From left: Felix Tjahjadi, Didi Budiardjo and Dyah Damayanti. (Photos courtesy of Arselan Ganin)

Didi Budiardjo’s 'Pilgrimage' Showcases 25 Years of Iconic Fashion Collections

JANUARY 18, 2015

From left: Felix Tjahjadi, Didi Budiardjo and Dyah Damayanti. (Photos courtesy of Arselan Ganin)

Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, has always been a hectic place. While the city government’s recent efforts to tidy it up have made Tanah Abang’s chaos more orderly, the streets, alleys and markets remain  jam-packed with people, merchandise and vehicles.

Just a stone’s throw away from this hectic mercantile district sits a grand white colonial-era house, seemingly unperturbed by all the commotion. Within the embrace of its leafy garden, this house and its environs exude a quiet serenity, as if of an entirely different time and era.

The building, originally built in the early 19th century, used to house a French expat family in the colonial era. The property changed hands and functions for several times before it was finally established in June 1976 as home to the Jakarta Textile Museum.

Today, the museum houses thousands of rare and vintage batik pieces, tenun (hand-woven) textiles, as well as weaving, dyeing and batik-drawing apparati from all over Indonesia.

“Our collections are very solid,” said Dyah Damayanti, the museum’s director. “And we also offer many interesting programs and talk shows for the visitors.”

Few people visit this beautiful museum these days.

“About 100-200 people visit the museum each day,” Dyah said. “They’re mostly groups of students on organized schools’ visits.”

According to the museum’s director, people would rather go to the malls than museums these days.

“They prefer to have fun at the malls,” Dyah said with a wan smile.

But the Jakarta Textile Museum may not remain deserted for long.

A new exhibition of work by top fashion designer Didi Budiardjo entitled “Pilgrimage” will run from Jan. 16-25.

The retrospective which will showcase some of Didi’s iconic collections across a career that has spanned 25 years, an important hallmark of Indonesia’s fashion industry.

A journey

“Twenty-five years is neither a long or short period for me,” Didi told the Jakarta Globe. “Because [work as a fashion designer] is not only a career for me, but also a soul-searching process.”

Born in Malang in 1970, the designer began cultivating a wide variety of  artistic skills — from drawing batik to sculpting clay — at an early age.

“He was also a naturally gifted painter,” said Didi’s mom, Lisa Ayodhia. “Since primary school, his friends have often asked him to make drawings for them.”

One of Didi’s signature gowns displayed in ‘Pilgrimage.’ (Photos courtesy of Arselan Ganin)

When Didi was only 14-years-old, he took part in an international face-painting competition in Glasgow, Scotland, and won the first prize.

“He became the first Indonesian that won at an international face-painting competition,” Lisa said with a smile that beamed maternal pride.

The Jakarta Globe could not independently verify the claim of Didi’s mother that her son was the first Indonesian to win an international face-painting competition.

But it was fashion that took hold of Didi’s passion in later years. After finishing high school, he decided to go to Jakarta and study at the Susan Budihardjo Institute of Fashion Design (LPTB Susan Budihardjo).

“[Susan] was an incredible mentor,” Didi said. “I was truly impressed by her teaching.”

Didi then continued his fashion study at the Atelier Fleuri Delaporte in Paris.

After he returned to Jakarta in 1990, Didi founded his own label and began designing kebayas and evening gowns for private clients.

“At that time, being a fashion designer was considered an odd choice,” Didi said with a laugh. “People would look at us as if we were aliens from another planet.”

Over the years, the designer has gained trust from a loyal coterie of customers.

“It’s been a journey,” he said, with a smile.

For Didi, “Pilgrimage,” the Jakarta Textile Museum’s retrospective of his work offers a rare chance to re-visiting his career’s journey.

“I’ve chosen to have it at this museum for a reason,” he said. “I want people to visit this museum again and rediscover its beautiful collections.”

During the exhibition, the bespectacled fashion designer will present 70 of his dresses, as well as 300 unique textiles and accessories from the 25 years of his career. Some of these looks belong to his private collections; others are borrowed from his long-time clients.

“Through the exhibition, I also want to encourage my fellow fashion designers to archive their works,” said Didi. “One day, their [archived] works will speak volumes to the younger generations.”

The exhibition is curated by art director Felix Tjahjadi. 

‘Fun like Dufan’

“I love to visit museums whenever I’m abroad,” Felix said. “But I rarely do so in Indonesia. I think museums in this country are not well managed, so their collections appear to be old and boring.”

But Felix promises to make Didi’s exhibition at the Jakarta Textile Museum as “fun as Dufan [Fantasy World Amusement Park in Ancol, North Jakarta].”

“I want to make it light and very entertaining,” Felix said.

For Didi’s exhibition, the halls of the museum will be divided into 14 rooms, each with its own theme and decor.

The first room, dubbed “The Atelier,” (“workshop” in French) will depict the designer’s first steps in the fashion world.

“It’s designed to recreate Didi’s own atelier with rough sketches, books and unfinished patterns,” Felix said.

Among the items displayed in the exhibition will be Didi’s first collection, made in early 1990, which was inspired by the late fashion expert, Muara Bagja.

“I was a very new designer,” Didi said. “Yet, Muara [a fashion editor at that time] came to my atelier and entrusted me to create a special collection for a fashion spread in his magazine. It was like a dream that came true to me.”

Didi’s love for Indonesian traditional textiles is evident in the exhibition’s Gula Kelapa (Coconut Sugar) room, which displays a series of the designer’s kebayas. Among them: the stunning red-and-white kebaya worn by Veronica Tan, the wife of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, at his Nov. 19, 2014, swearing-in.

Also included in this exhibition are iconic designs by Didi’s mentor, Susan Budihardjo, and fellow fashion designers Adrian Gan, Eddy Betty and Sebastian Gunawan.

“I think we all represent a generation of designers in between the [old and] modern Indonesian fashion,” Didi said.

The exhibition is open for public Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and runs until Jan. 25. There is no admission fee to the museum during this exhibition.

“I think the exhibition is a very nice and positive move by the fashion designer to popularize this museum among today’s fashionistas and socialites,” said Dyah Damayanti, director of the Jakarta Textile Museum. “We hope that this museum will become alive and busy again during and after the exhibition.”

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