Homegrown fashion brand Frankitas aims to remind us that we are more than the sum of our parts.
In this era of entrepreneurship, starting a business seems to be the norm – either out of passion or weariness of taking orders. However, rare is the aim of starting an enterprise mainly to help others in need, who could use a little more assistance. Embarking on the latter journey is Francisca Turner Shaik – affectionately known as Franki – who draws upon her rich heritage to give back to the community, or rather her home, through Frankitas.
An amalgamation of her name and the word ‘tas’ which is Malay for ‘bag’, Frankitas is a homegrown company that specialises in marrying age-old traditional methods of weaving and hand dyeing with contemporary fashion accessories and homeware. Frankitas prides on the materials that go into making the clutches, handbags and lampshades, sourced from skilled crafters in remote areas across the region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, India and across Central Asia.
Through the use of traditional textile motifs such as ‘ikat’ (house favourite), batik, songket and tenun in original hand-crafted Frankitas designs, Franki empowers local women of various skillsets, from fabric makers to craftswomen who create unique pieces for the brand. This, of course, is a sharp contrast to conventional fashion brands, who more often than not commission their works to the factories of Bangladesh and China.
“I know most people do that, but I’m not those people. I don’t take the easy road. I will always find a way that really suits my core values, and that’s the art of using your hands. Also, I’m not a big fan of mass production either, as I think there’s a lot of wastage in this world already. Growing up in a very small village in West Java, I was taught from young to stick to your roots and never forget where you come from. No matter where I go or what I do, I will always fall back on my adat,” says Franki.
Starting her career as an editorial assistant at a local publishing house, Franki quickly became an international reporter, having stories published in The New York Times, The Economist, and USA Today and before delving into sales, marketing and branding in the publishing world. Nonetheless, being an entrepreneur at heart, Frankie finally plucked the courage to pursue her passion for fashion by setting up Frankitas in 2015.
“People sometimes ask me if I’m seeing good profits. I tell them, my priority is not in profiting. If I wanted to be rich, I would have done my things in China for the fracture of the cost with 3 to 4 times the revenue. But I don’t because that’s not why I started this business. I’m here to tell a story, and that story is about heritage and culture. Usually people will associate tradition with being outdated but with Frankitas, you can use it any time of the day and still carry a part of your culture with you. As a mother of three, I want my children to see that culture shouldn’t disappear. Through my work I’m planting seeds in them and the rest of the world,” she explains.
The female-empowered brand began with just chic bags and purses of three designs, before quickly expanding to a line of 11 designs of bags and clutches, silk scarves, jewellery, and home décor, all with traditional and tropical touches. The first Frankitas design was the Titins – named after Franki’s aunt who makes it – which embodies the brand’s ethos of weaving artisanal fabrics into stunning designs.
Currently, apart from bags and other accessories, Frankitas creates one-of-a-kind soft furnishings for homes. Ranging from lamp shades to cushion covers and rugs, almost all of the homeware incorporate various traditional textiles, with the leading fabric being ‘ikat’. An organic silk which is made through a 9 to 12 steps labour-intensive process, ‘ikat’ is coloured organically using only plants-based dyes, not only making it beautiful but also one of the most eco-friendly textiles in the world.
Complementing the soft furnishings at the Frankitas Gallery in Damansara Heights are the hard furnishings handpicked by Franki as part of the Frankitas Collective, which features unique pieces from selected brands that have very similar design and values to Frankitas.
A recent addition to the Frankitas Collective is Fugeelah, a brand created and conceptualised by former beauty queen and child’s rights advocate, Deborah Henry, who is also the co-founder of Fugee School, a school for refugee children and adolescents. Fugeelah is a self-sustaining business kicking off with a range of accessories crafted by the brave children of Fugee School, in collaboration with Frankitas and The Batik Boutique.
“When I got the call asking if I could help, I immediately said yes. You know, life is bigger than just what you want and what you can get. That’s not going to enrich you. Yes, it’ll probably make your pocket bigger and your bank account healthier but to me living your life to the fullest is being able to be of benefit to others that need our help because they don’t have the opportunities that we do. So, with this project I want to empower the children by providing them with a platform that they could use to express themselves in a healthy manner,” shares Frankie.
This want to assist the younger generation transcends beyond just the Fugeelah brand for Frankie. Hanging in her gallery is a painting entitled ‘Gabriel’, painted by a 16 year old girl who captured Frankie’s heart by the innocence in her artwork. At an age when paintings are valued by the fame attached to the painter’s name, Frankie’s act of purchasing a painting from a young artist purely based on her talent reflects on the entrepreneur’s vision in life.
“Ultimately, it’s beyond Frankitas. I’m using my brand to communicate to the people and plant seeds in people’s head that they too can use whatever available to them to help others. Every little bit helps even if you can’t help with money. I’m a firm believer in rezeki and I believe when you give, you get so much more back. That’s the seed I want to plant during my life,” Frankie reveals.
Frankitas Gallery is located in Damansara Heights and is open on appointment basis.
For more information on Frankitas and their latest designs, head on to www.frankitas.com.