Fashion is a promising industry in Indonesia as the fourth largest garment exporter in the world. According to World Trade Statistical Review, Indonesia exported $8 billion worth of garments in 2018. Moving forward to 2019, Indonesia showed 19 percent projected growth from this industry. This fashion industry in Indonesia clearly shows no sign of slowing down.
With low minimum order and cheap labours, fast fashion industry has grown massively in Indonesia in the past 20 years. This rise of garment manufacturing brings job and abject pollution to islands like Java and Bali - rivers full of dangerous waste from dyeing manufacturers, to ricefields contaminated with heavy metals, causing not just economic loss from the agriculture sector, but also health loss.
But good news is hailing from the fashion designers in Indonesia. With Indonesia Fashion Chamber declaring their focus on Sustainability starting 2020, designers are moving towards circular fashion. These four designers show that committing to be kind to the environment, the people, and fashion is the only way to slow down for a kinder future.
Preserving culture means progressive steps for Edward Hutabarat. His career has span over 40 years as a designer that focuses on traditional textile such as batik and ulos. He himself has worked together with many artisans across Indonesia and has seen the change when chemical dye was introduced to Indonesia’s traditional textile industry.
He constantly travels to parts of Indonesia to meet local artisans to re-introduce them to the plants used for natural dye, locally grown cotton, and hand-drawn technique of batik, just like the good old days. This journey made his design contains thousand stories of various techniques, patterns, and wisdom from various places in Indonesia.
His design is classic, functional, with clean cutting in his signature kimono style, making his design look both glamorous and breathable. In Ulos in Innovation, his S/S 2020 collection, he worked together with weavers from North Sumatra and he did present his design in front of the locals to ask permission before adapting the sacred fabric to the runway.
Combining local wisdom, age-old technique, and elegant silhouettes, Merdi Sihombing shows his identity as a fashion designer and textile artist from Sumatra with eco-consciousness in mind. His collection mostly uses Indonesian woven textile, such as Songket and Ikat, where he worked together with local artisans to produce traditional textile from sustainable fiber like lyocell.
In 2018, he traveled all across the country, island to island, from Sumatra, Java, to Rote. His mission was to develop the local communities to use the old-techniques taught by their grandmothers for weaving and dyeing, as well as, developing the waste management from
the textile. Merdi believes that the wisdom should also come in one hand with the awareness on the environment. That’s why, he works responsibly with local artisans for his collection.
In his latest collection, Archipelago, for S/S 2020, Merdi worked together with artisans from Borneo to create handcrafted bags and hats out of purun grass, an indigenous grass which many people, even locals, assume as weed.
Starting her career as a stylist, Chitra Subiyakto paved her path in fashion out of her love of Indonesia; the culture, the textile, the land, and the ocean. Her batik brand, Sejauh Mata Memandang, a phrase which could be translated as “as far as the eyes can see”, draws inspiration from Indonesian folktales, local plants, and resources with sustainability in mind.
Recently, she’s created a bold campaign in fashion by creating an awareness of plastic waste in the ocean in Indonesia, called Laut Kita. With a thorough exhibition where she collaborated with photographers, art director, and director, Chitra filled six exhibition rooms with installation of PET bottles and photographs. The design for this collection carries timeless design and produced with environmentally friendly materials and manufacture, decorated with elevated nautical motif like the ripple of the wave and coral flower. Using Batik technique with contemporary pattern, the collection is naturally dyed using local plants like Tarum and Secang, creating beautiful shades of indigo, pink, red and white, all done by the hands local artisans.
Ethereal, dreamy, and surreal. These are three words to describe Felicia Budi’s work. The clothes she designs are delicate and light, but they’re strong and difficult to tear. Felicia is known for her progressive perspective. She uses many local fibers, but she is also known to use a material called Tyvek that feels like a combination of fabric and paper. Her reason is simple. It’s because she wants her clothes to sustain throughout the time, as something you would wear and something you would recycle.
Her creativity process is unique. Felicia works by following her intuition, often without pattern. She would respond to the characters of the fabric. With her unique approach, Felicia is known for minimizing fabric waste. At her campaign in 2018, she did a collection that included an exhibition called Buangan, where she designed her clothes as well as the waste management from the early stage up to post stage of production.
Now, Felicia Budi is concentrating her works on custom-made dresses and repurposed fabrics that she turns into ethereal pieces!