Sunday, 29 November 2015

From Jakarta #11

Fitting going on at designer Tri Handoko's 

Only fifteen more days and I will be back home. The next couple of weeks are going to be quite full, with more fashion shows to attend and participate in, a short visit to Vietnam, getting my EPO to be able to leave the country, two photoshoots and of course the obligatory souvenir shopping.
I am going back just as everyone will be in a frenzy over Christmas and Christmas shopping. It will be cold too! But there is always pleasure in going home, even though Jakarta has been very interesting to explore and were it not for the traffic, a pleasant place to be. Being here has given me lots of insights and helped me to question things I took for granted.
Plans and projects are coming to maturation, ideas that are outdated are being discarded.
For example, an issue I have been thinking about is what we REALLY mean by sustainability and a sustainable fashion. Obviously sustainability concerns first and foremost ways of production, countering a model of fast fashion that is immensely destructive and in the long run, as far as fashion is concerned, self-destructive.
But implementing a sustainable fashion also means presenting a fashion that adopts a different image, that embraces real bodies, with clothes for real women and real men, rather than mannikins.
I think it is part of an overall vision.  Fashion truly needs an overhaul, of its economics but also its ideology.

Batik display at APA
In the last few days I have had the opportunity to meet more fashion designers whose work really struck me as being an alternative to the current model. One of them is Chitra Subyakto, owner of the label Sejauh Mata Memandang whose very poetic name translates 'as far as the eye can see'), whose mission is to give new life to batik making using old techniques for production of cloth which is not cut but draped most imaginatively in order to create each time a garment that is unique to the individual wearer. I loved the motif of the 'noodle bowl', the collection I saw at the exhibition on the top floor gallery at the APA space, Plaza Indonesia, a new pop up space for art, music and film. Chitra's collection is art. Beautifully captured in images by Davy Linggar, possibly the best among Indonesian photographers of the moment, the very presentation was very far removed from the usual catwalk show with blank faced girls marching down the runway on high platform shoes.
I was introduced to Chitra's work by Auguste Soesastro whom I visited again together with photographer Nita Strudwick, this time to source clothes for a forthcoming shoot -I did a very successful one with Nita already, at 2Madison, an interior design gallery in Kemang, south Jakarta. Auguste's great grandmother was a famous batik maker, in Pekalongan - read about the renowned batik of this city in this article that appeared in the Jakarta Post.  
One of the main problems about cutting a batik piece, especially a vintage piece, is that a whole batik cloth tells a story and each detail is finely hand painted. It may take from one to two years to make a fine batik tulis.
Batik can of course be finely hand stitched, with stitching that can be removed - thus the integrity of the batik cloth can be preserved.  Could a silhouette be achieved through draping and stitching, without cutting? It is an interesting question, one which can give rise to a range of creative responses.

At 2Madison with Dikdik

Non-Indonesian designers that work with Indonesian textiles may not have the same scruples when it comes to cutting for a more fitted look, yet the cutting has to have a logic and an aesthetic.
English designer Martha-Ellen currently works in Jakarta and her ready to wear label uses tenun ikat handwoven in Southern Bali to make pieces for 'real' women.  I visited her boutique whose board features London-born Indonesian/French actress Hanna Al Rashid wearing one of Martha-Ellen's designs. Why work with Indonesian textiles?
As she also explained in a published interview, her design philosophy is three fold: 1) to make the most of the motif or colour of the ikat; 2)  a different, or a creative way, of using the fabric; 3) silhouettes that would be most flattering to a range of body types and occasions.
She chose to work in Indonesia and with Indonesian textiles because Indonesia is an emerging market, it has a richness of textiles and craft traditions to be used for a different way of creating fashion and she is also interested in 'giving back' to local communities.
But Martha-Ellen would regard her aesthetics as being fundamentally English, even though she works with Indonesian textiles.

At 2Madison

As a non-English,  I am quite puzzled by this idea of English fashion aesthetics, and a little confused by it - Victoria Beckham, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood have all been said to possess an English aesthetics or may have themselves applied that descriptor when talking about their own designs.
Perhaps the concept needs further scrutiny?

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