The Jakarta Post
Indonesia Fashion Week (IFW) 2014 has just ended and through vast media coverage of last year's IFW, the world's fashion industry has witnessed Indonesia bring the best of its fashion and lifestyle to the fore.
However, one cannot stop wondering whether all that the IFW expects is huge media coverage. Wouldn't it be more distinguished, or to borrow a fashionable term, more dapper, if IFW lead the way to a better and brighter future for the fashion industry?
Fashion is portrayed as a manifesto. It is a product of a generation, a symbol of decadence or a logo of poverty.
As the late Diana Vreeland, once crowned the 'Empress of Fashion' thanks to her excellence in chairing Vogue US as its editor-in-chief for decades, famously stated, 'fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approach of a revolution in clothes.'
Everyone needs something to wear, some may call it a piece of cloth, others may call it fashion. Thus, how one uses one's cloth or fashion is one's unique and signature way of telling the world: 'This is who I am.'
Each country is gifted with various costumes that are the true embodiment of the nation's identity. When one thinks of America, one sees a cowboy outfit, a rodeo hat and skin tight jeans.
When we dream of France we see the flawless beauty of a chic French woman clad in a little black Chanel dress holding her Hermes Birkin bag. When one speaks of the wonders of Indonesia, one imagines a sun-kissed Indonesian lady wrapped in a beautiful kebaya (blouse) and intricate batik and tenun (woven cloth).
In short, fashion defines a nation's identity as it is one of the most successful tools of diplomacy that serves a double function: to unite the citizens of the country through the national pride of wearing a national costume and to serve as a channel to represent the elegant and unique image of the country abroad.
Does IFW serve as a tool of diplomacy? My personal view would perhaps be to agree. But my analytical and fashion conscious mind would say no, this is not enough!
The Indonesian government has given adequate attention to the fashion industry since 2009, particularly through the enactment of Ministerial Regulation No. 131/M-IND/PER/10/2009 on the road map of development clusters in the fashion industry.
In March 2011, the road map was introduced with the aim of developing the country as the center of the fashion industry in the Asia Pacific by 2018.
The Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, the Industry Ministry, the Trade Ministry and the Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Ministry will jointly implement the road map.
Yet, all these guidelines and regulations, no matter how important they are, will only work if all Indonesians, not only fashion-savvy Jakartans, understand how important it is to develop Indonesia's fashion and participate and create income out of this sector.
It is also pertinent to inform the international community of the development of Indonesia's fashion industry.
It is interesting to note, however, that the Foreign Ministry is excluded from or not mandated to help realize the fashion industry road map.
When one speaks of diplomacy, one immediately thinks of the Foreign Ministry, the vanguard of Indonesian diplomacy. So why don't we make use of the ministry through its embassies worldwide?
Based on Law No. 37/1999 on foreign affairs, the ministry is responsible for conducting foreign policy with other countries and legal entities.
The fashion industry development road map, which is directed at accessing foreign markets, should have involved the Foreign Ministry since the inception. The ministry is tasked with not only implementing political diplomacy but also economic and cultural diplomacy, including the fashion sector.
The ministry is the only government institution equipped with embassies/missions abroad to look for firsthand information on any issue, including from local fashion industries in other countries.
If necessary, the ministry could ask embassies in the international capitals of fashion to formulate a comprehensive report on global fashion trends and brand positioning in the global market.
Wouldn't it be more exciting if the ministry assisted the IFW by, for example, asking the Indonesian embassy in Paris to request that the House of Chanel bring Karl Lagerfeld to the IFW in Jakarta as a guest of honor? Wouldn't it be glorious if Jakarta set the trend and color in place of Milan or London? Wouldn't the IFW
rise to prominence if foreign media widely covered it? Now that is what I call a fashion triumph.
It is uncertain whether the inclusion of the Foreign Ministry in the road map of fashion will serve as a panacea to boost Indonesia's fashion in the international market.
But it's true that the ministry could act as the strongest pillar to push Indonesia's fashion through diplomacy and establish solid relations between the national fashion industry and the international market.
Following the glitz and glamour of the IFW last week, let us reflect on whether we as Indonesians should feel content.
I dream of Indonesia setting the trends, rather than following them. As Coco Chanel once said, 'I am fashion.' Are we ready to be fashion or just fashionable followers? I believe we are.
The writer is an Indonesian diplomat who is pursuing his post-graduate degree at the School of Law, University of Sydney. The views expressed are personal.
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