Going Global: One Catwalk At a Time

At the  4th annual Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW) recently, it was clear that the organizers, supported largely by the Indonesian fashion circle, are determined to bring Indonesia onto the global runway. To their credit, the world has indeed swung by, and upon leaving, seemed to have brought some part of us with them.

Let’s start with the collaboration between our renowned designer Oscar Lawalata and British milliner Justin Smith, who beyond their delicious presentations took further steps to reach out to Indonesian artisans and re-learned some of the traditional techniques. I find that initiative commendable, as most of these ancient techniques were passed down verbally– if was passed down at all due to modernization– so now that designers of Oscar’s caliber and Justin’s network have taken a keen interest, one can hope that these techniques and knowledge will be preserved. And developed. As for the collections, while headgears don’t normally adorn modern Indonesians, Justin Smith’s classic bowler hats and stylish fascinators did further jazz up Oscar’s edgy designs.

Oscar Lawalata and Justin Smith collaboration

Not to be outdone by British Council, the Goethe Institute also invited 5 ready-to-wear labels, fresh off Berlin Fashion Week (BFW), to grace JFW’s catwalk. Issever Bahri drew on their Turkish heritage, Hien Le showed a collection that reminded me of bursting fresh oranges, Moon Berlin toed the black-and-white line while Boessert/Schorn knitted up urban prints, and Starstyling sported geometric lines in neon-light pastels. Personal creativity aside, the BFW designers displayed superb techniques, clean lines, and something that Indonesian designers often lacked, one strong design concept underlying the entire collection. I always say if you can turn a plain white garment into a worthy piece of wardrobe, you’ve got your technique in check.

Issever Bahri

Hien Le

Moon Berlin



From literally half the world away, duo Mexican designers Pineda Covalin, opened by homage to the iconic Frida Kahlo, sent down the runway vibrantly-colored, vivacious, printed-silk dresses,. I can see Indonesian clientele warming up easily to their designs and thus, makes the brand highly marketable here. I can’t wait for their next return since, as Cristina Pineda herself revealed to me during the press conference, the brand would soon be collaborating with, none other than, Oscar Lawalata.

Pineda Covalin

Last yet closer to home, thus definitely not least, was the crop of young Thai designers. My personal favorite is the show of Tube Gallery, one of the four designers chosen to open JFW this year, where luscious, candy-colored Thai silks met the late ‘60s and early ‘70s era, yet somehow remained very current. I personally wanted to grab every single look on his collection.

Now, where do we go after these exposures? Traditional Indonesian textiles are rich and versatile, we’d all agree, but conquering international mass markets is a whole different ballgame. There’s a huge issue of consistency, both in quality and quantity, and that has been mentioned as the main problem hindering our traditional textiles overseas. Colors would run, threads would come undone, or measurements would be uneven, just to name a few. Local artisans need to shake off their outdated view that standardization would ruin originality. Instead, disciplined methods and quality control would bolster creativity and make the creations sellable in wider markets for longer periods. Whipping up fantastic one-offs is all great, but only by churning out collections regularly artisans can survive into the next generation.

Thanks to JFW, the baby steps have been taken and the clear road paved. Now it’s time for tough-love actions inwards and bold moves outwards, even if it’s one sashay down one catwalk at one time. Fast. While the momentum lasts.