In a newly published article for CNA Lifestyle, Aun Koh speaks to the founder of Martha Who’s trendy and modern batik collections, Norwegian Mette Hartman who has been living in Singapore for the past 13 years.
Mette Hartman and her family moved to Singapore for a job and initially she was engaged in the Scandinavia and expat community in the island-city state. Since she has become a permanent resident of Singapore but with a passion for travel, she tends to combine business trips to meet friends and family overseas.
Mette Hartman explains to CNA Lifestyle that she loves the art, heritage, and culture behind Batik art and that the original idea came from wanting to develop a sustainable brand “that preserves this amazing but endangered artform of hand-painted batik.”
Martha Who was built on a desire to promote batik art globally and the brand was initially launched on a small scale with a small collection of batik silk scarves sold at multi-brand stores in Norway and Sweden with the help of a friend who was the founder of a fashion Agency.
Mette Hartman further explains, “After a couple of years, I launched a capsule of robes, kaftans, and scarves at Tangs Orchard. In Singapore, the oversized shawls are often used as beach sarongs and the smaller scarves as hijabs. This was so interesting to me. I never imagined that these scarves would be so versatile.”
The fabrics used in Mette Hartman’s collections are all handmade in small workshops before being flown to Singapore where the pieces are cut, embellished, and sewn by hand in her studio. When asked about facing challenges being a Scandinavian working within Southeast Asia, Mette Hartman explains that there are both language and cultural barriers and that miscommunication happens. She says however that her master batikers speak English and that, “fortunately, I have spent a lot of time in Indonesia and we have worked together over many years. I have changed my way of communication so that we work more effectively together, rather than simply trying to impose English. Understanding their cultures has made it easier for me to do business in Southeast Asia.”
Read the full interview with Mette Hartman by CNA Lifestyle with more about her everyday life in Singapore, the highlight of her Martha Who journey, her creative process, and her hero product here.
Martha Who products can be found at Design Orchard, SocietyA, Takashimaya, and Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore and when Covid-19 restrictions are eased in the island-city state. Monument Lifestyle Duxton and Tiong Bharu will also be showcasing Martha Who products.