Why We Care About Southeast Asian Artisanship

Why We Care About Southeast Asian Artisanship

Will You Join This New Adventure? Welcome to Dia Reading Why We Care About Southeast Asian Artisanship 3 minutes Next Why We Launched Dia in a Pandemic

by Aisha Hassan on November 4th, 2020

It’s exciting to discover something new, especially if it involves the chance to buy handmade items or learn about people creating incredible things. But as conscious consumers, we know you might hesitate to support such a new small business. That’s why we want to open up about ourselves—the co-founders—and why we think Dia can earn your trust.  

Kylie, Alia, and I were born in sunny Malaysia and have spent most of our lives here. Alia and I have been best friends for over 20 years, while Kylie and I met in 2015 while both of us were working for the government. We’ve had the privilege to live abroad in places like New York, Zimbabwe, and London, and worked across different industries from journalism to big data. We also feel lucky to have mixed ethnic heritages: I’m Chinese and Malay, Alia is Malay and Thai, and Kylie is Chinese and Sri Lankan. Malaysia is our shared home. 

Time and again, particularly in the global West, we would get compliments on products we owned. Time and again, we would proudly name the Southeast Asian boutique brand we believed should be better-known. Dia is the result of us pursuing that belief. While we’ve seen versions of artisanship like batik printing or rattan weaving surface in the mainstream, there’s often a lack of context or credit around its origins. Sometimes the craft is simply white-labeled, or even just imitated, and then sold.

Dia’s ethos is to give context and credit. We want everyone in the world to experience what Southeast Asia has to offer but from authentic boutique brands who employ artisans fairly. Dia is based on cultural appreciation and lets you do that.

While our professional expertise helped start this business idea, Dia is largely a personal endeavour. We’re cultivating close relationships with every brand and artisan we feature, some of whom we’ve been shopping from for years. Nothing goes on this platform unless we believe in it or we would buy it ourselves. For my co-founders and I, there’s also personal accountability because Dia is deeply tied to our identities as Southeast Asian women. That’s something we’re proud of and part of what makes Dia genuine.

Ultimately, we want Dia to add value to your life and feel like yours too, no matter where in the world you’re from. Follow us or write to us to help co-create this space and make it the best it can be. 



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.