The textile exhibition of Sejauh Mata Memandang takes place at A.P.A. space at Plaza Indonesia until Dec. 13 (JG Photo/Nico Novito)

Fashion Label Redefines Batik for Indonesia's Modern-Minded Crowd


DECEMBER 01, 2015

Jakarta. Chitra Subyakto has become the go-to stylist and costume designer for a myriad of creative projects, from magazine editorials to commercials and films.

During the filming of the 2014 action movie "Pendekar Tongkat Emas" ("The Golden Cane Warrior"), for example, she spent months in Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, to style the star-studded cast, which included Reza Rahadian, Tara Basro and Nicholas Saputra.

Last year, Chitra was finally able to realize one of her biggest dreams: to revive the richly diverse textile traditions of Indonesia for the younger and modern-minded set.

Along with her friend, Arya Dipa, she started the label Sejauh Mata Memandang, which translates to "As Far as the Eye Can See."

"When I was a child, my parents introduced me to the beauty of Indonesia, including its textiles," Chitra told the Jakarta Globe last Friday during the label's first anniversary event.

"There was one point when I felt like wearing these fabrics in my own way, unlike older ladies who are used to donning them with corsets and all the trappings," she added.

As such, the label offers a range of handmade batik products that let the wearers sport them in a more effortless and non-constricting way.

From sarong fabrics to shawls to loose-fitting dresses, each of Sejauh Mata Memandang's piece feels timeless and bears unique motifs inspired by Chitra's own experience.

She emphasized that, contrary to popular misconception, batik refers not to the motif. Rather, it is the technique of creating the motif that utilizes wax-resisting process.

"The technique may have been passed down through generations, but the pattern can be adjusted to the current time according to the types of clothes we like to wear," she said.

Sejauh Mata Memandang's first collection, "Noodle Bowl," took its cues from the iconic illustration of the rooster and flower ubiquitously found on bowls used by noodle vendors throughout Jakarta.

"Inspiration can come from anywhere. We came up with this particular motif because everyone in my office likes to eat noodles all the time, and we thought the illustration on the bowl was cute," Chitra said, laughing.

Chitra and her team translated the image of the rooster into a geometric motif. The basic concept was further interpreted by artisans in Pekalongan, Central Java, and the island of Madura, East Java, resulting in motifs of a variety of shapes and colors.

The Pekalongan fabric, for instance, is rendered in dark blue, while that from Madura features a vibrant red color. Each batik fabric can take up to one month to finish, especially when it is painted by hand.

Chitra pointed out the importance of working closely with the craftspeople of these two cities.

"I see each of these batik artisans as an artist, as they are the ones who work directly with the textile," she said. "It's very important for us to meet them face-to-face and chat over coffee or tea.

"You cannot just e-mail them. This way, it makes me feel more human."

Textile installations

To mark its first anniversary, Sejauh Mata Memandang organized a textile exhibition and a slew of styling workshops at the A.P.A. (Alternative Public Artspace) in Plaza Indonesia, Central Jakarta, which runs through Dec. 13.

Inside a white structure specifically designed for the space by Alvin Tjitrowirjo, Chitra built a series of installations showcasing a melange of textiles from her label: a sliver of hand-stamped pleated cotton fabric, a batik fabric rendered yellow by natural turmeric-based coloring and a blue silk scarf made in Yogyakarta.

The textile exhibition of Sejauh Mata Memandang takes place at A.P.A. space at Plaza Indonesia until Dec. 13 (JG Photo/Nico Novito)

A stretch of hand-painted textiles in blue hangs in the center in a grandiose, wave-like composition as part of the label's second collection, "Algae Series."  It prominently features geometric square motif inspired by an aerial photograph of algae farm in Bali taken by Jez O'Hare, combined with tiny drawings of fishermen on their boats.

To create the ad campaign of this new collection, Sejauh Mata Memandang collaborated with renowned photographer Davy Linggar and invited Dian Sastrowardoyo and Eva Celia to pose in front of his lens.

"I see them as effortless and timeless figures — just like Sejauh," Chitra said of the famous actresses.

Currently, Chitra and Arya sell their products in local retail stores like The Goods Dept. and, but they are looking forward to introducing their label in Japan and Australia by the end of this year.

Chitra believes that Sejauh Mata Memandang's products — contemporary in style yet deeply rooted in Indonesian tradition — will resonate with international customers as well.

"We are not about being trendy — it's about being timeless," she concluded.

The Sejauh Mata Memandang textile exhibition continues through Dec. 13 at A.P.A., Level 5, Plaza Indonesia, Central Jakarta.