Malaysian eco-friendly beeswax food wraps inspired by batik

When governments around the world first imposed lockdowns on their citizens in March 2020 in response to COVID-19, countless people started their own small businesses. It may have been to supplement their income or fill their time.

Iman Preece, a Malaysian interior designer who worked in London, wanted to make the most of the three months she was stuck at home upon returning to Malaysia.

“We always say we don’t have time, and now is my chance!” she got motivated.

With the fabric swatches she saved from her job as an interior designer, Iman thought she could do something with it. “I ordered a heavy-duty sewing machine online and learned to sew from YouTube tutorials, and learned how to recycle all those fabrics into beautiful cushions, and that was the very beginning of Saffron & Serai .”

Use your artistic sensibility

Beeswax food wraps are very popular in western countries. It is also common for people to practice reducing single-use plastics with more sustainable alternatives.

With a capital of RM2,200 in hand and an eye for design, she launched her own brand that emphasized traditional Malaysian culture through contemporary aesthetics.

Material preparation / Image credit: Saffron & Serai

“The scarves I saw were either simple or cute, and because I’m an interior designer, my approach to fabrics is different,” Iman explained. “I play with colors and patterns [to see whether] aesthetically they could be even more appealing and appealing.

Knowing the importance of appearance, she intends her beeswax wrappers to serve as decorative elements for kitchens and homes.

Without compromising functionality

Saffron & Serai wraps, like any other plastic food wrap, can be used to seal and secure food on plates, bowls or even on its own to keep it fresh.

Eco-friendly food packaging in action / Image credit: Saffron & Serai

According to the founder, “On average, they should be able to be used about 100 times. However, the duration varies depending on how often you use them and how you take care of them.

Iman went on to say that wraps should only be washed in cold water and not scrubbed. The better you take care of your wraps, the longer they will last.

“I still have beeswax wrappers that are two years old and still perfectly usable. Once they go bad, they can be easily waxed with our beeswax bars, or they can be placed in your compost and will biodegrade over time,” she explained.

Beeswax bars to restore wraps / Image credit: Saffron & Serai

Saffron & Serai sells a set of four organic food wraps for RM70, while the beeswax bars come in 25g and 50g, costing RM20 and RM40 respectively.

For me, being able to reuse them 100 times seems quite reasonable and practical given the price. Especially when I could make an impact on saving the environment while decorating my dining table with vibrant batik patterns.

Contribute to the social fabric

The entrepreneur started production and operations from her home, and she continues to do so. “All products are handmade and in small batches,” she said. “We pride ourselves on not mass producing, as this defeats the purpose of sustainability. We don’t want to create too much waste and make the problem worse.

In the beginning, Iman designed and sewed everything by hand herself, including her beeswax bags, coconut pouches, batik shopping bags and foldable prayer mats.

When she received more wholesale orders from resellers to sell Saffron & Serai’s products, she realized she needed extra pairs of hands. Iman has worked with immigrant, retired or low-income women to help them increase their monthly income and teach them new skills.

I personally believe that the more you give, the more you receive. Doing this as a small business is already a significant accomplishment that I admire and maybe hope to emulate one day.

Foldable prayer rugs and batik shopping bags / Image credit: Saffron & Serai

“[Once] I have perfected the design and am happy with it, then I create a cardboard pattern to speed up the process and teach a seamstress to sew exactly what I need,” explained the philanthropic entrepreneur. “[One of my seamstresses is] an older lady who has retired, so when she sews for Saffron & Serai she earns extra income.

Iman claimed she never negotiates for a lower price, “I think the price they quote is fair, and I also tend to pay above the average hourly rate for their time.”

Sustainable goals that come from the heart

In a time of climate change, one could say that sustainability has become a necessity in the business world. It plays a vital role in enhancing brand value and ensuring that brands remain relevant to global trends.

But it must come from the heart.

The challenge lies with business owners struggling to understand the issue because they may not be seeing a return on their investment in environmental sustainability. Some may see this as an opportunity to take advantage of the market without actually making any noticeable efforts in terms of sustainable development.

For Iman, she aspires to be recognized as one of Malaysia’s top sustainable brands and to improve the transparency of her business.

Image credit: Safran and Serai

“We try to recycle as much as possible. We use local recycling companies to collect our waste. All our packaging is paper-based [and] we don’t use plastic,” the entrepreneur said.

When production takes place, small remnants of fabric are unavoidable; Iman donates them to other small businesses for free in hopes of giving the pieces of fabric a second life. These could be used by the next person to create batik scrunchies or batik earrings.

The designer clarifies that small strips of leftover fabric are also used to create larger pieces of fabric for gift wrapping. “We use the Japanese Furoshiki technique so that none of our fabrics go to waste and the recipients of these Furoshiki scarves can reuse them again.”

Don’t settle for just one goal

In the long term, Saffron & Serai aspires to achieve B Corp certification. Accreditation verifies that the brand meets strict standards of performance, accountability and transparency across a range of factors, including charitable donations and sustainable practices.

Additionally, the founder said she intends to expand her product line to include new aspects of sustainability to reduce plastic pollution. “But of course that comes with a lot of research and development, finding suppliers and connecting with artisans,” Iman added.

With the growing base of environmentally conscious consumers, brands with the right message have the potential to thrive in the years to come by providing environmentally sustainable solutions that can help reduce carbon footprints and provide a better way of life. .

As consumers, I believe it is also part of our moral obligation to support eco-friendly brands to maximize impact wherever possible, one step at a time.

  • Learn more about Safran & Serai here.
  • Read more articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured image credit: Safran and Serai

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