Lisette Scheers, Dutch designer and founder of Nala Designs issued a public apology after her comments about Malaysia's local culture and the baju kurung went viral and faced major criticism.
Scheers was recently interviewed by the South China Morning Post (SCMP), where she recounted growing up in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong in the 70s, and going back to Malaysia in 2003 after the birth of her daughter.
Scheers started Nala Designs in 2008 which sells apparel and accessories.
She founded the company as she "always had a close affinity with local culture"
The brand describes itself as "specialising in pattern design" and "inspired by Asian culture and heritage".
She said in the SCMP article that it was "shocking to see" how Malaysia had become commercial so quickly, and "everything was about making a quick buck" without pride nor quality.
When speaking about the materials she uses for her products, she was quoted as saying that she "can't bare[sic] the flammable cheap polyester I see everywhere in Malaysia."
Scheers also shared her vision: to "see the baju kurung return" and wanting "people here to feel proud of their heritage" - something which she said she is "on a crusade" to prevent its disappearance.
My dream is to see the baju kurung return, to see Malays dressing beautifully again. I want people here to feel proud of their heritage. Growing up this country was full of beautiful fabrics and colour. I’m on a crusade to make sure that doesn’t disappear.
Backlash on social media
Her interview quickly went viral for her comments, with much the criticism centred on her comments on wanting the baju kurung to return.
Netizens also found fault in the way she perceived Malaysia's local culture and her wanting to educate Malaysians on their own heritage problematic.
This is one of the most tone-deaf articles about someone's POV on Malaysian culture that I've ever read. The worst is this Lisette saying that Malay Malaysians need to "bring back the baju kurung"?! GURL WHEN DID WE STOP WEARING BAJU KURUNG? @SCMPNews https://t.co/LA3LQqQ67Y— Sarah Ahmad (@__sarahmad) January 16, 2021
Malays never stopped dressing beautifully??? Baju kurung never stopped being a thing?? What the heck?? pic.twitter.com/nSnaHXkMsF— LIS (@aqilahnaqlis) January 15, 2021
Some posted photos as well in response to the article, including Queen of Malaysia Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.
Not baju kurung, but if you say baju kurung is dissappearing, then you're also saying baju melayu is dissappearing kan?— Your Beautiful Nightmare (@juansean_) January 16, 2021
Hi, I'm Malaysian Chinese here who LOVES wearing baju melayu out for no reason here. pic.twitter.com/nlGxrg6Fp8
A few also pointed out that her brand was selling a more expensive version of traditional clothing pieces, which they felt contradicted her criticisms on Malaysia's commercialisation.
On her website, kaftans are being sold for RM499 (S$163.81).
Baju kurungs seems to have been previously listed for sale on the website, but the aforementioned section is currently empty.
A short apology has been posted by Scheers on Nala Design's Instagram page.
Scheers said that she would like to apologise "for the misunderstanding" and "giving the wrong impression".
She said that she loves Malaysia "like no other" and that it is a "source of inspiration", with its people making it special.
I’d like to apologise for the misunderstanding and for giving the wrong impression. I have always considered Malaysia as my home and I love this country like no other. Malaysia to me, is a source of inspiration and what makes it special are its people and I’m learning everyday.