Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and The Philippines.

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Sarawakian designers, such as Christopher Anthony Ikus, are putting pua kumbu on the fashion map.
(Credit: Free Malaysia Today.)

On his Facebook page, Hardi Roman reveals how he wants the world to recognise the stunning geometry and versatility of Bornean designs.

“My designs are my voice in fashion to bring the beautiful colours of Borneo to the international stage.
With one look, anyone in the world will say “Yes, I know this design is an original from Borneo.”

Hardi Roman via Facebook.

To appropriate Tun Dr Mahathir’s famous phrase, it’s time to “Look East”- of Malaysia!


Love the traditional designs of Borneo? Let us know which one’s your favourite on TRP’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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