updated 23 Jan 2011, 22:53
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Sun, Jan 23, 2011
The Star/ANN
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Stylish slings

IF you’re a shopaholic like me, you’d probably understand the rush of a fantastic find. Surfing online for instructions on how to put on a sarong baby sling I’d bought a few years back, I stumbled upon Feasting my eyes on the trendy-looking sarong slings that do not scream “Mummy”, I was impressed to see that it’s a Malaysian website.

A quick note to the owner revealed that the sarong slings are both designed and produced in the country.

“Our fabrics are sourced from various suppliers in Malaysia. We’re also looking into direct imports of fabrics to keep up with the demand. I design and select the colour or print combinations of each sling, and then our seamstresses work their magic on the finished products,” says Syazrina Ismail, a 29-year-old IT graduate.

Babywearing International ( defines babywearing as “holding or carrying a baby or young child using a baby carrier”. It is also a “hands-free” solution for mothers, fathers, helpers and caregivers on the go.

Not one to strap the baby to my body all day long, I can only speak for the situations when I used a sarong sling for travel. Crowded airports, metal detectors, noisy bazaars, tight spaces, bumpy taxi rides with no seatbelts – carrying my baby in a sarong sling has helped me brave new worlds and maintain my sanity because she would either sleep soundly or stare curiously at her surroundings from the safety of mummy’s arms, without breaking mummy’s back.

An avid babywearer, Syazrina noticed that Malaysia still lacked nice, pretty-looking and wearable baby slings. Gorgeous slings would spark an interest in parents to “wear” their babies, instead of pushing them around in the stroller, she thought.

The shrewd entrepreneur also noted situations where strollers are more of a hindrance than a help.

“Strollers have their place, too, but when you have to take public transport on vacation, go to places with lots of stairways and narrow walkways, want to look for bargains at a warehouse sale, or when you’re out and about with your baby alone, folding and unfolding a stroller is not something you’d like to do.

“Another reason I started JumpSacBaby is that some babies just hate to be in the stroller. My son absolutely refused to sit inone. He also suffered from reflux, thus lying down or reclining made him uncomfortable. He just wanted to he held upright.

“The only choice I had was to hold him with my bare hands but that soon resulted in sore arms. Babywearing is definitely kinder on my arms and he also prefers the ‘view at the top’. Thanks to his jumping in the sling, which is also known as a ‘sack’, I got the idea for our name.”

The brand has three types of baby carriers: sarong/ring slings, mei tai carriers and the Orbit, a soft structured carrier.

The ring sling is a piece of cloth attached to two pieces of sturdy non-welded rings, which have undergone weight-bearing tests.

“If this is your first foray into babywearing, and also if your baby is fairly small, I’d recommend the ring sling for its versatility. Babies under six months are perfect for ring slings, which can support weights up to 15kg, or until they are about two-and-a-half years old.”

The ring sling also allows you to breastfeed discreetly by using the tail of the sling to cover your top, Syazrina adds.

Mei tais are Asian-inspired traditional baby carriers with four long straps that allow you to wear your baby comfortably for longer periods of time. But because they have long trailing straps, you will need to find a clean area to tie these up when outdoors.

The Orbit Carrier is similar to the mei tai but fastens with buckles. Those familiar with the Baby Bjorn will recognise the Orbit for its similar structure, except for the fact that it comes in eye-catching prints.

The Orbit has a structured waist that allows for higher back carrying – ideal for avid travellers who need to be on foot for long hours.

“I’m talking two to eight hours straight,” she says. “The baby’s weight is distributed across the shoulder, back and waist. When worn, you’d feel like your baby is almost weightless – especially if worn on your back.”

The great news is that you can walk past airport security with your baby fastened in the carrier, and it wouldn’t trigger the alarm as it has no metal parts.

One would normally not connect an IT graduate with the arty-farty world and Syazrina laughingly admits that this is a common misconception.

“I appreciate anything and everything that is useful and nice to look at. I hope I don’t sound too weird but I collect artistic-looking brochures ‘for future reference’ and beautiful and intricate-looking product packaging.

“I also love artwork in the form of advertisements, creative copywriting, great photography, good use of space within the artwork and thoughtfully designed consumer products.”

As she has no artistic training nor any business background, hers is a case of “one per cent inspiration and 99% perspiration”.

“I first visualise the final product in my head. Then I do some sketching on the computer, where I try out suitable colour or print combinations. The colours or prints are usually selected from available fabric swatches or stocks that I have. I try to source almost everything from within the country as much as possible.”

“Next is the production. Each ring sling is tested for its stitching quality, to ensure that it can withstand the weight limit recommended. The same process goes for the Mei Tai and Orbit.”

Syazrina’s designs are drawn from her surroundings: Botanica Seafoam represents the greenery in Malaysia; Rainbow Flare on Choc is inspired by the rainbow, and Bali, by cheerleading outfits.

She will release another sling with a batik printed accent soon; if there’s demand, she might also offer slings with kain songket accents.

Inspired by the success stories of AirAsia, Google, McDonalds, Starbucks, Oprah, Martha Stewart and, yes, even Donald Trump, Syazrina has always been interested in the way businesses work.

“I am always amazed by how people can build and grow businesses from scratch. Reading about their success stories indirectly inspired me to dream of running a business myself.

“Since I am a babywearer, I love the mechanics behind the construction of a sturdy and ergonomic baby carrier, from analysing the human anatomy to choosing suitable fabrics and hardware. My IT background helps a lot in setting up an online store, connecting with others via social media, online advertising, and online sourcing.”

Naturally, there are problems, due mainly to preferred fabric colours that are no longer available. The scarcity of classy-looking printed fabrics in Malaysia is another challenge.

This clever lady has also developed a line of tote bags called MiniSacs, a spin-off of the ring slings, made of the same fabrics – cotton, pure linen and linen blends.

“I’ve had my fair share of blood, sweat and tears, but the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place quite nicely for me,” Syazrina says.

With JumpSacBaby slings retailing in physical and online stores in Malaysia, Singapore, Spain and the United States, it’s only a matter of time before she has the babies of the world wrapped around her finger. Or snugly sleeping in her sarong slings.

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