We spent a morning with traveling Architect, Safuraa Razak or fondly known as Aaput on Instagram as she shares with us her love and passion for her beautiful hand-made baskets and how she founded Mowgli Store back in 2015.
MK: Tell us about yourself and the journey of your career? I am an Architect at a firm based in Petaling Jaya, as well as the founder of Mowgli Store, a lifestyle brand currently focused on wicker accessories and home decor. I get most of my inspiration from traveling, which photos I share on social media under the name “Aaput” about the adventures and cultural experiences I encounter throughout my journeys.
Being in my profession made me sensitive about materials and workmanship, which reflected whilst I was visiting different places around the world, when I developed my passion towards local hand made goods as well as the narrative behind each artwork. I was constantly searching for something new to add to my personal accessories and home decor collection, spending hours in local markets learning about the people and their crafts.
I wanted to share this love with my customers. So they get to appreciate the products they buy from its aesthetics, to the material, down to the actual artisans behind these products. Thats when Mowgli Store was formed.
MK: Tell us about a day in the life of Aaput/ Safura? On regular days, I would wake up, do my 7-minute workout, have my list of things to do in my head sorted, reply my phone messages, get dressed and then have my “teh tarik” whilst having a chat my family.
Afterwards, I get to my office to put my Architect hat on. My colleagues and I would discuss on the updates of our ongoing projects, before I head to my workstation, turn on my music and reply my work emails. Thats where I work on my design and drawings, often based on a “mood board” I assembled beforehand. In between I would often ask my colleagues for their technical opinions just to see a different perspective of things. I always grab my lunch at the bakery behind my office, which is a good 2 minutes walk, enough time to unwind. Some days I’m in late/out early for meetings.
In the evening I get home, watch the latest episode of my favourite tv show, whilst doing Mowgli Store tasks on my laptop or phone until its dinner time. After dinner, my father would accompany me to my Studio, which happens to be behind our 24-hours Coin Laundromat, and he would practice his daily check ups, while I sort my task for the day for Mowgli Store. If I’m home early enough, I would hang out at my home office, edit photos / weave / surf the internet / continue doing a bit of office work, before going to bed.
MK: Describe your fashion aesthetic? I don’t have a specific style. But If I have to describe my fashion sense I would say its modern meets quirky bohemian. I often mix my basics with a pop of texture, colour or print. Honestly, I just wear what I feel. At times I can get super saturated in print and colours, sometimes, I mute my clothing to greyscale. The consistent part is that my outfit always remain comfortable and if I have a favourite basic, I would always try to add it in the equation one way or another!
MK: Most Mowgli’s signature materials include woven straw and rafia which comes in variety of style and baskets. Why do you choose to work with these materials? and do you have plans to explore and incorporate new materials into your line? I chose these materials because they have a life of their own, they are natural so it’s never repetitive, hence none of the baskets we have are the same. They all vary in shape, colour and size. Giving every one of them character and soul which one can never imitate. I love how the wicker season, and softens overtime. I think its wonderful to know that my customers appreciate the imperfections on each basket just as how I do.
Yes I have plans to improvise my current products by adding a touch of leather, fabric or even wood. Over these few months I’ve collected loads of feedbacks and suggestions by my customers. I use the products for myself, so I get to appreciate my own product as a consumer too. It’s great to be able to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of these materials periodically, so I am able to use each material to its full potential as well as incorporate other materials so they would compliment each other.
MK: What do you do when you’re not working? I travel as much as I can, often to a new place, as usual to look at buildings, learn history, new cultures, visit local markets, pick up some new words from different languages, meeting new people, trying new food, and of course taking photos! I love sharing my experience with my IG followers and at times they give me wonderful suggestions too. If there’s no time to fly somewhere, road trips work too!
I have been extra busy lately, but when I can, I try to play futsal once a week, longboarding at a carpark on Wednesdays, wake up early for car free mornings on alternate Sundays, going for a walk with my family on weekends before having banana leaf for breakfast, spending time with my family and boyfriend, trying out new food joints, playing music, singing and dancing. At times when I stumble upon someone I find inspirational that I can relate to, usually strangers, I ask them out for a drink so we can share our passion and ideas!
MK: Any clues as to what is in store for upcoming pieces as far as the inspirations and materials go? Having initially focused on home decor, we are now exploring the different uses of our baskets and moving towards accessories. So more of the miniature, improvised version of the Baloo Bakul, as well as some other totes to come. We are also looking to collaborate with local makers! It’s going to be exciting.
MK: You work with artisans in South East Asia, a part of the globe that is strongly tied to pieces you curate. Would you work with Artisans from different parts of the world? If so, where? Yes most definitely! Although for now we are focused on one country, we consider it just a stepping stone before we move on to work with other artisans from our neighbours such as Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines or even closer to home, both East and West Malaysia. These countries differ in materials and/or techniques so it would be interesting to diversify our products with that variation. Also, I would have a better excuse to travel more 😉
MK: On a life well-lived… what is you personal mantra or motto do you live by?
To embrace imperfections, always get out of your comfort zone and do things with passion <3
Photography by: Syazwan Asyraf @syzwnasyrf