Friends who know me well are very much aware that I am a major beach bunny, spending most of my holidays by the sea. Maybe it's my idealistic and emotional Piscean nature that draws me there, a place where I could happily spend my days by the lapping surf, enveloped by sunshine without a care in the world!
What I also love about being by the beach is wearing loose and comfortable clothing aka resort wear! Being a busy mother of 2 and having left the corporate world many years back, gone are the days when I would pour myself into tight pencil skirts and jackets paired with disastrously painful 5 inch heels! Now I eagerly embrace a more relaxed frame and am always on the lookout for clothes that I can wear around town and at the same time, remind me of the beach!
Which leads me to how I first came across Matchali and the person behind the brand, Virginie Dupuis. We met at Le Marche de Noel, a French Xmas Bazaar that is held every year. Matchali among with other vendors had a stall set up and my eyes quickly roved over her fashionable and colourful range of accessories and resort wear; items that I needed for my upcoming beach trip. My dear friend Jennifer Eu (hairdresser extraordinaire) introduced me to Virginie and at once I was immediately smitten by her sunny smile and warm disposition which seemed to match the cheery fun accessories that she was selling at her booth!
Fast forward a month later, Yiga and I get to sit down with Virginie at her lofty studio in Damansara Heights, where upon entering we are instantly calmed by the soothing and tropical surroundings which must certainly inspire her designs!
Virginie, who originally comes from France, tells us that after living in Shanghai for 10 years, she moved to Malaysia with her family in 2014, attracted to the healthier environment and warmer climes. With the flexibility of her husband's work around Asia, they chose the city of Kuala Lumpur as their home.
Having worked previously for luxury French brand Chanel , she wanted to get away from the high-end side of things and do something more constructive where she could give back to the community.
She eventually travelled to Kolkata, India and visited the Balo organisation, a charity that helps to enrich and improve children's and women's lives (who live in the slums) through education and housing. Virginie got to know about Balo through her friend Julie Das who lived in KL for the last 20 years .
Over there, Virginie had chosen to sponsor a child, however she felt that there was more that she could do. After seeing so many children in the slums of Kolkata in dire need of help, she decided to embark on a new business journey in Kuala Lumpur where she would be able to fund more kids at Balo.
Initially, Virginie wanted to dabble in home decor, creating homewares such as tablecloths and bedcovers. With her strong interest and ties to the Balo organisation, India and its culture, it only seemed natural that Virginie would choose to work with goods and textiles from India.
She was especially interested in hand-painted fabrics and had found a fabric designer based in Rajasthan whose hand-blocked textiles she much admired . After playing with the different types of fabrics and colours, she settled on using organic cotton and her initial design was a design of leaves which she subsequently made into a sarong.
We certainly agree that these hand-printed block designs are very pretty and that no one piece is entirely the same!
She then went on to designing kaftans and scarves which have been a real hit. This year, she has gone on to making a brand new collection which features kaftans that are more fitted and have a lower more feminine neckline (as requested by her customers).
We also love the fact that her designs are not just for adults, she has some cute petite designs for little mermaids (as Virginie calls them) for young girls aged 3-12, so they too can look effortlessly chic like their mamas!
Virginie imports all the fabric, pompoms and sequins from India but interestingly all the kaftans and sarongs are tailor made right here in Kuala Lumpur with her seamstress and helper, Carmen and Lili. Virginie describes these 2 ladies as her dream team and tells us Matchali would not be able to operate smoothly without their strong commitment and skills!
Matchali also retails other lifestyle accessories such as woven baskets from Indonesia, necklaces, bags, hats and tie-dyes scarfs, so one can really go and shop there for that complete beach look!
As our meeting draws to a close, we ask Virginie on how she came up with the name, Matchali.
She tells us that it all started when she went to a flower market in Kolkata and so happened to pick up this handmade fish made of cloth. She subsequently asked the seller what fish was in Hindi. The seller replied machli and Virginie misheard her and thought she had said Matchali . She decided she loved the word matchali and hence the name Matchali was born!
We thank you Virginie for having us over at your studio and wish you every success in your work with Matchali and your everlasting support to the Balo organisation. Do keep up the great work and we hope to see more of your chic and colourful designs at the beach!
Stay tuned to our facebook and instagram page for our upcoming contest, where you can win one of Matchali's cute sarongs!
To visit Matchali, you can visit their studio in Damansara Heights by appointment (012-2019676) or DM them on https://www.facebook.com/matchalimalaysia or https://www.instagram.com/matchali_in_kl.
To find out more about the Balo organisation, do visit their website : http://www.balo.it/en
Images by Matchali KL and Batik&Bubbles