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Timun Mas: Folktale, fashion and Instagrammable installation

Jossa Lukman

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, December 10, 2018  /  11:00 am
Timun Mas: Folktale, fashion and Instagrammable installation

Put it on my Insta: The Timun Mas installation in Senayan City, Jakarta, attracts a large number of visitors who are mainly interested in taking photos inside the Instagrammable space. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

The launch of Sejauh Mata Memandang’s newest collection, Timun Mas, trades in the pomp and romp of fashion shows for a picturesque installation.

Like any other fashion brand, Indonesian label Sejauh Mata Memandang periodically launches a new collection for every season.

What sets the brand apart from others, however, is their choice of holding an exhibition instead of the usual fashion show presentation.

Held at Senayan City, South Jakarta, from Nov. 8 to Jan. 8, Sejauh Mata Memandang commandeered a vacant space on the mall’s first floor, turning what used to be a store into a maze made of strips of fabrics.

The label’s choice of presentation for their newest collection is markedly different from other brands, which typically stage fashion shows. Sejauh Mata Memandang founder and creative director Chitra Subhiyakto explains that this is a conscious choice for the brand.

“Fashion shows will only be enjoyed by a select group of people and they’ll be over in 20 minutes. By using an exhibition, I want to tell a story behind the process — the patterns as well as the mood,” Chitra said.

Family time: Children marvel at the animated Timun Mas movie projected on the wall. Actress Dian Sastrowardoyo narrates it.Family time: Children marvel at the animated Timun Mas movie projected on the wall. Actress Dian Sastrowardoyo narrates it. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Tying into the labyrinth is the collection’s inspiration and namesake, the Javanese folktale Timun Mas (Golden Cucumber), which is also Chitra’s favorite folktale.

Timun Mas tells the story of the girl of that name, from her origins as a cucumber seed to her eventual escape from the green giant Buto Ijo, who wants to consume her as part of a deal with her parents.

The exhibition’s labyrinth-like strips of fabrics are an analogy for the forests and caves where Timun Mas tries to escape from Buto Ijo, says the installation’s designer, Davy Linggar.

“Everything is made by hand, cut into strips individually using scissors. I wanted to create something aligned with Sejauh Mata Memandang’s character,” Davy said. 

As visitors make their way deep into the maze, they find an area where they can view a short animated movie made in collaboration with singers Tulus and Petra Sihombing and actress Dian Sastrowardoyo, who provided the narration.

Visitors can sit on small beanbag chairs and watch the movie, but the space in the middle is also ideal for taking pictures, as the large crowds that usually flock there can attest.

Following the maze further, visitors find a photo collage of the Timun Mas collection featuring model Mariana Renata wearing the collection pieces on the scenic beaches of Western Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara. 

West Sumba memories: Aside from designing the installation, artist Davy Linggar also shot the collage’s photos, which feature model Mariana Renata wearing the collection pieces with a scenic West Sumba beach in the background.West Sumba memories: Aside from designing the installation, artist Davy Linggar also shot the collage’s photos, which feature model Mariana Renata wearing the collection pieces with a scenic West Sumba beach in the background. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Walking a few steps to the end of the maze, visitors can visit a pop-up store selling Sejauh Mata Memandang’s Timun Mas collection for the Rintik 2018 season, which ranges from Rp 200,000 (US$13.85) for a small neckerchief to Rp 3 million for a dress.

The high prices can be attributed to the traditional batik methods employed to create the custom patterns, which drew inspiration from the Timun Mas folktale.

“I tried to portray the characters, the animals, as well as Timun Mas’ supplies when she was on the run from Buto Ijo, like cucumber seeds, thorns, salt and terasi [shrimp paste],” Chitra said.

She added that every item in the collection is fully made by hand, using methods such as hand-drawn and hand-stamped batik, silkscreen printing and embroidery.

“The process of making everything by hand is much more soulful; there is a story and uniqueness behind it,” Chitra said, adding that the textiles were made in a number of regions, including Sragen, Pekalongan and Surakarta in Central Java and also Jakarta.

For the collection, Chitra used organic materials, such as cotton and cupro, with bright, vibrant colors like yellow, green, blue and red to symbolize Timun Mas’ origins as a children’s story.

“I saw that many countries are in ‘gray’,” Chitra said, reffering to various problems and disasters occured in Indonesia and other countries. “So we want to brighten them up with [cheerful colors in] the Timun Mas collection.”

Also sold in the pop-up store are limited edition Timun Mas books. All proceeds from the book sales go to the Dian Sastrowardoyo Foundation’s scholarship program for female students, as well as Bantu Guru Belajar Lagi, a teacher training program initiated by Tulus.

Regardless of whether you shell out for Sejauh Mata Memandang’s offerings or simply take a few shots for Instagram, one thing for sure is that fashion is no longer the domain of stuffy insiders.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Dec. 8, 2018, with the title "Timun Mas: Folktale, fashion and Instagrammable installation".