As I approached HiHo Batik, a quaint boutique featuring handmade batik clothing at 6909 Biscayne Blvd., I was tired and frustrated from battling my way through rush-hour traffic on I-95 and circling the not-so-nice neighborhood just outside of Little Haiti three times to find the store and then parking. Upon entering, however, I was overtaken by the bright colors and vibrant paintings created by the owner’s mother and aunt, which add to the cheerful, yet intimate, atmosphere of the store. A Dave Matthews Band song was playing on the stereo and immediately I sensed an appropriate connection between the batik style of clothing and the Dave Matthews/new-age hippie attitude. Batik could be the next big Indian-inspired trend, following in the footsteps of yoga, Kabbalah and henna tattoos.
I was greeted with a smile by Julia Silver, owner of HiHo Batik and expert in the centuries-old art form of batik-ing. Batik, an Indonesian technique of using wax and dyes to create intricate and highly interesting designs on clothing that never wash out or fade away, caught Silver’s interest while studying abroad in Kenya. She decided she could batik herself, but wanted to “funk it up” a bit.
Silver got her start by working with bands, such as Wide Spread Panic and Carlos Santana, to create shirts for their tours. After wholesaling to stores in the Grove, Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago, Silver acquired her current space about a year ago. The store is small, with only one fitting room and much of the space being used to hand-make the products sold in the store, which include everything from tank tops and sweatpants, to handbags and boy-cut underwear. The store also offers classes in batik-ing, and reservations can be made for private lessons and parties. Because everything is handmade right there, merchandise can be customized with any design the patron chooses. (Common designs include Zodiac symbols, surf gear, and nature.) But that also means that the store is relatively pricey, ranging from $30 – $38 for a tank top or t-shirt, $30 – $45 for a skirt, $40 – $45 for sweatpants, and $15 – $25 for undergarments or a bathing suit.
After wandering the boutique, which has been featured in magazines such as Lucky, Teen Vogue, and Ocean Drive, I decided to try something on. The top was comfortable and flattering, but what appealed most to me was the idea that since the product was made and purchased at a store that’s not Abercrombie and Fitch or Bebe, there wouldn’t be ten other girls wearing it around campus tomorrow.
Bottom line: if you want something hip and different, and don’t mind forking over the cash that you’d probably just spend at Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom’s otherwise, make the trip over to HiHo Batik. Your inner Zen will thank you.
Danielle McNally can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.