Muse
Method in Mat-ness
Jennifer Choo 
The colourful mats are functional and fun
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With today’s emphasis on health and wellness, yoga, pilates, cross fit and spinning have become very much a part of our everyday lives. And with the pursuit of an active lifestyle comes the demand for the necessary gear.

Sports brands like Lululemon and Under Armour are flourishing, and even fast-fashion juggernauts Uniqlo and H&M have hugely popular workout wear ranges.

But what about yoga mats? Surely a personal yoga mat is essential to regular practice. And while standard yoga mats are available quite readily in Malaysia, Talha Khan and Pika Alyani soon realised that eco-friendly printed ones weren’t. This epiphany gave birth to Karya Mats and these cool design-centric mats have been steadily gaining a loyal following.

Neither Talha nor Pika profess to be yoga experts but they do yoga regularly enough to know that there was a demand for good-looking eco-friendly mats. “We’ve always been interested in creative entrepreneurship so we wanted to bring something different to the homegrown brand landscape that would also promote a positive, mindful lifestyle,” says Talha. “Even though eco-friendly printed mats are nothing new, they were not readily available here. So as with most things, we thought, why not?”

Prior to starting Karya Mats, Talha, a Digital Media graduate, worked at a broadcasting supply company while Pika was (and still is) a freelance creative, focusing on design and photography.

They decided on Karya, the Malay word referring to a literary or artistic work or craft, as it describes the kind of mats they wanted to produce. Mats are designed in-house with Pika leading the product and print design while Talha heads the R&D.

Their mats are solid, sustainable and stylish products that function like a 2-in-1 yoga towel and mat. Made of natural rubber base with non-slip microfibre suede surface, the more you sweat, the better the surface grip.

The 2017 collection comprises three ranges – Bintik-bintik featuring graphic dots, Kata-kata with inspiring quotes, and Seri Bumi, which is adorned with earthly geo-organic patterns accented with soothing millennial pink and baby blue. Each one is printed with water-based inks free from plastic, silicone, toxic glue and phthalates.

The mats are manufactured in China where Karya Mats has an agent who visits and verifies the production at the factory and does routine quality checks during the printing stage and again before the stock is shipped to Malaysia.

 

The co-founders of Karya Mat, Pika and Talha (right) and are yoga devotees who just wanted mats that are also gentle on the environment

Thus far, the response has been amazing. Karya Mats are sold online and available in-store at Snackfood, Bangsar and Black & White Fitness Studio, KL Gateway. Talha and Pika also actively promote the mats at bazaars and events around town.
 

 

“Most of our customers are from Malaysia with a small portion from neighbouring countries, particularly Singapore and Thailand. We have also sold our mats to Taiwan, the UK and the US,” shares Talha.

Karya Mats is already planning to expand its product line soon to include variations of the current range, along with mat carrier bags and other lifestyle items. The brand intends to release a new design series and product collections biannually.

Rather than develop a strict Karya Mats aesthetic, Talha prefers to be flexible. “We want to stay open to different styles and use that design outlet to collaborate and build upon our eco-stylish values. We do put an emphasis on producing bright, joyful prints inspired by nature as well as local arts, crafts, and culture. Our fun eco-stylish ethos and versatility in design sets us apart and a big part of what we do is to keep the inspiration flowing so the list of what inspires us is endless. Right now, we’re very much into animals of the region and hand-painted fabric design, especially batik.”

As this homegrown start-up finds its footing, Talha is justly optimistic. “Moving forward we hope to explore the local scene further, especially in terms of collaborating with other brands and causes. At the same time, we plan to expand our brand range and presence to reach a more global market in the next few years. Ultimately, we hope that our customers are happy with our products and that we continue to build a community around the shared values of enjoying life in ways that are fun, proactive, and kind to the earth,” he enthuses.

“The wave of thoughtfully designed earth-friendly products especially in Malaysia is something we’ve always been excited about and proud to be a part of. It’s a natural move in the right direction as both brands and consumers become better informed of their impact on the environment. We also believe that adding an aesthetic value is akin to putting the fun in functional. After all, good design is both.”



This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 258.