The Kebaya Heritage Design Competition (KHDC) showcases the historical journey of kebaya from its early developments in the 1910s
Kebaya is an esteemed cultural attire that embodies the rich heritage of Southeast Asia. The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC), on behalf of Malaysia, spearheads a global initiative to nominate Kebaya: Knowledge, Skills, Traditions, and Practices for inclusion in UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity for the upcoming year.
This collaborative endeavour unites Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand in a joint submission, recognising kebaya as a representation and celebration of their shared history, promoting cross-cultural understanding.
On July 7, 2023, Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan, MOTAC Deputy Minister, officiated the launch of the Kebaya Heritage Design Competition (KHDC), hosted by the International Conference and Exhibition on World Cultures 2023 (ICWC ‘23). This initiative aims to showcase the various styles of kebaya from different countries while promoting cultural tourism and preserving the traditional outfit for generations.
The competition highlights the history of kebaya from its early development and political influence from the 1910s up until today. With the commencement of KHDC, the organisers are looking to make kebaya perceived as an armour of resilience with its various designs and textures – paving the way for it to be worn in modern-day fashion and opening the doors for the fashion industry in all the participating countries.
SHOWCASING DIVERSE KEBAYA DESIGNS
Kebaya is a timeless art form that has been passed down through generations. It is more than just clothing; it holds deep respect and reverence, especially during important ceremonies and joyous celebrations.
In addition to emphasising the importance of kebaya, the competition aims to celebrate its diverse array of designs. From the vibrant colours and motifs in Indonesian kebaya to the refined and understated elegance of Malaysian kebaya, the competition serves as a platform to showcase the remarkable diversity within this traditional attire.
ICWC has made it its responsibility to preserve the tradition of wearing kebaya amongst the participating countries in a fun and attractive way. To make the competition more exhilarating, the organisers will bring in celebrities who popularised the kebaya in the 1960s – 1990s to judge and ultimately influence the decision of the winners.
This competition provides a safe space for local and foreign contestants to explore their creative boundaries within their cultures, history, and backgrounds. Having the participation of 500 designers from across Southeast Asia will significantly impact obtaining global awareness of the Kebaya heritage and maximise the chances of it being featured in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.
LONG-LASTING POSITIVE EFFECT ON SOCIETY AND ECONOMY
Firdaus said: “Being the host country of KHDC, I am honoured to have us all under one roof united to achieve the goal of recognising the significance of our culture and protecting it. I appreciate everyone coming together to participate in the KHDC as it casts a wider net for the Malaysian market on tourism, arts, and culture. The Malaysian government looks forward to doing all within our capabilities to take the lead in making the kebaya our cultural asset in UNESCO.”
The KHDC is set to make a lasting impact on society while bringing positive economic benefits. By featuring creative Kebaya designs from each country, the competition allows fashion designers to incorporate Kebayas into modern fashion trends, promoting cultural awareness and economic growth.
It is a platform for talented designers to showcase their craftsmanship and tell stories through unique designs. Moreover, the competition goes beyond the fashion industry, positively influencing the tourism market. It strengthens collaborative efforts and bilateral relationships among neighbouring countries, increases cultural awareness, creates potential business opportunities, and fosters networks across different regions.
Contestants of KHDC must register from June 15 and submit their design sketches by July 30. The Top 50 finalists will showcase their Kebaya designs at the ICWC ‘23 in early September, presenting their details and cultural significance. Judges, participants, and attendees will evaluate and provide feedback to determine the winners.
The final round will be held during the ICWC Gala Dinner on Sept 9, featuring a Fashion Show and Award Presentation where the top three winners will be announced.