PETALING JAYA: Having grown up in Melaka, Dayana Reza had been exposed to kain batik from a young age. The traditional fabric holds a special place in her heart, so much so that she would even wear it to work several times a week.
During a family trip to Kelantan several years ago, she found herself in a batik paradise, enchanted by all the fabrics she saw. Her mother suggested she buy 30 pieces and bring them back to Kuala Lumpur to sell.
“Within two weeks of showing the cloth to my colleagues, I earned back my capital and made a huge profit,” Dayana, who works in finance, told FMT Lifestyle.
That wasn’t all she gained: the 31-year-old became known as “nyonya kain”, the word “nyonya” referring to a girl or young lady.
“People would say: ‘Itu nyonya yang jual kain’ (that’s the young lady who sells cloth),” she said with a laugh.
In 2018, Dayana decided to start a side business, and didn’t have to think hard about a name – after all, “Nyonya Kain” is certainly catchy!
Although she started off by only selling batik fabric, Dayana soon realised a limitation: not many people have tailors. So, she began sourcing ready-made items and later worked with a tailor to produce fashion wear.
Today, Nyonya Kain sells a remarkable variety of batik products including bangles, earrings, hairbands, twillies, bags, kimonos, pareo skirts, and palazzo pants – debunking stereotypes that batik products are not suitable for daily wear. There are also accessories such as scrunchies that are made from kain songket!
To produce these items, she works with different artisans and tailors, while the batik is sourced from Kelantan, Terengganu, Sabah, Sarawak, and Indonesia. “That’s why I say when you buy, you are not only supporting us but the whole ecosystem involved,” she pointed out.
Beyond showcasing its beauty and versatility, Dayana is passionate about reviving the use of batik in modern society so it can have a place in the future.
Also on her agenda? Giving back to society. Describing her business as her “little social-impact vehicle”, she shared that a percentage of proceeds have been donated to the local animal rescue effort Busy Boarders, as well as Mercy Malaysia.
So, how does she hold a full-time job and juggle all of this? Dayana has her very own knight in shiny batik – her husband, Taufik Razak, who is also her business partner.
“We’re very different people in terms of our mindset and how we do business. So, it’s good because if we’re on the same page too much, our business won’t grow,” she said.
For Taufik, time management is key, especially since they aim to participate in one bazaar per month to connect with customers personally.
As such, “we plan three months ahead, which makes things more manageable”, said the 38-year-old, who works in the culinary and hospitality industry.
His support became more instrumental than ever in April last year when Dayana was diagnosed with lupus, a disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack its own healthy organs and tissues.
“There was a terrible flare-up, and I couldn’t breathe at night,” she recalled. She was subsequently admitted to the hospital on March 7 last year, on her birthday.
The doctors initially suspected it was bronchial asthma but, when she didn’t get better, she consulted her childhood dermatologist in Melaka, who suspected it could be lupus. This was eventually confirmed.
According to Dayana, there were days when she would be fatigued and suffer from joint pain. Thankfully, she received good news earlier this year: a blood test indicated she is now in remission!
Nevertheless, the ordeal has served as a wake-up call for her, especially in terms of having too much on her plate: “It was a gentle – or hard – reminder to do what I can, and that it’s OK to say no.”
It has also taught Dayana and her husband to practise gratitude, which is why they are thankful for the help of Persatuan Pembangunan Artisans, an NGO that supports local artisans to market their products through an online platform, physical stores in the Klang Valley, and pop-up events.
“We are really blessed to get the opportunity to showcase our products with them,” Dayana said in reflection, adding that she and Taufik hope to work with more companies in the future to produce corporate gifts.
Nyonya Kain’s products are also available at:
- Pop The Arcade (Jaya One, Petaling Jaya, Selangor)
- Karya by MGB (Malaysia Grand Bazaar, Kuala Lumpur)
Read more PPA stories and get to know its artisans here.