Jakarta. Jakarta Fashion Week 2019 closed last Friday night (26/10) with the always highly anticipated Dewi Fashion Knights show, which this year featured four rising stars of Indonesian fashion: Byo, Rinaldy A. Yunardi, Sean Sheila and Sejauh Mata Memandang.
"These labels were selected by a team of judges made up of JFW organizers, retailers, photographers, models and fashion influencers," Margaretha Untoro, editor-in-chief of Dewi Magazine, said in a press conference before the big event.
The whole week itself was marked by a heightened sense of awareness from the organizers and the designers to do more for environmental protection, community empowerment and inclusivity.
For the closing night, the designers were asked to create individual pieces for a collection called "Heroes."
Chitra Subyakto, creative director of Sejauh Mata Memandang, a brand famous for its cute, modern batik prints, interpreted the theme by showing women as the real heroes in society.
"In many parts of the world, women are still second-class citizens," Chitra said. "But I was reminded of our own folk story, 'Timun Mas.' The story makes me realize that women can actually become heroes for themselves."
Inspired by Timun Mas, Chitra created new batik motifs of cucumber seeds, needles, salt and terasi (fermented shrimp paste) – all the things that Timun Mas carries with her when she escapes from an evil giant.
The designer turned the new batiks into charming loose-fitting dresses, flowy pants, skirts and outerwear in a combination of black, white, maroon and saffron hues.
Tommy Ambiyo Tedji, creative director of Byo, said his mother was his hero.
In tribute to her, a woman from Palembang, South Sumatra, the designer created a collection inspired by Palembang's handwoven fabrics.
"I used a new type of polyester for this collection," Tommy said.
The material is cut into puzzle-like pieces and woven together to resemble tenun (woven) fabrics from Palembang.
Byo also made a new collection of handbags that both his male and female models were carrying on the runway that evening.
Sean Sheila's collection, meanwhile, reminded us of the dangers of overconsumption and pollution.
Designers Sean Loh and Sheila Agatha Wijaya created structured dresses, oversized coats and jackets made from colorful plastic.
The models' somber expressions, their slow walk on the runway, and the haunting soundtrack "Goodbye" (by Apparat featuring Soap & Skin) helped to get their pro-environment messages across to the crowd.
"The collection symbolizes a slow-motion apocalypse," Sheila said. "It's an apocalypse that we're bringing upon ourselves by polluting the earth and over-consuming."
Accessories maestro Rinaldy A. Yunardi back-ended the show with a new collection called "The Faces."
It comprised dramatic and bizarre masks, headdresses and shoulder pieces made of various materials, including cables, wires, metals and feathers.
"My collection portrays the many faces of human beings, the good side and the bad side," Rinaldy said. "Everyone is a hero in their own life."
A model wearing a bejeweled red skull and oversized black feather cape then walked the runway to close this year's biggest fashion event.
JFW 2019 had a more serious atmosphere, as if the designers wanted to stage more than a series of glamorous fashion shows.
It became a platform for designers and fashion activists to hash out innovative ideas that they hope will bring positive changes to the fashion industry and also to society.
Here are some examples of innovative ideas that were seen at the event:
On Sunday, the British Council organized a show that included disabled models wearing clothes designed by British and Indonesian ready-to-wear labels Teatum Jones and Sean Sheila.
The show was part of the UK/ID 2016-18 culture exchange program.
"UK and Indonesia are two wonderful, creative archipelago countries," Adam Pushkin, director of arts and creative industries of British Council Indonesia, said.
"So, we've been creating connections through networking programs, residencies, supporting collaborations and showcases since 2016. Teatum Jones working with Sean Sheila is a fantastic illustration of UK and Indonesia collaborations. Wonderful things happen when UK and Indonesia work together," Adam said.
The designers themselves were very enthusiastic about the program.
"Since we established our brand in 2014, we've always employed disabled workers," Sheila said.
"So, we were very excited by this show [that included disabled models]. I think [disabled people] also deserve a chance in the fashion industry."
The show's organizers invited disabled women to a photo-shoot and an open casting call at Galeri Nasional in Central Jakarta on Saturday.
Five of them were selected to model Teatum Jones' and Sean Sheila's creations on the runway on the following day.
Sean Loh and Sheila showed their women's ready-to-wear collection made from organic and recycled materials in the show.
Teatum Jones showed its Fall/Winter 2018 catalogue, called "Global Womanhood," inspired by the stories of 25 larger-than-life women from around the globe.
All the disabled models walked the runway with calm confidence.
"The show was an opportunity to do good and inspire people," Rob Jones, co-founder of Teatum Jones, said.
"And hopefully, you will see other brands doing it [hiring disabled models]. And then the whole fashion industry will follow suit," Jones said.
On Thursday, Lenny Agustin showed a special batik collection called "Wansosa."
The collection is a collaboration between the designer and artisans from Sula district in North Maluku.
Located between Sulawesi and Papua, Sula's population and culture are best described as a "hybrid."
"Our district is a melting pot for people from many different backgrounds," Hendrata Thes, the district head of Sula, said. "That’s why we don’t have our own distinctive local textile.”
Most of Sula's residents are farmers and fishermen.
"We wanted to help their economy without building factories in our own land," Hendrata said.
In December 2017, the district head invited Lenny to the islands to help local artisans create a new textile that the people of Sula can get behind.
"I stayed on the islands for seven months," Lenny said. "I researched the region and talked to people. That's how I came up with the idea of making a special batik for the district."
Lenny's brainchild was called Batik Xoela, which has a special motif called Wansosa (meaning "bees" in Sula language), and other motifs featuring local plants, birds and fishes.
The designer also trained local men and women to make the batik.
"The Sula people are very enthusiastic," Lenny said. "They're proud that they now have a textile that they can call their own – a mark of their cultural identity – and new skills they can use to improve their income."
Government officials and the people of Sula themselves apparently have gone enamored of Batik Xoela.
"We’re very happy that we have our own batik now," Hendrata said. "Before this, we always had to buy expensive batik from Java."
On the runway, Lenny showed off Batik Xoela as beautiful bubble dresses, voluminous jackets and cute crop tops.
"We will encourage more locals and small businesses to help develop Batik Xoela and really kickstart our economy," Hendrata said.
Protecting the Environment
Environmental protection has recently become an important issue for the global fashion industry.
More and more customers and designers are becoming conscious of the severe impacts the glitzy fast-fashion industry has on the environment and have been trying to find ways to reduce them.
On the final day of JFW 2019, Jumiko Jacobs from Manado, North Sulawesi, presented a special collection made using eco-print techniques.
"I steamed leaves that are often used in Manadonese cooking, such as gedi (Abelmoschus manihot) and papaya leaves and applied them on my fabrics," Jumiko said.
The steamed leaves only need a couple of minutes to transfer their colors and forms to the fabrics, creating unique, one-of-a-kind patterns on them.
Natural fabrics such as cotton, silk and linen turned out to be the best at absorbing the colors and forms of the leaves.
Jumiko turned his eco-prints into an elegant collection of evening and cocktail dresses on Friday.
"I can create a beautiful collection with minimal hazardous waste by sticking to all natural materials and colors," Jumiko said.
"The used leaves can even be turned into compost," the designer said. “This technique also encourages designers to grow their own plants, and thus make their operations more sustainable."