When Hanisah Izzati bt. Adnan left her job with a private international school in July 2015 after four years, little did she realise that her next job would not come that easily.
“After four years as a Science teacher to primary pupils, I felt that I should leave to further develop my career in the academic field. However, it took a bit more effort and time than I had anticipated for my next posting to come along. While searching and waiting for my new job, I felt bored at home and decided to indulge in my old hobby in crafting,” she said.
Since young, Hanisah loves crafting with thread and needle, so cross stitch and embroidery are two of her favourites. One day, while browsing YouTube, she came across a video tutorial on making bags. Fascinated, she began rummaging the house for scrap cloths, coming across her father’s old kain songket. Still, it didn’t really strike her mind that she could produce something different with the kain songket, till her mother gave her the idea to make an elegant clutch bag out of it.
As kain songket is a traditional fabric, it is considered a Malaysian heritage. Thus, Hanisah decided to name her label “Heritage Inspired” which is also a play on her own initials of H.I.
“Soon, my dad ran out of kain songket, and so I moved on to his kain pelikat and batik, which I have also since exhausted,” she laughed. Admitting that her first few bags were all made by trial and error, and only good enough for personal use, her skills soon picked up.
After two months of unemployment, Hanisah soon found another teaching job at a neighbourhood private school. That job lasted a whole of 1.5 years. She shared, “You may think I’m foolish to walk away from a stable pay cheque but I wanted time flexibility to focus on my flourishing handmade custom bag business. I still love teaching, though, and teach part time now.”
Heritage Inspired may have started life as a hobby to fill time in between jobs but with Hanisah going full force beginning of this year, her enterprise has seen much progress, and her bags are now carried in Singapore, Indonesia, France and even Nigeria, courtesy of supportive friends.
Obviously, with Heritage Inspired gaining its own fan following, Hanisah has to source for new fabric materials, usually from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and, her best bet, online. “Somehow, I find difficulty in procuring the frame for my clutch bags, so although I can make a bag in two days, or three purses in a day, my speed is hampered by the number of frames that I have in stock,” she explained while demonstrating how a purse is made in her home-cum-work space in Sungai Buloh, Selangor.
Besides clutches and purses, Hanisah’s main products include dinner bags, handbags and tote bags. Priced between RM50 to RM200 each, each bag’s price tag is determined by the size of the bag, materials used and workmanship. “As these are handmade custom bags, there are no two of the same bags, so never face the embarrassing moment of seeing someone else carry the same bag to an event you are attending,” the 29-year-old chuckled.
Indeed, Heritage Inspired’s exclusive design is a major selling point. The bestsellers thus far are clutches, in either cream, white or black. Hanisah added, “I guess these are popular colours because they are easiest to match outfits and shoes. Good thing they are my own favourite colours, too!”
To date, Hanisah has already made more than two hundred bags under her Heritage Inspired label. The young lady still doesn’t appear like she is running out of ideas for her handmade bags. “I look out for bags in YouTube videos and fashion magazines. Browsing at textile shops also gives me plenty of ideas based on the patterns and colours of the fabric. Sometimes, I can get so inspired that I would spend hours creating my bags, and feel very reluctant to sell them off. I am still learning not to be so attached to my creations, and instead feel proud that there are people who appreciate my designs,” she mused.
Seeing how well Heritage Inspired is received, it is only a matter of time Hanisah expands her business. “One day, I would like to open a brick-and-mortar bag boutique which not only sells my handmade bags but is also a space for me to conduct bag-making workshops,” she shared of her dream.
Note: An edited version of this article [Sewing her way to success] was published on 16th September 2017 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.