IN our tropical weather, the thing that matters when it comes to the outfit-of-the-day (OOTD) is definitely the fabric. While cotton is the commonly preferred fabric, some have turned to another alternative which is not only soft and cooling, but also eco-friendlier.
Bamboo fabric is not a new concept among those who go for a green lifestyle. But here, public awareness about bamboo fabric and its benefits is still in its infancy. This trend is only catching up in a niche market that dictates that style should come only from ethically, sustainably-sourced materials.
Homegrown fashion labels Tihara and Ziboosa are among the local players which have carved a niche in bamboo fashion with their unique and chic ready-to-wear pieces.
ZIBOOSA: COMFY ACTIVE WEAR
Sisters Shazila and Shahiza Ghazi took over Bamboo Malaysia from their father, Ghazi Ramli, in 2012 and diversified its bamboo-based product range into clothing brand Ziboosa. Ziboosa is a combination of both their names.
“Father discovered bamboo towels and socks in Australia while visiting Shahiza who was studying in Brisbane. Inspired by the Australian bamboo fabric industry, he founded Bamboo Malaysia in 2009 which started by selling household items such as towels and bath mats,” recalls Shazila, Ziboosa’s managing director.
“When my sister and I took over the business, we decided to sell clothing because, frankly, towels and bath mats are not that much in demand. We started off with smart casual wear, basic dresses and tops. But that didn’t go so well as the pieces were plain, in solid colours and at above-average prices,” she says.
Being fitness buffs and Zumba enthusiasts, the sisters eventually turned their focus to active wear. “We ventured into active wear when we realised that bamboo clothing is more suitable for this genre and would be more appreciated by fitness buffs. We do our R&D during our Zumba sessions and design and produce clothes accordingly.
“We also observe what people like to wear, or what’s trending, especially when travelling overseas,” she adds.
The bamboo fibres used to make clothes are sourced from the Moso species as they are thicker and contain more fibres, says Shazila. According to Wikipedia, the Moso bamboo (scientific name Phyllostachys edulis) is a temperate species of giant timber bamboo native to China and Taiwan.
The entrepreneurial duo source their bamboo-based material from China, specifically from suppliers who practice green technology. “Bamboo fabric has many advantages over other common materials used to make clothes. For instance, it is very soft, absorbs sweat faster and is easy to clean. It is also cooling and suitable for people with sensitive skin. In addition, the material can last three to five years,” says Shazila. “However, not many are aware of the benefits... which is why Ziboosa is here.”
Ziboosa’s active wear comprises headbands, shawls, T-shirts and tops, shorts and yoga pants. It also retails other bamboo-based products such as towels, spun bamboo bowls and plates.
Its Olmeca shawl is a bestseller because not only is it very soft and comfortable, it can also be styled in many ways.
“As our fabrics are plain in colour we try to offer variety with certain tops printed with motivational quotes or life mottos. The garments are priced between RM40 and RM90,” says Shazila.
Ziboosa’s latest collection Be You will launch after Chinese New Year this year.
TIHARA: EXCLUSIVE BAMBOO WEAR
“When people enquire about bamboo fabric, the most popular question is ‘doesn't bamboo cause ‘miang’ (itchiness) to skin?’
“But that is not the case at all when it comes to bamboo fabric. The material is very soft, has good moisture wicking ability and is very cooling. It also has anti-fungal properties, making it safe and suitable for those with sensitive skin,” says Bahirah Tajul Aris, the brains behind Tihara, a Selangor-based brand that retails exclusive bamboo wear. Bahirah co-founded the company with her daughter, Tihani Batrisyia Mohamad Ezam.
The duo established Tihara in 2015 due to their shared passion for an eco-friendly lifestyle and conscious fashion. But the main inspiration came from Bahirah’s active participation in various entities such as the Bamboo Academy of Malaysia and Konsortium Bamboo Malaysia that advocate the benefits of bamboo as a sustainable resource.
“Tihara is our way of creating awareness and sharing our knowledge about this material and its vast benefits. We use bamboo fabric because bamboo is a highly sustainable plant; its cultivation has minimal impact on the environment. It reflects our values and beliefs in eco-friendly living,” says Bahirah, who is principal of the Bamboo Academy of Malaysia and a pioneering member of Konsortium Bamboo Malaysia.
KNIT AND WOVEN
Tihara is well-known for its mid to luxury range collections comprising shawls, cardigans, modern kurungs, dresses, skirts and pants as well accessories. It also produces tops and bottoms for men.
Its exclusive collection featuring batik prints made by skilled artisans using wooden batik blocks is highly sought after by expatriates and customers from overseas, especially from Japan.
Pieces featuring tie-and-dye patterns are also very popular.
All the collections are made from two types of bamboo-based fabric — knitted and woven. Like Ziboosa, the fabric is sourced from China which has the best technology for processing bamboo fabric, says Bahirah.
Bamboo fabric is more expensive compared to cotton or other materials, making the end products more expensive than standard garments.
“What matters most to us is to produce ready-to-wear and made-to-order pieces that are comfortable, versatile and ideal for those who love modest style. But balancing style and practicality is tricky when it comes to bamboo fabric.
Adds Bahirah: “The knitted fabric is very soft which makes it quite difficult to sew and turn into a design. But this adds to its value and uniqueness.”
The brand is coming up with its Hari Raya collection soon.
BENEFITS OF BAMBOO FABRIC
- Soft, comfortable and absorbs sweat better than other fabrics.
- Eco-friendly due to its sustainable resource.
- Cooling and breathable due to the many microgaps in its texture.
- Suitable for people with sensitive skin.
- Easy to clean.
- Lightweight, making it easy to pack for travelling.
- Dries faster when hung.
- Creases can be “straightened” by hanging it overnight.
Source: Adapted from Ziboosa company profile
TIPS ON WASHING BAMBOO FABRIC
- Preferably handwash.
- If using a washing machine, wash in gentle mode.
- Do not use too much detergent and softener. (The fabric is naturally soft and does not need softener).
- Air dry under shade to preserve colour.