Nor Aini Shariff is an experienced figure in the fashion world, being actively participating in the glamorous yet rough terrain of the industry. She started her creative venture in 1992. When she was placed 2nd runner up in Jelita Magazine's first-ever fashion competition in 1994, Benang Emas, she knew she was on track with her calling. In her maiden attempt to incorporate batik elements in her designs, her work earned acknowledgement. This led to Traditional-Contemporary being chosen concept in most of her work. She believes that by infusing the traditional with the contemporary, something classical from the past is encapsulated and reintroduced in fresh and exciting ways. Hence, tradition is celebrated through her elegant designs.

Apart from having the Midas touch of elegance in made-to-order and customized services, Nor Aini also promotes her ready-to-wear collections that ranges from casual-smart to exclusive evening ensembles.

Look, touch and feel for yourself the flowing fabrics that drape feminine figures. Feast your eyes on her intricate beadwork and batik designs, presented in myriad colours. JARUMAS in indeed elegance at its best.
1 Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

My interest in dress making can be traced back to when I was about nine years old. My mother's creative ability in sewing beautiful clothes which she acquired at the military wives club had aroused my curiosity to explore and experiment making one for my own. Until today, both my mum and I can still vividly recollect when I cut her piece of white bed sheet and turn it into a frock with gathers at the sleeves and hip, and proudly wore it to show my friends at the camp playground.

Later at the age of 16, I sewed my first tiered chiffon frock in boarding school using a sewing machine I borrowed from the hostel warden. And that was the moment I started aspiring to further my studies in Fashion Design. Initially I aimed to enrol in Bunka College of Fashion in Japan but instead found myself in ITM, where I graduated in 1976.

2 Can you share with us the story behind your brand name JARUMAS?

JARUMAS simply means "Golden needle". The name was chosen for the reason that it represents an element of great value and high quality associated with gold. To me, gold represents prestige and is highly desired among people of descerning taste.

3 Why did you choose batik as your niche and how beneficial is it to have a niche in this industry?

In 1994, I participated in the Benang Emas Fashion Design Competition organized by Jelita Magazine and was awarded 2nd runner up. The collection that I presented incorporated batik elements in the design, which were well received. It was then that I realized my calling that I have flair at interweaving the traditional with the contemporary. I now choose to incorporate batik in my work because it allows me to create distinctive designs and style, right from the textile work to its end result, the garment. Hence, it has its own exclusive appeal.

This way, I am making my own small contribution towards preserving our national heritage, the batik making industry.

4 The look and colours of their creations tend to reflect the designers’ personality. How true is it for you?

While my colour palate changes according to the collection, which ranges from soft pastels to intense, bold colours, I respond to my moods and surroundings. I take inspiration from my customers’ needs and personalities and hence custom design for them accordingly.

5 What are some main influences and inspiration behind your brand and its designs?

Throughout our twenty years in the industry, we strive to stay loyal to our convictions. As a result we managed to secure a number of long-time regular customers and hence able to sustain despite the challenges in the industry. With the help of customers that maintain their loyalty with JARUMAS, I am strongly influenced by their ever-growing fashion sense and style. They continuously provide me with inspiration to grow and discover what this world has to offer.

Also, we have a belief to produce comfortable and quality outfits with understated elegance. Our collections have been a continuous exploration of new ideas stimulated by our surroundings but without straying away from our concept and philosophies.

6 Can you tell us a bit about the first project you remember making/crafting and your most successful project?

The first project i remember working on was a showcase that featured twenty four pieces of batik outfits for a fashion show in conjunction with KL Fashion Week (KLFW) 2003. Within a months’ time, nearly all of the outfits showcased were sold off. This was an unexpected achievement that has shaped my love and passion for the industry.

7 Where do you see yourself in, say 5 years?

God willing, in five years’ time, I see myself retiring from the business world. I dream of playing the role of a mentor and coach to my successors who will continue to carry JARUMAS to a higher level. I also hope to have the opportunity to contribute ideas and as well as assistance, within my capacity that could benefit others, particularly those in the industry.

8 What's your tip for budding designers?

Budding designers should get as much exposure in the fashion industry and try to gain as much knowledge in the field as they can, while they can. To succeed, one must be interested in all facets of the industry, from the design point of view, to the production, as well as marketing. It’s always best to be exposed to various people in the fashion trade to improve credibility.