Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia; not much separates the three countries. We're geographic cousins, and we also happen to share an independence month. Singapore kicks off the celebration on August 9, followed by Indonesia on August 17 and finally by Malaysia on August 31. Perhaps it's true that there's more that unites us...
In the spirit of these three Independence Days, Globetrotter has picked six of our many favorite independent brands from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. From music to fashion, read on for some names you should be watching for independent goodness.
DARKER THAN WAX
Having started as a modest independent record label in a tiny island city-state of Singapore, Darker Than Wax has now morphed into a global movement. The label is currently home to artists from not only Asia, but also Europe, Oceania and North America. The array of artists includes DJ and the label’s co-founder Dean Chew aka Funk Bast*rd, as well as Rotterdam-based Giorgio Oehlers - who debuted an EP just a month ago. The label has also branched out beyond music: they teamed up with Casio to launch limited edition G-Shock watches late last year.
THE FARM STORE
The Farm Store stocks some of the quirkiest stuff in Singapore. The multi-label store carries products from homegrown brands, which vary from tote bags and notebooks to keychains and home accessories. All locally-designed, the products are one-of-a-kind and often wink at Singaporean inside jokes. Some of the store’s most popular items include the National Day Tote Bag and the Singlish notebook.
The four-piece Jakarta-based band Polka Wars is considered as one of the strongest forces in Indonesia’s independent music industry. After launching their first album, Axis Mundi, in 2015, the group recently returned with their new single ”Rangkum.” Taken from their upcoming EP, EPNY - named after the city where the album was recorded - the single was released alongside an artistically-made, deeply-meaningful music video.
Watch this space for an upcoming interview with the band.
SEJAUH MATA MEMANDANG
Sejauh Mata Memandang (which translates to "as far as the eye can see” in Indonesian), produces and markets local textiles in gorgeous traditional patterns, made with age-old techniques. To achieve authenticity, the brand works directly with artisans from Bali, Java and Sumba (an island in eastern Indonesia). Hoping to give back to the community, the brand helping to supply clean water to East Sumba.
Beyond selling denim, Tarik Jeans works to inspire young people to embrace cultural diversity, reminding them of the unity of Malaysian people “before the propagandizing began.” It's no wonder the brand is much loved by rock stars and activists alike. The company's upcoming collection is called Nusa Bencana, which literally means “Disaster Land." It's a symbol for “an imaginary state alienated by the government, populated by rogues, outcasts, immigrants, refugees and those deemed to be estranged from the norm.” Perhaps they're on to something.
The new collection will be unveiled during this month’s Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week.
SEK SAN DESIGN
Architecture and Design Firm
The architect Sek San envisions a different approach to architectural preservation in history-rich Malaysia. Looking to the past with creativity and respect, his firm - Seksan Design - pivots from the glitz and sheen of identikit development, carving instead a bold course in the rejuvenation and celebration of aging, culturally important structures. We've stayed at a few Sekeping properties in Malaysia: their thoughtfulness, harmony with surroundings and simplicity and straightforwardness in design have stayed in our minds. This is responsible, interesting architecture and a model for a way forward in design. Read our feature piece on Sek San here.