As the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention. For married couple Adesh Zaini and Shahfiq Manap, making their own concrete planter from scratch after failing to purchase one locally was the catalyst to a thriving business.
Calling their brand BentukBentuk, Adesh and Shahfiq make the home and lifestyle products out of concrete. This is a passion project as they both hold day jobs – Adesh works as an analyst in an oil and gas company while Shahfiq is a customer service representative with a mobile gateway provider.
Design has always been an interest for both, with Adesh even making their wedding dais, not to mention other decorations such as table setting, door gifts and hantaran.
“We started BentukBentuk in April 2016 after months of experimenting and researching various designs,” she says. “I’ve always loved art and crafts, and find Pinterest to be a good source of inspiration.”
“One day I stumbled upon a picture of a succulent plant in a concrete planter; I fell in love with the planter! We went searching for it everywhere but couldn’t find one. So we tried making one and it was worth all the hard work.”
Happy with what they have achieved, they posted pictures of it on Instagram. Their followers started to request for the same planter. “We made it for free at first but at some point, we thought maybe it was time to go commercial,” says Adesh.
A range of beautiful vases made from concrete
Shahfiq came up with the name BentukBentuk, which was perfect since the words mean shapes in Bahasa Malaysia.
Not so simple was coming up with a business model. “There are challenges in every new business and it certainly wasn’t easy in the beginning,” Adesh shares. “For one, using concrete as a material for elegant home décor sounds like an oxymoron. How can concrete be elegant? We only got our first sale five months later after participating in a few bazaars to publicise our brand and products.”
Adesh is the creative director, responsible for new designs and the future direction for BentukBentuk. She and her husband make the pieces themselves, all of them by hand.
“BentukBentuk is edgy yet elegant,” observes Adesh. “We work with a lot of geometric design and finishing, which is quite difficult to achieve with concrete. We also provide more than six different colours such as light marble, pastel pink, pastel blue and green. The marbling effect is created by mixing two different colours, which has been very popular with our customers.”
Concrete is really an unexpected material for elegant home décor. “It has always been referred to as a cold hard material that’s gloomy. We add warmth to it by adding colours and design. As it turns out, concrete is quite a flexible material and there’s always a surprise element when casting concrete, both in a positive and negative way.”
Adesh and Shahfiq love seeing the reaction of their customers when they see the finished products. “We really like the effect they have on people; they always look so surprised!” exclaims Adesh. “Although concrete is the only material we work with, we’re looking into pairing it with wood, steel and resin.”
Besides on its website (www.bentukbentuk.com), BentukBentuk is retailed at Isetan The Japan Store, Ilham Gallery and Naiise. It can occasionally be found at bazaars around town.
New collections are launched twice a year, once in January and another in June; the founders also do a catalogue edit during the holiday season in December. Adesh reveals that there are plans to launch a jewellery line: “We just need to find the time to do it,” she quips.
While husband-and-wife are clearly passionate about their material of choice, they are not too concerned that the concrete look could just be a fad. “The concrete trend can be seen widely in many chic cafés in Malaysia. For us, the longevity doesn’t depend on the material but rather the design using the material. It doesn’t matter what material you use, people will not appreciate something that is not attractive,” observes Adesh.
They hope BentukBentuk can one day be a staple brand for homemade decorations and lifestyle products. “Our ‘idol’ is Royal Selangor, and we do hope one-day BentukBentuk will gain the same recognition for locally made products. Pieces that Malaysians would be proud to gift their foreign friends.”
BentukBentuk has an ambition to be the go-to Malaysian brand for elegant gifts for foreign friends