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Urban Chat; Indonesia Fashion Week: Serving up a platter

  • Lynda Ibrahim

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Sat, March 19, 2016 | 12:24 pm

Indonesia Fashion Week kicked off its annual event last week in Jakarta. Organized by one of Indonesia'€™s associations for fashion and businessfolk, APPMI, it came on the heels of an internal dispute that saw several senior designers, once at the helm of APPMI, departing to eventually form another association.

There are pending lawsuits on both sides. No wonder industry enthusiasts including yours truly intently watched the event, to see what the changing of the guard might'€™ve brought.

At a glance, it was shorter in days and rather smaller in scope. As for the format, the fifth Indonesia Fashion Week hasn'€™t veered off from its usual course; a platter of fashion business.

I'€™ve written here before that the classic definition of a fashion week, such as the Main Four (New York, London, Milan, Paris) and other major fashion weeks worldwide, is an event to project future trends, hence why the fashion weeks in March are for Fall-Winter seasons and the November ones are for Spring-Summer of the following year. Invitations are extended mainly to media, head buyers of major retailers and, sometimes, a slew of celebrities.

No trading takes place at a fashion week '€” a trade event may be organized alongside or afterwards, in which attendees are strictly buyers from various types of retail establishments to view the collections closely and negotiate business. Once the orders are delivered a few months later, retailers may throw a trunk show of this readily available clothing to lure the public, who meanwhile have read the media runway reports, to make retail purchases.

Indonesia Fashion Week, positioning itself as a trade event, has always tried to do all of the above. This year, there were some trend-projecting shows, there were shows of already available collections and there was a good-sized bazaar of clothing that had little to do with the designers on show.

A very few of the bazaar participants, like the Japan Muslim Fashion Association or the Mode IKJ, to their credit, came prepared to meet buyers with samples and price schemes, yet the only commercial activity I noticed throughout was cash-and-carry retail.

Perhaps this is where the Indonesian fashion world is still at. There'€™s a disconnection between fashion designers and the garment industry at the production level, and another between fashion designers and clothing retailers at the commercial level. Except for a handful of designers who have successfully pushed their designs to retailers or worked behind certain clothing labels, many still work from ateliers to cater to affluent private clients. Business viable, yes; shaping into a full-blown fashion house the likes of Prada, no.

That is why I salute any effort to bridge these yawning gaps. The Executive, a ready-to-wear label mostly known for office staples, for the third time collaborated with a fashion designer for a capsule collection. I think it'€™s a clever move '€” not just to bring designers closer to the garment industry, but also to serve a sizable demand in the market.

Most of Indonesia'€™s growing middle class workforce doesn'€™t work in the creative industries '€” they want a chic wardrobe that still adheres to corporate norms.

Ardistia New York offers such a line, but its price point may not be for many. The Executive'€™s capsule collection with ISIS Jakarta last year brilliantly answered those challenges, and this year, working with modestwear designer Hannie Hananto, who sent poised ensembles in black and cerulean blue down the runway, may just simultaneously answer another challenge '€” a corporate look for hijab-wearing execs. The past capsule collections must'€™ve been quite profitable, since its sister label, Et Cetera, is now collaborating with Jenahara. I hope more Indonesian clothing labels will follow suit soon.

Kudos is also reserved for the attempt to further incorporate heritage handwoven textile tenun into modern ready-to-wear, expanding far beyond the shrinking segment of stuffy ceremonial costume.

All the way from the western corner of southeast Maluku, the Tanimbar Islands'€™ bright tenun graced the main runway and praise should go to Danjyo Hiyoji, Pingtong (by Gugus) and the energetic talents behind Acakacak, a label set up by LPTB Susan Budihardjo for their alumni for refreshing urban collections.

Last but absolutely not least, on designing for urban living, Patrick Owen and Mel Ahyar captured my utmost attention. Inspired by Jakarta'€™s monuments, Patrick Owen'€™s menswear retained a strong element of design without slipping into an indulgent froufrou that regular Joes would shy away from wearing.

Mel Ahyar juxtaposed her musing over the West Java'€™s Kawah Putih crater into a series of flyaway outerwear and bottoms that let her renowned prints came alive in delightful composition and refined execution.

So there it was '€” the platter of fashion business. As is always the case with sampling from a platter, hits and misses are inevitable, and you always end up feeling there should be more. The new guard this year has exercised better selection for retail participants; here'€™s hoping that next year they'€™ll bring meatier fashion designs. Come on, Indonesia Fashion Week, enchant us more.


Lynda Ibrahim is a Jakarta-based writer with a penchant for purple, pussycats and pop culture.