Tsar ... The Sultry Facet of Africana

There is never a dull moment for tribal prints in the fashion sphere. While Navajo tribal prints are currently on trend for this season, budding Malaysian fashion designer Wan Sariah Wan Jaafar, however, has jumped into the same bandwagon but altered its course according to her way. That is by pushing the envelope of the uniquely storied West African tribal prints to a higher chic edge instead.

Carving her niche in the ever-dynamic fashion scene with Tsar — her eponymous fashion accessories and shoe label — Sariah builds her collection by not relying on the fashion season cycle. 

Rather, she turns to the tremendous moments and extraordinary experiences she had captured during her extensive travels to the exotic parts of the world, including the Western Africa, as the ultimate muse to her collections.

Charmed by the supreme beauty of the West African tribal textiles, as well as the timelessness of the tribal prints with each has a distinctive tale to express, Sariah bravely ventured into the nooks and crannies of the traditional African villages and witnessed how the tedious yet traditional crafting process took place.

“Honestly, the process was very, if not quite tedious,” says Sariah on the conscientious production process. “These industrious ladies would collect leaves, which are then pounded, turned into balls and dried under the sun, as well as fibres from the native plants to be loomed as the base fabrics. In a whole, it can be said that a proper textile can take more than days or perhaps, up to a month to complete.”

Furthermore, according to her, due to the meticulousness of the process, which involved old and well-preserved techniques, as well as being handmade at the same time, each design comes only in one piece.

“Whatever that you have seen today, won’t be available tomorrow once it is snapped,” says Sariah. “Once, I fell in love with a certain design and decided to go back for seconds. However, I was tad disappointed when the designer told me that that was the only piece left and there was no reproduction. This at the same time got me thinking, Wow, they are exclusive indeed. Even our own batik can be reproduced up to as many times imaginable!”

Back in Malaysia, she sat down and took her own time to go through the creative process for Tsar’s first collection called Conakry. At this stage, the designer infused a dash of character to complement the inimitable stories each fabric holds. 

In a way, the Conakry collection — named after a sleepy Atlantic-facing seaside retreat in the West African region — truly accentuates the wearer’s unique character traits and potent chic “arsenals” to break the ice, rather than just being a mere collection of functional shoes and accessories.

Adding more distinction to the collection, every piece is scrupulously handcrafted in very limited quantity, with strong artisanal approach and consummate quality by skilled artisans. Having that said, only a few lucky fashionistas may be able to own incredible — ditto accessible — couture pieces by Tsar. 

How accessible are they? A pair of Tsar printed flats starts from US$125, while a printed Tsar satchel retails from US$129 onwards — obviously less than a fraction of what most renowned designer goods will set you back!  
Currently sold online via Tsar’s Facebook page, as well as by two fashion retailers in Kuala Lumpur, Tsar’s Conakry collection to date, has received great amount of positive reviews by fashion critiques and the media in Malaysia. In addition, a thorough expansion plan for Tsar to break through the challenging international fashion market is almost in the pipeline. 

“It is every Malaysian designer’s dream, including mine, to have their labels retailed around the world, especially in reputable retail havens such as Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue, On Pedder and David Jones,” says Sariah, expressing her hope on her ‘baby’. “When all plans fall into places, rest assured the fashion world will never get enough of Tsar! Once the goal is superbly achieved, only then we shall see how we can move on from there. 

To secure one of Tsar’s coveted shoes and handbags from the Conakry collection, visit Tsar’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TSAR.ASIA) for more details. 

*Photos courtesy of Tsar. 


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