Jakarta. Indonesia is very rich in cultures and traditions, but few of us truly realize their meaning and significance in modern life.
Bridal designer Vera Anggraini presented a fashion show, themed "Merajut Nusantara" ("Crocheting the Archipelago") at Raffles Jakarta on Wednesday (15/08) to display Indonesia's traditional costumes in grandeur.
"The fashion show is an expression of my love and admiration of Indonesia's traditional cultures," Vera said. "Each [culture] is interesting. Each is excellent," Vera said.
The designer presented 40 traditional bridal attires, from Aceh to Papua, in their full regalia during the fashion show.
She also added light, contemporary touches to each traditional costume, while maintaining their original silhouettes.
Composer Djaduk Ferianto and his music group Kuaetnika supported the fashion show. He created several new scores and musical arrangements to accompany the show.
"Vera and I have the same spirit," Djaduk said. "Like me, she reinterprets Indonesia's traditional cultures, while preserving their essence. I believe that's what we should do to perpetuate Indonesia's traditional cultures in jaman now [modern times]."
The hotel's ballroom was darkened for the start of the show. A video, displayed on giant screens above the stage, ushered the audience into the lush tropical jungles of Kalimantan. Kuaetnika then played a soft and haunting percussion ensemble, while the singers chanted Dayak prayers in low murmurs.
A model, dressed in Dayak wedding attire, gently made her appearance on the catwalk. Her long black robe was dotted with beads and crystals. On her head was a traditional gilded headdress portraying two dragons standing back to back.
Bird feathers, in red and white, also embellished the headdress.
Up next was a model dressed in the traditional costume of Maluku. Her tight-fitting crimson kebaya had an adorable sweetheart neckline laced with crystals. Accompanying the kebaya was a sarong of Mollucan songket (handwoven fabric with golden thread). A tiara made of silver kembang goyang (rocking flowers) crowned the model's head.
"I believe a kebaya can only exude its full charms when paired with the traditional kain [sarong or wraparound traditional fabric] and ethnic accessories of the region," the designer said.
Experts in traditional costumes and makeup artists specializing in specific regions of Indonesia assisted Vera with this show.
The second sequence of the show, themed "Jawadwipa," featured kebayas from Java and Bali.
Top model Ilmira Usmanova, dressed in a long, red Javanese kebaya, opened this sequence. True to old Javanese bridal traditions, her forehead was painted with paes, or curving black patterns drawn on her forehead.
Senior Javanese-style makeup artist Mamie Hardo oversaw the models' makeup in this sequence.
"Paes is a symbol of a woman's readiness to enter marriage," Mamie said.
There are several paes patterns, each connoting a different virtue of the bride, such as honor, purity and wisdom.
Some of the Javanese brides in the fashion show also had their eyebrows shaped like deer's horns.
"It symbolizes a wish for the new wife to be as quick and intelligent as a deer," the makeup artist said.
The third sequence of the show, themed "Swarnadwipa," opened with a performance of silat Minangkabau, a form of martial art from West Sumatra.
In this sequence, the models showed off the rich traditional costumes of Sumatra, which greatly differ from one region to another, despite being on the same island.
The Batak Karo bride wore a beautiful red velvet kebaya, adorned with ornate embroideries and sequins, as well as three layers of handwoven sarongs wrapped around her waist.
A unique headdress, made of triple-folded uis (traditional handwoven fabric of the Batak Karo) adorned the model. The front of the headdress was decorated with strings of small golden beads that swayed as the model made her way along the catwalk.
The Lampung bride wore a white kebaya, paired with a red-and-silver kain tapis (traditional handwoven fabric of Lampung).
"Traditionally, red is the preferred color in Sumatra," Vera said. "But I have made the costumes in many different colors to attract more young people to wear them at their weddings."
Completing the Lampung's bride's look was a siger, or golden headdress resembling a bull's horn, which signifies the wonderful strength of Lampung women.
The Koto Gadang bride from West Sumatra was equally captivating in her emerald baju kurung dress, which was adorned with crystals and floral embroideries.
Different from many other traditional brides in Indonesia, Koto Gadang brides do not wear any elaborate metallic headdresses. Instead, the wear velvet capes embellished with crystals and sequins. A neat golden headband usually adorns the top of the bride's forehead.
Learning From the Experts
The designer, born in Medan, North Sumatra, in 1974, learned from some of the best kebaya and traditional costume experts in Indonesia.
After completing her fashion studies at the Institute of Teacher Training and Education (IKIP), now known as the Indonesia Education University (UPI,) in her hometown, Vera moved to Jakarta and apprenticed at the workshop of renowned kebaya designer Nelwan Anwar.
After about a year, she went to work for Adjie Notonegoro, another famous kebaya couturier in Jakarta.
Having gained knowledge and experience from the experts, Vera then started her own workshop in 2002. Under the designer's label Vera Kebaya, she has made wedding attires for some of the top names in the country, including singer-songwriter Raisa Andriana and Kahiyang Ayu, the daughter of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
"My ultimate dream is for Indonesians to be proud of who they are and for them to want to wear their traditional costumes when they get married," Vera said.