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Have you ever walked into a store and found something you really liked, only to walk away disappointed after checking the price tag?

That’s how Umai felt a few months ago. She had just tried on a cute cat scarf before having to leave the KL luxury store with a heavy heart. Even then, though, it never left her mind, and she was quite hung up on it for several days.

Until September 7, 2023, when her husband threw her a curveball—”Why don’t you design your own cat scarf at an affordable price? What’s stopping you?” Amir Subril prompted.

Umai and Amir’s cat, Muk / Image Credit: The Hartan

That’s what triggered Umai to start The Hartan, her own scarf brand with a feline theme.

It’s quite a leap for the 29-year-old as she wasn’t keen on leaving her comfort zone. Launching a business means taking risks. And at the time, the couple had already left their corporate careers to run the family business of homestays and chalets in Bagan Datuk, Perak.

But Amir viewed it as an opportunity to try something new. “Whether you succeed or fail, at least you tried. It’s part of life’s journey,” he reminded her.

Umai and Amir, the co-founders of The Hartan / Image Credit: The Hartan

Thus, giving her the push she needed to undertake this venture with him.

A “club” for crazy cat ladies

As a self proclaimed crazy cat lady, Umai obviously has a furry companion of her own. Called Muk, the British Shorthair is one half of the inspiration behind The Hartan.

The other half is the couple’s young daughter, Natrah, who has an adorable relationship with Muk. Reflecting on this, Umai envisioned a charming fusion of Natrah wearing a scarf and black sunglasses, playing with Muk. 

Thus, birthing the concept for The Hartan.

Umai and Amir’s daughter, Natrah, with Muk the cat / Image Credit: The Hartan

A quick browse through The Hartan’s website and you’ll find that they’ve only launched three designs so far: The Clowder of Catso, Muk Thru The Glass, and its latest one for Raya called Kitty Di Aidilfitri.

This is an intentional move by the brand to slowly introduce its products in the saturated Muslimah hijab market. 

Sharing with us, Umai explained that they’re planning to launch a new product every month to keep the ball rolling. To date, they already have a few lined up for half of the year.

Each design takes up to five days to complete and is the work of Umai’s best friend, who she affectionately calls “a crazy cat lady” like her. As such, the couple doesn’t have to elaborate on many details for her to help bring their design visions to life.

Image Credit: The Hartan

Looking good, “feline” good

All of The Hartan’s patterns (RM89) come in various colours and two shapes to choose from, a rectangular shawl and a square scarf. The release of different sizes allows the brand to capture a larger Muslimah market.

For context, hijabis have different preferences when it comes to styling their hijabs. The traditional style uses a square scarf (also called “tudung bawal” in Malay), while the rectangular shawl looks more modern.

But The Hartan isn’t just for people wearing headscarves, it’s for anyone who loves cats. 

Image Credit: The Hartan

Non-hijabis can use the scarfs as a twilly to drape around your neck or to add some flair to your handbags. Another alternative is to wear them as makeshift tube tops, the kind you see Gen Z fashionistas do these days.

And you’d be right to think that they’re hoping to garner a loyal customer base of young adults.

However, quirkiness has no age limit. A good portion of their sales comes from women in their 40s who don’t necessarily think of themselves as cat lovers. 

Image Credit: The Hartan

As a small business, the brand focuses on producing low volumes of scarfs. This allows them to analyse and determine which designs people like without a large capital expenditure.

Having the right cat-titude

The Hartan is one of the few (if not only) hijab brands in Malaysia pioneering cat-themed scarves. This is in and of itself an achievement since they’re carving out a new niche that aligns with their own passions.

That said, you can’t be too careful as designs can be easily stolen. We’ve seen it happen quite a few times where big labels copy the works of smaller-scaled entrepreneurs. Not dropping any names, but the stories are just a Google away.

Image Credit: The Hartan

So getting intellectual property (IP) rights for The Hartan’s designs is undoubtedly in Umai and Amir’s agendas.

Should they face such an issue in the future, though, the couple are prepared to deal with it sensibly. “We would see it as a marketing opportunity for us to grow and grab as much attention as possible so that people would know [the brand],” Umai shared.

“The Hartan is not just about designs. We’re more than that. The Hartan is a journey, our journey. No matter what happens, we’ll continue to survive by doing our very best.” 

Currently, the brand’s products are only available on their website, and they have no plans of setting up a physical store yet. Instead, the focus will be on online marketing.

Muk, one half of the inspiration behind The Hartan / Image Credit: The Hartan

They’re also planning to sponsor a few local animal shelters to share their earnings with the furry friends in need. After all, The Hartan is all about cats and the couple’s hope is that stray felines will get the love and care they deserve.

  • Learn more about The Hartan here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: The Hartan

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)