By Aisha Hassan on November 4th, 2020
Stop and smell the flowers
Fern Chua’s late father named her after a plant because of how much he loved nature — in fact, Fern and all her sisters share the same middle name, which translates to “green”. FERN batik pieces, which are all hand-drawn, are suffused with this same appreciation for the natural world. When Fern creates patterns, she draws on the eye for detail and natural beauty that her father instilled in her.
“He’d ask me to come and look at the flowers blooming, or he’d pick up stones and rocks and point out their fine lines,” Fern says. “I never thought about how much he influenced me… My father passed away right before this brand really blossomed.”
Distinctive by design
Fern picked up batik after a car accident left one of her hands temporarily paralyzed, and the craft was a means of rehabilitating movement in her fingers. Today, Fern, along with a team of five other artisans, draws the pattern on every FERN product by hand. She is deeply involved in the entire design process from start to finish.
Fern often finds inspiration when on vacation, and each product captures a snapshot of a particular scene. For instance, the “Abstract Sahara” and “Sand Lines” print on the FERN Souk dress and silk scarves were prompted by a trip to Morocco. “When the wind blows and creates patterns on the desert sand it’s amazing,” Fern says.
However, Fern isn’t focused on replicating the natural world, but finding a way to translate its form and textures into batik. And since FERN products are handmade by artisans, every item is unique. “The character of batik is very similar to nature,” Fern says. “Things may look the same — like different pieces of marble — but you can never get exactly the same piece.”
Versatility is timeless
This meticulous artisanship is just one of the reasons why FERN is a designer brand with investment pieces. There are also very few fashion brands that try to fuse modern design with traditional batik artisanship so mindfully. The brand aims to be zero-waste, for example, and even the smallest scraps of fabric are used to make products like twillies.
Another notable quality of the brand is that its silhouettes and designs take a vast demographic into account, from the modest to the daring, from the young to the old. And the versatility of many of the pieces is what makes FERN’s batik truly timeless. “The possibilities are endless,” Fern says. “And that makes a great gift.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aisha Hassan is a writer, journalist, and co-founder of Dia. Previously, Aisha worked for Quartz in New York and Harper’s Bazaar in Malaysia. Her fiction has been published in international literary magazines. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Language & Literature from the University of Oxford, and a master’s degree from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. .