When we talk about supporting small local businesses, more often than not, we tend to overlook those that are located in East Malaysia. Interestingly, many of them have deliberately included elements of indigenous culture or merged vintage and contemporary elements into their products, which make them stand out from what's commonly available out there. Here are five indie stores that top our list – each of them promoting intricately-crafted, handmade pieces you can proudly wear or display:

1. Beads & Goodeeds (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah)

Take a glance at the charming pieces of jewellery that this store has to offer and you’ll be reminded of the beauty of the beach and nature instantly! Freshwater pearls and colourful gemstones with a mix of gold-plated jewellery? Check! Seashells that are bound to spark convos? Check! Personalised pieces with your name, initials or favourite word? Check! Best worn as statement pieces or layered in varying lengths of necklaces with quirky crochet pieces, all the pieces from Beads & Goodeeds are equally effortless and timeless. Since all the pieces are handmade, do allocate one to three days after ordering your products through Instagram DM for your order to be shipped.

Shop Beads & Goodeeds here.

2. Finders Keepers KK (Kota Kinabalu, Sabah)

Managed by 19-year-old Dania Safiya, Finders Keepers is among the many small businesses that came to life in July 2020 amidst the first MCO. Here, you can find vintage and retro-inspired corsets, crop tops and dresses that are all handmade with love by Dania herself using her mum’s sewing machine! As a slow fashion advocate, her pieces are sourced from thrift stores or sewing shops and she’ll magically turn them into unique, eye-catching pieces that are ready to be worn and flaunted. If you adore cottagecore, soft pastels and everything quirky and retro, you’re bound to love her work! You can also opt for custom-made orders by providing Dania your chosen fabric and discuss what you’d like with her, through DM on Instagram.

Shop Finders Keepers KK here.

3. Lawa by Luwa (Miri, Sarawak)

You’ve got to love a brand that gives culture or tradition a modern twist, like Lawa by Luwa that raises awareness on something that’s both iconic and sacred to the Ibans in Sarawak. As such, the founder, Angelyna Luwa has brilliantly incorporated the Pua Kumbu design – a traditional patterned and multicoloured ceremonial cloth that’s woven by Dayak women – into her hand-sewn scrunchies, where no two pieces are exactly the same. Each unique piece can be worn on your hair, wrist or arm as a statement look that goes with your casual or traditional attire. To order yours, send a WhatsApp message through the link below and look out for more updates next month!

Shop Lawa by Luwa here.

4. Simpulknot (Miri, Sarawak)

Known for her colourful macrame pieces, Flora Wong’s rainbow collection has gained the love of many (our editor included!) through different forms such as earrings, hairclips, keychains and home decorations that can be found in various sizes and colours. Apart from those, you can also expect to find pretty clutches and dreamcatchers that have all been handmade by Flora to their finest! One thing’s for sure: whatever you customise here will bring joy into your life and light up your room, car and surroundings as the pieces radiate good vibes even at a glance – something that we all truly need during this pandemic. Once the malls are open again, you can drop by FERN (a batik and artisanal collective store) in Bangsar Village II to check out the curation of Simpulknot items, or send a DM on Instagram to order something that caught your eye!

Shop Simpulknot here.

5. Tonka (Miri, Sarawak)

As a Bidayuh herself, the founder of Tonka hopes to keep her tradition alive by turning traditional practices into jewellery pieces. Just by going through the products and captions on her feed, you’ll pick up a lot about the Bidayuh culture instantly! As seen in the image above, the Rasung and Ruyang earrings were inspired by the tradition of Bidayuh ladies who wear brass rings around their calves (Rasung) and forearms (Ruyang) to symbolise beauty and status. Using polymer clay, she has also done an incredible job of crafting accessories with cultural elements like the Tapan (winnowing basket) drawn from the weaving culture of the Bidayuh and Bobot Buank (bear’s canine) inspired by the traditional Bidayuh necklace, Pangiah. To enquire or make a purchase, just drop a DM on Tonka’s Instagram.

Shop Tonka here.

Featured image: Simpulknot

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