For the Love of ‘Kebaya’

Nadine Chandrawinata appears on stage in Raden Sirait’s design.: JP/P.J. Leo
Nadine Chandrawinata appears on stage in Raden Sirait’s design.: JP/P.J. Leo

A deep admiration for the much-loved traditional Indonesian kebaya has led Raden Sirait to produce one of the most spectacular fashion shows of the year.

The World: Journey of Love — a two-and-a-half hour fashion show presented as a theatrical performance — celebrated Raden Sirait’s 15-year career in fashion.

The extravaganza showcased 155 kebaya, including 70 new creations, presented by more than 150 models, including the designer’s five icons -- Ardina Rasti, Asty Ananta, Imelda Fransisca, Maudy Koesnadi and Nadine Chandrawinata.

“I chose them as icons because I share common understandings, visions, goals and ideas with each of them,” said the friendly designer, who has focused more on kebaya over the past five years.

Born in the tiny North Sumatra town of Porsea, Raden broke into the fashion world unable to sketch or sew — having only a strong will and a remarkable imagination.

Raden displayed his true love for kebaya not only through his creations but also by producing the right mix of atmosphere and emotion for the show.

More than 30 artists from various backgrounds recounted Raden’s “Journey of Love” in the show’s 15 colossal sequences, complete with dramatic lighting and breathtaking live music directed by Vicky Sianipar.

“This is not an ordinary fashion show. This is where fashion and entertainment, acting, dancing and singing as well as heartfelt narration come together to create a one-of-a-kind magical experience,”
said Raden.

“My mission is to introduce kebaya as a popular item on the world stage, worn by people outside of Indonesia, from world leaders to famous actresses in Hollywood.”

Africa-inspired kebaya is one of over 150 kebaya presented in The World: Journey of Love fashion show. JP/P.J. Leo

The fashion show was one way Raden was working to achieve his goal.

“I hope this show can steal attention of a wider audience and even echo throughout the world.”

In his creations, Raden shows off his expertise in kebaya design through rich combinations of Indonesian traditional fabrics, from batik, songket to tenun.

He introduced cutting-edge kebaya with asymmetrical cuts and ultraglamorous intricate friezes, producing a distinct contemporary look that makes his collections different from other kebaya designs.

The show was opened by Imelda Fransisca and narrated by Maudy Koesnaedi, who told of the designer’s life journey throughout the show.

The first sequence highlighted the beauty and elegance of angels, who descended from heaven wearing colorful kebaya.

Dea Mirela, who sang Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel”, escorted Nadine Chandrawinata, who flew down gracefully on to the stage, and the other five models, including Ardina Rasti, in rainbow-colored kebayas. Raden said the colors — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet — were the colors of God.

Several former winners of Puteri Indonesia, Miss Indonesia and None Jakarta pageants, including Artika Sari Devi and Imelda Fransisca, then showcased a sequence of kebaya that they previously wore in national and international beauty pageants.

A splendid musical collaboration between renowned harpist Maya Hasan and violinist Maylaffayza accompanied the collection, which was mostly comprised of huge capes and oversized balloon-sleeved robes adorned with striking brocade applications and gemstones.

In the third sequence, Raden transformed the figure-hugging kebaya into a modern outfit worn with cinched belt, leggings and boots in black-and-white combinations. Here, Asty Ananta appeared in a sexy white corset kebaya and black mini-shorts while performing Broadway-style songs backed by a group of dancers.

Balinese singer Ayu Laksmi opened the fourth sequence with a magnificent performance of her song, “Maha Asa” (Great Hope), complete with kecak dancers and a flying Hanuman character from the Ramayana.

Raden also displayed his all-white kebaya collection in an attempt to restore the sanctity, profound meaning and hypnotic charisma of the kebaya.

A young singer, Putri Ayu closed the sequence by singing “Sempurna” (Perfect) while top model Dominique Agisca, clad in an impressive white kebaya embellished with sparkling Swarovski crystals and a huge lotus shape stand-up collar came on stage holding a crystal-studded hand mirror.

The surprised continued when three celebrity couples — Iwa K and Selvi KDI; Irfan Hakin and Della; as well as Melly Zamri and Aldi — along with their children appeared in their original wedding clothes, which were exclusively made by Raden, in the fifth sequence.

Then, Raden proudly presented his latest bridal collection as the sixth sequence, which began with Ardina Rasti dressed in grey-colored kebaya with an elegantly curved stand-up collar and unique batik-and-ruffles hem tails walking hand-in-hand with her real-life boyfriend while serenaded by the sound of Andien’s jazzy vocals.

For the seventh sequence, Raden portrayed his philosophy that life was filled with both laughter and tears.

Through a series of black kebaya embellished with white brocade and sparkling Swarovski crystals as well as silver accessories and hairpieces from Laos, he tried to illustrate that in every sad moment, there was always happiness shines from within.

The show may also be called a celebration of friendship. For the eighth sequence, 18 of Raden’s closest friends walked on stage to showcase his latest kebaya designs.

In the collection, Raden strongly reflected his love of Indonesia’s diverse culture by cleverly experimenting with various traditional fabrics and motifs, taking inspirations from Papua, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Flores, Bali, Java, Betawi, Sunda and Padang. The result was wonderfully bold kebaya collection that was fresh and pleasing to the eyes.

As a Batak from Sumatra, Raden paid tribute to his heritage in the 10th sequence, translating signature look of each Batak ethnic group into four kebaya collections.

He also shared his dream to enter international fashion scene in the 11th sequence, where he displayed kebaya-inspired evening gowns in silk and satin.

Raden also brought in four drag queens from Bali to the stage — all clad in his seductive bright-colored torso kebaya — before moving on to the next sequence where he applied attractive kebaya silhouettes to various designs based on other countries’ national costumes, such as the kimono, transforming them into stunning haute couture designs.

Nadine Chandrawinata gracefully walked on to the stage in a fabulous wave-shaped kebaya gown representing five nature elements — water, earth, wind, fire and wood — translating Raden’s endless gratitude to the earth and the universe. Raden dedicated this exquisite masterpiece to the World Wildlife Fund.

Raden closed the fashion show with a bang with one last surprise — coming on stage wearing a mask, on a boat with his five icons while belting out “Sing Sing So”.

At the show, Raden also launched his autobiography, Journey of Love, a story based on his life and career as well as his search for the meaning of love and his passion to bring kebaya to the world stage.

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