In 2015, I began exploring the intersection of popular culture with traditional garments and fan art. Each baju design is a representation of a character or idea from the source material - a love letter to the stories which have inspired me. I’m interested in how the process of adaptation and reimagination adds to the original work while raising new questions.

 

Literature


World's End (The Fifth Season)

Based on ‘The Fifth Season’ by N. K. Jemisin.

WATCHER
Look elegant and ageless in a silk pleated sari.

A sari is worn with a bodice and petticoat, wrapped so that the same length of cloth forms both a skirt and a shoulder or head covering.

SHAPER
Reach out, reach in, rend the fabric of the earth while donning a patterned kurta.

Kurtas can be worn as formal or everyday dress, with side slits providing ease of movement.

SURVIVOR
Gather power and stand your ground in a jacket inspired by the Akha and Hmong of Laos.

The jackets are made from black cotton decorated with coloured stripes in applique.

KEEPER
Maintain the balance with a warrior's baju, samping, and keris.

Ways to wear the keris differ according to region, with some tucking it into the samping at the back and others in the front.

 

 

True Hearts (The Last Unicorn)

Based on ‘The Last Unicorn’ by Peter S. Beagle.

SCALED WITH STARS
Discover unknown depths under a jeweled sky.

Hidden star motifs woven into a midnight blue ombre shawl allow you to shine when necessary.

AUTUMN CAT
Journey forth with conviction in a batik kaftan.

Loose tunics that can be worn as loungewear or with a belt for a more dressy look, these batik kaftans can be found in local marketplaces.

SEA FOAM
Break like waves upon the shore with a bolong-bolong breast cloth and indigo wraps.

Breast cloths or kemben are worn on the torso and paired with longer kain.

TERRIBLE LIGHT
Where others falter, you bring destruction clad in red.

Ikat textiles are made by resist dyeing the yarns before they are woven into fabric, a labour-intensive technique.

 

 

A Higher Order (The Lord of the Rings)

Based on ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J. R. R. Tolkien.

FIREWORKS
Fill the skies with the finest rockets ever seen in this silk baju kurung.

An update to the baju gives it tab sleeves that reveal a lighter interior lining.

THE BROWN
Care for the earth in this rough cotton baju kurung with selendang.

The selendang can be used for multiple purposes, including covering the head and carrying infants.

SHADOW AND FLAME
Dwell in darkness in this fiery outfit.

The Minangkabau horned headdress, tengkuluk tanduk, is made from folded fabric and can be ornately decorated with gold jewellery.

THE WHITE
Step forth wreathed in many colours.

Sarong printed with the batik wax resist technique are common in the region, worn for casual and formal occasions.

 

 

Power Play (The Hunger Games)

Based on ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins.

WHITE AS SNOW
Walk spotless and pure in a white silk baju Melayu with songket.

Floral and geometric patterns are commonly woven into songket with gold or silver threads.

PLAYING WITH FIRE
Draw all eyes to you with an embroidered Punjabi suit and jagged, slashed, dupatta.

The dupatta is a shawl-like scarf worn over the shoulder.

FASHION WITHOUT FEAR
You don't need to shout to make a statement with this understated look.

Baju Melayu can be worn with or without the samping, in formal and casual occasions.

 

 

Vigilante Justice (Watchmen)

Based on ‘Watchmen’ by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

WATCHMAKER
Move puppets on strings as you float past in a silk áo dài.

A blend of Eastern and Western sensibilities, the Vietnamese áo dài has evolved over the years to its current tight-fitting form.

THIS CITY IS AFRAID OF ME
Black and white vigilanteism is often gruesome; come dress for the work.

The kebaya is worn all over Southeast Asia, combining a delicate sheer blouse with a wrap.

QUEEN OF QUEENS
Build your empire for others to look upon and despair.

Modern versions of the baju kurung abound, featuring shorter and form-fitting cuts.

I AM PAGLIACCI
Tell a joke in this printed and embroidered Punjabi suit.

The Punjabi kameez is also paired with jeggings instead of the looser salwar.

Video Games

 

Dawn and Dusk (Dragon Age: Inquisition)

Based on the Dragon Age: Inquisition game by BioWare

Based on the Dragon Age: Inquisition game by BioWare

COMMANDER
Rally the troops in an imposing cheongsam and hoodie.

The cheongsam (qipao) has its origins in the Manchurian Qing dynasty and was modernised to accentuate the figure during the 1920-1940s in Shanghai.

REBEL
Take on centuries of systemic injustice while sporting a dashing aristocrat's jacket and batik kain panjang.

Different motifs and patterns were reserved for wear by the nobility in Java.

ENCHANTER
Sweep the grandest game of all in an embroidered silk terno.

The terno has distinctive rising butterfly sleeves and a low neckline, evolving from older Filipino dresses.

APOSTATE
Wander the ages past in a sherwani and churidar.

The formal sherwani was used as court dress for nobles and is often intricately embroidered.

 

Space Opera (Mass Effect)

Based on the Mass Effect trilogy by BioWare.

SHEPARD
Save the galaxy in a baju with black velvet ornamentation and red and white embroidery.

The Cekak Musang style of baju features a standing collar with buttons.

SCIENTIST SALARIAN
Be the very model of a scientist salarian in an embroidered baju kurung.

The simplicity of the baju kurung lends itself to adaptation and ornamentation.

OMNITACTICIAN
Command with ease in a modern kebaya.

The sheer, intricately decorated kebaya is traditionally worn over kemben and now camisoles or other undergarments.

SHARPSHOOTER
Rack up some headshots in this fine gold and silver-woven baju with selendang.

Gold and silver threads are woven into kain tenun for a dazzling effect.

Film & TV

 

Robots and Monsters (Pacific Rim)

Based on ‘Pacific Rim’ by Guillermo del Toro.

ALL SUITED UP
Get down to business in a leather and pleated chiffon ensemble.

Fashion meets function for the forward-looking pilot.

HUNTER
Pilot 20,000 tons of awesome with all the pockets you need on a crushed silk bolero.

Wearable LEDs are incorporated into a layered baju kurung for a controllable effect.

CREATURE COMFORTS
Destroy fashion fads in a soft asymmetrical hoodie with wearable LED strips.

Wear it at home, on the bus, at school - when you’re a monster no one can tell you what to do.

CAPE CALM & CHASM
Stay focused and warm in a thermal-blocking cape and ombre scarf.

Keep out the cold and rain during the yearly monsoons.

 

 

Desert Rage (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Based on ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’.

CHROME
Live, die, and live again in a barong.

The translucent Filipino barong is woven from pineapple, banana, abaca or synthetic fibers.

WRATH
Give form to fury in the garb of a dancer.

Balinese dancers tell stories through expressive gestures and movements.

DEATH
Parade your might with a pending.

The pending is an ornate belt buckle that can be worn by both men and women.

DUTY
Labour tirelessly in a samfoo top.

The samsui women are Cantonese and Hakka migrant workers from Guangdong who helped build the Straits Settlements, later known as Malaya and Singapore.

 

 

Faith and Fortune (American Gods)

Based on ‘American Gods’, both the book by Neil Gaiman and the Starz show.

DESIRE
Call others to you in a sumptuous tengkuluk talakuang and selendang.

The richly embroidered velvet head covering is part of traditional bridal wear in Koto Gadang, West Sumatra.

DISCERN
Hold lives in balance in the featherlight garb of a Nattukottai Chettiar.

The Nattukottai Chettiars came to Southeast Asia for trade, taking up work like banking and money-lending.

DISRUPT
Overturn staid tradition as you enter the scene fashionably.

Hijabsters combine the wearing of the veil (hijab) with the best of what hipster clothing has to offer.

DOMINATE
Bring invisible forces to bear on your enemies in a subtly patterned tangzhuang.

The tangzhuang is based on the Manchurian horse-riding jacket, magua, and made from brocade decorated with repetitive auspicious characters.


 

The aim of this series is not to directly convert a character’s existing clothing into baju, but to incorporate the idea - their personality, beliefs, themes - through textiles, patterns, buttons, trims, shawls, garment cut, and so on. I explore and work with the visual language that's already been established for each garment, while taking liberties where necessary.

The Geeky Baju Project has been featured on Poskod.my and Mashable Asia, and I spoke about the process of designing them during a radio interview on BFM 89.9’s I Love KL segment.

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Support this ongoing project on Patreon and see new sets first, along with sketches and process!

Patrons also get to vote for future Geeky Baju sets, access resources related to SEA visual culture, and receive wallpapers, postcards and original studies.