Jakarta. Senior fashion designer and the deputy chairman of the Indonesian Fashion Chamber Wignyo Rahadi opened the second boutique for his label "Tenun Gaya" — literally, "stylish tenun," or Indonesian handwoven textile — on Jalan Purworejo in Menteng, a leafy, elite suburb in Central Jakarta, on Tuesday (23/05).
"We have a lot of loyal customers in Menteng," Wignyo said in an interview after the boutique's opening. "With this new boutique, we hope to make it easier for them to come and see our items."
Tenun Gaya's first boutique is located in Cipete, South Jakarta.
The designer partners with two of his customers, Abidzar and Widya Ardiani, to set up the new boutique in Menteng.
"I've been wearing Tenun Gaya for over a decade now," Widya said. "I've always loved the quality of the tenun (handwoven) fabrics and the simple designs. I think it's about time for the label to have a boutique in Central Jakarta, closer to its main clientele's home base."
The label's clients are mostly government officials and members of upper-class Jakarta society.
Wignyo ventured into the fashion industry by chance.
"I was working as a financial controller in a multinational company [in Jakarta], when my boss sent me to Sukabumi [in West Java] to help manage our silk factory there," he said.
"I had no background or experience in the subject, but I believed that [assignment] was God's gift to my life," the 56-year-old said. "I just went and learned all about it."
In Sukabumi, Wignyo got to know silk farmers and learned all about local sericulture. He also studied the intricate process of weaving silk threads from the factory workers.
"They were very interesting times for me," the designer said.
During the monetary crisis in 1998, the company auctioned off some of its old weaving machines. And Wignyo bought them.
"I dissected the machines and modified them into non-machine weaving tools (Alat Tenun Bukan Mesin, or ATBM)," he said.
Wignyo experimented with these new tools to create traditional Songket and Ulos textiles.
"I made them softer and lighter so more people would wear them," the father of two said.
He also modified the hues and patterns in the tenuns to suit modern taste.
"I make the patterns smaller and the colors softer," he said.
Wignyo then created these tenuns into evening dresses for women and formal shirts for men.
"I first offered them to my friends," the designer said. "[They] liked them, some of them even bought them. They also returned to order some more from me."
Wignyo's new fashion business grew quickly, relying on word-of-mouth to spread its gospel. In 2000, the designer decided to quit his day job to focus more on his label Tenun Gaya.
The label shot to fame in 2004 when then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) started wearing Tenun Gaya shirts to official state events. Many government officials and their families adored the simple and elegant look on the president and came in droves to Wignyo to get their own versions of "Kemeja Tenun SBY" (SBY-style handwoven shirt).
"Our business went booming [because of SBY]," Wignyo said. "We only had 30 weavers at that time and were overwhelmed with all the demand."
Currently, Wignyo employs 120 weavers — all women — in his workshop in Sukabumi.
Simple and Chic
At the opening of his new boutique, Wignyo presented a Ramadan 2017 mini-collection for men and women.
The mini-collection, called "Chic Simple," features kebayas, long tunics and pareos for women and formal shirts for men.
Most of the items are plain, with a few delicate embroideries around the edges.
"I think the tenuns are already beautiful as they are," the designer said. "Unnecessary embellishments would only distort their beauty."
Abidzar, the designer's partner for his boutique in Menteng, praised the label's Ramadan collection.
"The designs, as always, are simple, highlighting the quality of the fabrics," Abidzar said. "With their simple designs, these items can be worn to various occasions."
With the opening of his new boutique, Wignyo also hopes to expand his market to a younger clientele.
"I hope younger people would start coming to my new boutique and fall in love with the beauty of Indonesian tenuns," the designer said.
"I hope they'll start wearing tenuns and help preserve them. It's my dream to make Indonesian tenuns as popular as Indonesian batiks."