Written by Indira Iman, Photos: Google
Batik and Ikat are two of the most famous Indonesian heritage and specifically, traditional fabrics. Both of the garments are 2 of the most popular choice amongs Indonesia’s fashion industry. It’s not an uncommon things that these 2 fabrics been used in local’s finest designers collections and showcased in the nation’s biggest fashion events like Jakarta Fashion Week and Indonesia Fashion Week.
Batik is a garment that is traditionally made using a manual wax-resist dyeing technique. UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on October 2, 2009. In Indonesia, batik popularity has had its ebbs and flows. Historically, it was essential for ceremonial costumes and it was worn as part of a kebaya dress, which was commonly worn every day. It waned from the 1960s onwards, because more and more people chose western clothes, decimating the batik industry.
However, batik clothing has revived somewhat in the turn of 21st century, due to the effort of Indonesian fashion designers to innovate batik. Batik is a fashion item for many young people in Indonesia, such as a shirt, dress, or scarf for casual wear. Batik had helped improve the small business local economy, batik sales in Indonesia had reached Rp 3.9 trillion (US$436.8 million) in 2010, an increase from Rp 2.5 trillion in 2006. The value of batik exports, meanwhile, increased from $14.3 million in 2006 to $22.3 million in 2010.
Founder of BIN House, Josephine ‘Obin’ Komara has been one of the key proponents of the revival, development, innovation and modernisation of Indonesian textile creation. She has her own boutiques worlwide, she opened her first boutique in Japan. By 2001, in addition to several Japanese outlets, there were BIN House galleries in Bali and Singapore along with the Menteng establishment. There is also a retail outlet in the Netherlands. By 2012, Obin employed over 1,000 artisan workers to completely hand-create her fabrics, many of whom had passed their skills down through the generations. In addition to Japan, Singapore and Bali, Obin textiles are bought by traders and resold in Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and the United States.
The interesting thing here is, the number of local designers that actually made it to showcase those 2 most popular fabrics in the international fashion scene—the world’s fashion capital like New York, London, Milan and of course, Paris. It turns out to be, no one has made it to showcase them in the world’s runway.
Apart from Obin and a few of her contemporaries — particularly in Yogyakarta which is more aware of international market opportunities — Indonesia has not reached its full potential for exporting batik and ikat. Indonesia lacks a brand with global recognition, unlike its Southeast Asian neighbours such as the Malaysia’s Vincci and Singapore's Charles & Keith.
Instead, it has taken Western designers like Dries Van Noten, who most recently used batik in his beautiful Spring/Summer 2010 collection and Frida Giannini from Gucci to bring batik and ikat to the mainstream world’s fashion industry.
|Dries Van Noten Spring/Summer 2010 show used the Batik and Ikat fabrics|
Gucci Spring/Summer 2010 show used the Ikat fabrics
It is a shame, because Indonesia has a great opportunity and advantages. Contrary to the stereotype of Asia as the continent of low-quality, mass production, Indonesia has a long tradition of luxurious, hand-made textile production that still thrives today, providing the country with a competitive advantage, especially its South East Asian neighbours and China, where traditional craftsmanship doesn’t do much.
It is a funny thing that everytime we saw Hollywood celebrities, international politicians or any foreign citizens wearing batik/ikat we felt so proud that they wore our traditional heritage, while most of the garments maybe made by Western designers and not our locals. It is indeed, something that we can proud and brag of, that batik and ikat has gain a worldwide recognition. But little that we knows, besides all of that, Indonesia’s fashion scene still remained low profile in the international fashion industry.
As i wrote this article, i was hoping that in not-so-long future, we’ll be able to be proud of that our traditional heritage has gained a worldwide recognition and not only because a big Parisian fashion house made a collection inspired by batik/ikat, but that our local designers, fashion houses, has made it to bring it to the international fashion scene. When we’ve made it to be “from Indonesia, by Indonesians.”