The textile of royals now available for the masses and a symbol of artistry in Malaysia, songket is an investment worth having in your closet.
The western world has brocade but for South East Asia, no textile exudes luxury and sophistication better than the songket. The songket has long been synonymous with royalty for hundreds of years as it was only worn by the Malayan blue blood and its members of court back in the day. Nowadays though, the common man can adorn themselves in songket.
What makes a songket such an opulent textile? Well first are the materials used to weave it. Gold or silver silk threads are hand-woven into supplementary wefts of silk or cotton using a traditional contraption called kek loom. Then intricate patterns inspired by nature like the ‘persimmons fruit’ or ‘bamboo shoots’ pattern are additionally woven to the silk ground weave.
The skill of making songket is mainly an artistry that is passed down from generation to generation. It is a skill that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. It can take months to complete a whole piece of songket with more complex designs taking even longer.
The songket technique made its way to the east coast of Malaysia during the early 1500 thanks to the arrival of Pattani (southern Thailand) brides. These aristocratic women bought over their weaver servants that create their lavish court garments which helped spread the weaving skill across the east coast mainly Terengganu and Kelantan. Also, frequent trade among the Malay sultanate and Sumatrans also expanded the love and skill of weaving songket to Malaysia.
Read more on the second part of the story to get a glimpse of our interview with designer extraordinaire, Jovian Mandagie for his opinions on songket.
Words by Aishah Azali