Tenun’s Global Takeover: Here’s How They’re Doing It

A few weeks ago, we were invited to a press conference by Cita Tenun Indonesia in which they informed us of their participation in the United Nations’ Fashion 4 Development initiative by way of a programme-opening showcase in New York, wherein tenun would take centre stage. Another press conference was held last week to let us know  that the showcase was a success, resulting in plenty of admiration and department stores approaching them for partnerships.

Designer Ardistia Dwiasri (extreme right) with moderator Diane von Furstenburg and fashion blogger BryanBoy!

At the press conference held on April 18, members of the media were brought together again by Cita Tenun Indonesia, Metro Department Store, and Garuda Indonesia. This time around, we learned a little more about how CTI has been working with Garuda Indonesia on a corporate social responsibility program that aims to educate tenun craftsmen in Bali, Lombok, and Padang on the finer points of the fashion business and retail industry. Christine Bakie from Metro hopes that by educating craftsmen on fashion production, marketing, and retail, it would eliminate the need of a middleman and allow the craftsmen to direct their business the way they want to. By reaching out to more stores, tenun will no longer be in the domain of the elite. “Tenun has prima donna status,making it available to a select few,” she explains. “We want to change that image. We want tenun to be something everyone can wear everyday.”

Aiming for mass appeal and lowering the price point of tenun is no mean feat, as CTI Board of Production & Quality Control member Syamsidar Ida reveals. She explains that there is no shortage of obstacles for making tenun accessible to wider audience, as every aspect of production is rife with challenges: raw materials are difficult to come by, and the actual work behind completing several metres of cloth involve hours of work by deft hands. There is also the problem of cheap, mass-produced prints that come in from China: while cheap and available in large quantities, mass-produced prints have zero intrinsic cultural worth. CTI, tenun craftsmen, and designers try to meet the challenges in the middle by implementing tenun into contemporary wear and weaving it onto lighter, simpler materials.

Garuda Indonesia Executive Vice President of Finance, Handrito Hardjono, was also proud of his company’s role in the CSR initiative. All classes are conducted at the Garuda Indonesia Training Center, and impact is immediate and obvious. Someone who benefitted from this program was Ms. Indriawati from Samba, who was there at the press conference to demonstrate just how a loom worked. It looked extremely complicated from where I was standing, and when I asked her if she ever gets tired of working thousands of threads into a single beautiful fabric, she just laughs and says, “Tired? Never. But headaches, yes!”

CTI and Garuda Indonesia have come together to work on an important social initiative that works, and it changes real lives. Not only are they improving the welfare of entire tenun-producing communities, but they are also adamant on introducing the world to one of Indonesia’s richest art forms. So don’t be surprised if you see plenty of tenun on your favourite lookbooks  in the future – we at the office are all looking forward to it!