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Didiet Maulana: Building ‘new bridge’ for fashion connections

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sat, January 16, 2021  /  02:12 pm
Didiet Maulana: Building ‘new bridge’ for fashion connections

No time for sorrow: Didiet Maulana offers entrepreneurship classes online from his office at home. (Courtesy of didietmaulana.com/-)

Indonesian Prita Audriana, who works at a company in Tokyo, was not the only person who saw her working hours and, consequently, her income decline as the pandemic forced people to remain mostly at home.

She used her extra time, however, to learn about starting a business and honing her entrepreneurial skills through online classes with fashion designer and entrepreneur Didiet Maulana.

As a result, she established her own brand, Kersaloka, under which she sold batik masks in Japan produced by small Indonesian enterprises that she connected with through the course.

“I have done my research and found that Japanese are keen on batik products, and they are used to wearing masks in public places – even prior to the pandemic,” Prita said, adding that her new business was going well.

“I named the brand [a phrase] in Javanese that means ‘desire’ and ‘world’ to reflect my aspiration of presenting Indonesian products to the rest of the world,” she said during a recent virtual press conference.

Step forward: Fashion entrepreneur Didiet Maulana has launched a website called Jembatan Baru Didiet Maulana (Didiet Maulana's New Bridge) designed to connect with the public and small and medium enterprises struggling to survive the pandemic. Step forward: Fashion entrepreneur Didiet Maulana has launched a website called Jembatan Baru Didiet Maulana (Didiet Maulana's New Bridge) designed to connect with the public and small and medium enterprises struggling to survive the pandemic. (Courtesy of didietmaulana.com/-)

The online classes, called Jadi Gini Belajar Bersama (so this is learning together), were initiated by Didiet as a continuation of workshops for the owners of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) he directed prior to the pandemic.

The classes started after many of friends and followers on his social media accounts, collectively about 400,000, sent him direct messages sharing how the coronavirus had hit their fashion-related businesses hard.

“At first I tried to reply to each of them, but then I thought that it would be more helpful to learn from each other about how to survive the pandemic,” said Didiet.

In the classes, he shared the ups and downs of being the founder and creative director of fashion house IKAT Indonesia, which bridges traditional fashion culture to modern lifestyles.

Established in 2011, it now has couture line Svarna by IKAT Indonesia and Sarupa by IKAT Indonesia, which produces uniforms for clients including flag-carrier Garuda Airlines.

During the pandemic, the fashion house has produced Muslim prayer mats, masks and even new fashion collections by empowering SMEs and traditional artisans.

“IKAT Indonesia is not all about fashion shows and product sales,” said Didiet, adding that a change of mentality in responding to the current situation and thorough market research during the pandemic would help any business thrive in the coming years.

“The focus is on SMEs because I mostly work with them and they account for 90 percent of businesses in Indonesia. The pandemic situation must have adversely affected most of them.”

Building a community: Didiet (standing) interacts with batik artisans in Lasem, Central Java. The website provides information on how to connect with fashion-related SMEs and purchase their products.Building a community: Didiet (standing) interacts with batik artisans in Lasem, Central Java. The website provides information on how to connect with fashion-related SMEs and purchase their products. (Courtesy of didietmaulana.com/-)

The classes gathered 5,000 SMEs that were starting to resume business or create their own brands. They received more exposure and networking opportunities through Didiet’s web of followers.

The success of entrepreneurs that might not be well captured by social media platforms inspired him to create a website called Jembatan Baru Didiet Maulana (Didiet Maulana’s New Bridge).

An amalgamation of his social media accounts, the portal at didietmaulana.com was designed for him to better interact with the public and to be a hub for his followers, including SMEs, to connect with each other, hence the allegorical “bridge” in the name.

“Perhaps later it may connect the businesses with their buyers or investors, but for now it will be more of a new hang-out place for everyone to share knowledge and to have discussions on how to grow together,” he said at the virtual launch of the website and joint press conference.

The domain, which was a birthday gift from his younger sibling five years ago, has three main pages aside from the page that contains information on how to join the online classes.

In Tentang Didiet Maulana (About Didiet Maulana), there were posts containing musings on personal development and growth, while Kolaborasi (Collaboration) contained his personal and business ventures in literature, fashion and education realms. 

Best shot: An undated image posted by Didiet on his website from his trip to Japan prior to the pandemic. Best shot: An undated image posted by Didiet on his website from his trip to Japan prior to the pandemic. (Courtesy of didietmaulana.com/-)

He documented his experiences traveling across the country and abroad on the Perjalanan (Journey) page. Some of the posts were detailed versions of his social media content.

The travel stories were more of a data bank as they had information on how to get to the destinations, scenic routes and adventurous food options, thanks to his habit of keeping a notebook close.

His post on the batik-producing town of Lasem in Central Java, for example, has information about SME stores, artisans and a hyperlink to a website selling their products.

Didiet also posted photographs he took, another hobby of his, along with the stories.

His multitude of passions might have been derived from his dynamic career path. The alumni of Parahyangan Catholic University, who will turn 40 on Jan. 18, started as an architect before spending five years working at radio and television stations, where he learned about building networks.

“I later started a retail business and learned all the ropes before creating my own brand. I wish to share my experiences and what I’ve learned from my formal studies on marketing to help grow SMEs,” he said.

“I hope the website will be more than a platform of personal life stories and that through them, the visitors will connect with themselves and discover that they are too a bridge and an inspiration to others.” (ste)

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