Wray Crafted - Aqilah

Aqilah (@studio.gypsied) is the founder of batik apparel and accessory label Gypsied. Gypsied focuses on exploring batik through telling stories that honour and celebrate the rich culture of this Southeast asian art form.

By sharing the symbolic significance behind the batik motifs and allowing the artists (aka cultural guardians) and their mindful creation process to take centre stage, Aqilah ensures that every piece Gypsied produces is a form of cultural exploration.

Just like the brand she owns, Aqilah is an individual that strongly believes in the transformative nature of stories; How they teach us not just about the past, but also about our present state selves. Batik helps Aqilah make sense of her identity as a Javanese Malay, and with Gypsied, she hopes not only to share these stories, but to also make them relatable to our everyday lives; Creating timeless pieces that are deeply treasured because of the way they speak to the essence of our beings.

It’s obvious from Gypsied’s website that telling stories about the textiles and their makers is something you are very passionate about, tell us more about your connection with stories.

As a child I loved stories — both reading and writing them. Throughout life, I have experimented with different ways to express and tell stories. My favourites have to be through writing and practicing traditional Malay dance.

Telling stories still excites me today. My current interest is uncovering tales, legends and discovering historical and contemporary women icons from Southeast Asia.

I am also currently preparing to pick up reading books in my native tongue again in a couple of months. I am excited and nervous about it because while it is easy to speak in Malay, it is a different ball game with reading it. I would also like to eventually be able to write in Malay again.

It’s often the stories with the deepest roots that move us in inexplicable ways. Tell us more your parents and how their lives and stories have inspired you. 

Their response to life has deeply inspired me. Life's trajectories are not equal for everyone, but they deal with their cards with such grace — most notably the birth of their first child, my sister who was differently abled, and her eventual passing. They both had such colourful childhoods too. My mom was born on Pulau Bukom, while my dad is one of thirteen children, born in a Chinese kampung in the Guillemard area. I grew up listening to their personal stories — how they were raised, their experiences as young adults, their road trips to Malaysia and journeys through Java, how they fell in love.. I remember thinking as a child wow all these stories, contained in two people I love! It excited me. I think it became only natural then that I want to tell stories too.

For many of us, exploration is now also taking place introspectively - Whether it's thinking more deeply about the heritage behind the clothes we buy, or reflecting on the little things that bring us joy. Would you please walk us through the memory of one of your favourite everyday adventures?

Not having a set routine means every day is different for me and that itself can be quite an adventure. Though I must say I enjoy time in nature the most. One of my favourite trails is the Prunus and Petai Boardwalk in MacRitchie. The turquoise reservoir is a sight to behold. Once while walking I saw some huge petai (stink bean) hanging from a tree (hence, the trail name) and the scent was.. well we know how petai smells haha!

You made the leap to start running Gypsied full time in 2019. Being an independent business owner can be so nerve wracking, share with us what’s something you find useful for dealing with uncertainty and challenges.

Coping Cards to the rescue! This card deck helps me manage, confront and deal with uncertainties and challenges head on. Their journal prompts, affirmations and exercises in mindfulness are really useful for me to step back and find my focus or to break free from unnecessary worries.

Gypsied has been moving towards a pre-order model, but we do have it in good authority that their next launch might be coming up sometime in end Oct 2021. Follow them on socials and sign up to their mailing list so you don’t miss out!

There's also still a small number of pieces still currently available via their online store. So, in the meantime, check it out and see if something calls out to you.

Written by Wray Crafted