The good old days

27 Mar 2017 / 16:25 H.

WHOEVER who says that modernisation comes at the expense of tradition must not have met Bingka. A brand “where traditional design aesthetic meets contemporary living”, it uses its products as a platform to evoke the sentimentality of the yesteryear.
At the centre of Bingka is a trio of young ladies with big visions. Adrihana Abdul Rashid and Emmalynn Yam are childhood friends who founded the brand shortly before inviting Ong Yi Lyn to join them on this voyage. To smoothen the operations, each of them deals with a different aspect of the business: Adrihana handles commerce, Yam conceptualises the designs, and Ong manages marketing and social media.
Through its offerings – be it tote bags, pouches, reversible paper bags, coasters and more – it incorporates traditional Malaysian elements in its illustrations. Ranging from rumah kampung to kuih-muih to flora and fauna, the designs are steeped in nostalgia but are given a modern spin. To top it off, the prints and fabrics are also personally produced using the silkscreen method.
“We dabbled in making our own batik prior to Bingka, but that proved to be too difficult, so we decided to persist in making really nice textile, but in a way that allows us to execute it with more flexibility and control. And this is where silkscreen printing comes in,” explained Yam, the creative executor behind the products.
In this interview with theSun, the founders guide us through the brand, divulge the challenge they face, and profess their hope for the future.
Can you tell us more about Bingka?
Yam (Y): Bingka is about a whimsical Malaysia and we hope to portray that through our illustrations.
Ong (O): Our inspiration for the brand comes from the traditional elements and motifs from Malaysian culture. Nonetheless, to distance ourselves from the run-of-the-mill designs, we injected our own twist to give it a slightly modern outlook.
Adrihana (A): It’s also about making tradition fun. Say, when you look at our products, you can pinpoint its Malaysian characteristics but also see that they’re laced with contemporary and fun factors.
Besides elements from Malaysian culture, the design aesthetic is quite entrenched in the past. Do you agree with this?
A: To an extent, yes, but it was accidental. There are many traditional elements around us, yet few make an artistic interpretation of them. Therefore, we unintentionally went down this route because we wanted to remind people of the former days.
Emmalynn, do you face any challenges in designing the prints and fabrics?
Y: The difficult part is not so much the designing process, but rather the structure. Whenever I design, I have to ensure that what’s on the paper can be translated into an end-product. I also tend to make things harder for myself because I can be picky when it comes to the colours and finishing that I want. It was discouraging at first, but I think it paid off as well.
One of Bingka’s aims is to “make Malaysian culture more approachable”. How much success have you had with this so far?
O: I don’t think it’s possible to quantify the result, but it reflects more obviously with expatriates as many of them buy our products as gifts or souvenirs for their friends and family abroad.
A: Also, generally when people look at our products, they instantly know that it’s Malaysian. This shows that our items have a strong local DNA, even though they do not follow the generic souvenir designs. At the end of the day, what do you ladies ultimately want to achieve?
Y: If I may be so bold as to say, we hope to change the way gifts are made.
O: Yes, when you look at souvenirs sold across the South East Asia (SEA) region, you can definitely find similar items in same designs with the only difference being the city or country name. Thus, this is where Bingka steps in and is what we aspire to be.
A: Much like how Ladurée is a must-buy item in France, we want to accomplish the same with Bingka.
FUN FACT: The name Bingka is derived from the well-loved tapioca cake, Kuih Bingka Ubi.

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