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Designer Riri Rengganis on ethnic high fashion, reimagining Indonesia

Sondang Sirait
Sondang Sirait

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sat, August 18, 2018 | 01:07 pm
Designer Riri Rengganis on ethnic high fashion, reimagining Indonesia

A piece from Riri Rengganis’ Indische collection (Courtesy of Riri Rengganis/File)

In ateliers and studios throughout the archipelago, a host of talents have been conceptualizing works that have earned Indonesia a place on the larger stage of global fashion. J+ by The Jakarta Post wanted to tell these stories by interviewing some designers and by showcasing their collections, which offer contemporary and modern takes on some traditional Indonesian ideas, motifs and techniques. 

Our previous articles focused on women’s wear designer Monique Soeriaatmadja, master weaver Masulin Lim and couture creator Rusly Tjohnardi. The final subject is fashion designer Riri Rengganis.

Ethnically influenced high fashion takes on new meaning in the hands of Bandung-based designer Riri Rengganis, founder of the modern hand-embroidered kebaya line Indische and her eponymous Rengganis line, which promotes hand-woven local textiles–and which has attracted the attention of high-end retailers such as Alun Alun Indonesia. Trained in product design at the prestigious Bandung Institute of Technology, Riri began her career in Bali and has since steadily made her journey onto the national stage. J+ by The Jakarta Post caught up with Riri on her work, life and hopes for the future.

How did you get into the field?

By accident. I had been sewing most of my own clothes since I was eight, but my true calling since childhood has actually been jewelry design. In 1998, I moved to Bali to do an apprenticeship in Celuk, a village famous for its silver and goldsmith industries. After two months, I ran out of money. Luckily, I got hired by a garment company that specializes in hand embroidery. I quickly fell in love with fashion, specifically ethnic styles. I eventually established my own company that produced ethnic-style uniforms for hotels and restaurants. After eight adventurous years in Bali, I returned to my hometown Bandung to start a new chapter in my life: create my own brand so I can start family life.

A piece from Riri Rengganis’ Indische collection A piece from Riri Rengganis’ Indische collection (Courtesy of Riri Rengganis/File)

Who are your design icons?

Obin, an amazing textile artist who’s able to translate her talents into a retail brand. Deden Siswanto, because his designs are bold and inspiring, and Biyan, whose high- end designs show international taste but use local handcrafted techniques. Issey Miyake, because his designs are so sculptural yet pure.

What inspires you?

Traditional textiles from around the world, beautiful interior design, traveling, food. Yes, my “creative” brain works best after a delicious meal.

Read also: Luxury sneakers: High style and a booming market

What do you take pride in?

Incorporating local textiles into my designs. It feels like I am creating something that has an impact on the industries around me, too. My customers are smart. They always want to know where the fabric comes from and it is a point of pride for them, as well.

What are your career goals?

I think as long as I do what I am doing now– learning new things every day, getting better and better at it – I will be happy. That’s all I am looking for: being happy in doing my work while raising my family.

What’s your opinion about international fashion weeks?

They’re important for designers, but I personally don’t really follow them regularly, because at the moment my market is purely local. I do have a specific opinion though, about these huge money-consuming events. I think in the near future, fashion weeks will not be so glorified. They have become so expensive that many designers cannot afford to go. I think smaller, smarter companies will be able to promote their collections through other formats such as short films, digital fashion weeks, collaborations with renowned talents (such as musicians and chefs) and effective use of social media.

Riri Rengganis Riri Rengganis (Courtesy of Riri Rengganis/File)

Current trends to watch for?

Clashing mixed prints! Polka dots and overcharged florals, tribal prints and typography, a mix of pop-art inspired motifs and much more! Plus, since digital printing technology is becoming more and more accessible, graphic design will play a more significant role this year.

What’s in store for Indonesia?

I think modernized modest fashion is still in high demand, purely because of the growing population of women wearing hijab. Second would be ethnic fashion. The trend now is breaking the barrier between “ethnic” and “modern”. Something can be both.

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This article was originally published in the April 2018 edition of J+ by The Jakarta Post with the headline "Ethnic Touch: Riri Rengganis".

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