Dutch Designer Apologises After Comments About Baju Kurung Drew Flak

Never tell a local how to dress like a local. Unless you’re a local.

This is what a Dutch designer living in Malaysia, Lisette Scheers learnt the hard way.

A recent article posted her views on how she wanted Malays to dress beautifully again. And then all hell broke loss in Malaysia and its social media platforms.

What Happened

Scheers, who was the founder of Nala Designs recently had an interview with none other than South China Morning Post (SCMP). She starts by talking about her life and how she grew up a few decades back in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

She started her business in 2018, which sells a bunch of items. You’re looking at stuff like Lisette’s Kaftan (hmmmm), Cheongsams, Delhi Dress, accessories and some home and living stuff, among others.

Here are some excerpts from the interview that got her into trouble:

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.

I design everything by hand and obsess over materials. I can’t bear the flammable cheap polyester I see everywhere in Malaysia. But much still inspires me here.

You can see where this is going.

Outrage from the Public   

Lisette Scheers has since been getting so much firing from the Malaysian public. They’ve said that she’s a fine example of cultural appropriation.

One Instagrammer posted this on her page:

“Our culture does not need your saving because it was never in danger of extinction. You are clearly unaware and out of touch.” @shikarashahrin

Here’s another comment from Instagrammer @hunnymadu:

“Just a few mins walk from my house I will able to see at least 5 women in baju kurung nearly every day so that statement just made your mission sound ridiculous. Damage has been done, and I hope you will do better if you really LOOK around and see us, Malaysians.

It doesn’t help that her baju kurungs were expensive. Apparently, all the baju kurungs have been removed from her online website since the outburst.

An Apology Has Been Offered

After all the comments, Nala Designs posted an apology for their views in the article, with the heading Maafkan Saya (Forgive Me):

“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 every day.”

It might take some time for Nala Designs to get back into Malaysia’s good graces. Maybe a sale at actual local prices might help?

Featured Image: Jasni / Shutterstock.com