Rice fields and cobbled roads welcome visitors when they enter Senepo Rejo village, about 30 kilometers south of the Banyuwangi town square in East Java. Dangdut music can be heard in the background, entertaining young workers who are busy dyeing sheets of white fabric.
This is the regular scene at Batik Satrio cottage industry, which is owned by 37-year-old Nanang. “I started the beach sarong business 12 years ago. I was inspired when I traveled to Bali and decided that I could open up a business in my hometown,” he said.
Nanang started the sarong business in 2005, after five years of struggling to run a bed linen business. When he started making beach sarongs, he could only produce 50 pieces per month. Today, he and his workers produce 13,000 beach sarongs a month.
Nanang has since been able to employ students, dropouts and jobless villagers in Senepo Rejo. He uses rayon and cotton fabric for the sarongs. He first creates the designs – they mostly depict flowers, butterflies and peacocks – and his workers stamp the pattern onto the fabrics.
“I design the pattern myself, because I have always loved drawing since I was a child,” Nanang said. The dyeing process takes several steps before the fabric is dried for 20 to 30 minutes. Then the sarongs are washed in hot and then cold water before they are dried again, and then they are ready for packaging.
Before, Nanang sold his sarongs only to domestic markets, mostly to Bali and Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara. Since 2013, however, his sarongs have been exported to Thailand and even France.
Each sarong is priced between Rp 40,000 (US$3) and Rp 60,000. Every time tourists buy a beach sarong in Bali, to them it might be a mere souvenir of their holidays, but they are actually helping to support the livelihood of Banyuwangi villagers.