Ong Chin Huat sits down with Francisca Turner, the owner and creative director of socially-conscious brand Frankitas to discuss ethical fashion and why she decided to start a fashion label.
As a former reporter and marketing head for a few publishing and media agencies, Francisca Turner Shaik travelled extensively to all four corners of the globe for her job. While reporting on social, economic and financial news, she was also an avid collector of textiles. “I’m a hoarder of fabrics and ancient textiles as I find it’s technique complex and almost an art form,” she says in her showroom in Damansara Heights in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
After getting married and having three kids, Francisca left the corporate world because as a wife and mother, she needed to be in full control of her own time to juggle family and work.
Fast forward to today and Francisca is the founder and creative director of socially conscious slow fashion brand Frankitas – an amalgam of her nickname ‘Franki’ and ‘tas’ which means bag in Indonesian. With striking colours and contemporary designs, a Frankitas bag represents more than just an eye-catching fashion accessory, the fabrics and materials that go into making a Frankitas bag supports skilled artisans from countries like Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Africa, India and Malaysia.
And just like the bags and clutches she designs, Francisca is also a blend of international influences herself. Her father is British while her mother is Indonesian and she grew up in Asia, spending most of her time in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. She worked in Africa, Asia, Europe & the Middle East.
Explaining the ethos behind her ethically conscious brand and environmentally aware fashion accessories brand which is fast gaining popularity among the glitterati and fashion flock, Francisca says: “Frankitas produces beautiful designer pieces, where each piece is unique as it is handcrafted by some of most skilled artisans in the region.
While we take pride in high-quality finishing and attention to detail, we also want to share the spirit behind each piece which is something that is beautiful and at the same time ethically sustaining to the rural communities which make them.”
LM: Tell us about how you became a handbag and accessories designer?
FMS: I set up Frankitas 5 years ago. I knew I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world as it didn’t fit with my role as a mother of three children. I needed the flexibility, and at the same time, I also wanted to pursue one of my dreams of designing handbags from all the traditional textile I had collected over the years.
So, I began the journey with my aunt Titin, who makes all our signature Titin clutches. We started with one design back then selling them in artisan markets and weekend fairs, and we would sell out completely. Five years later, we now have about 20 designs under our Frankitas label.
LM: Where did you love of fabrics and textiles come from?
FTS: I grew up in a village in West Java, Indonesia around batik and ikat fabrics, so I naturally gravitated towards these fabrics for the tradition it holds and what it represents in our culture and community. We wore batik all the time, both men and women. It was a staple in our closets. So really, it came naturally since childhood.