The Spring/Summer 2015 collection of Lungsin handbags, designed by Aulia Rusnita Rusdi Fatah, is available for purchase at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis restaurant and art gallery. (JG Photos/ Sylviana Hamdani)

In Lungsin, a ‘Pretty’ Mixed Bag of Fashion, Tradition

FEBRUARY 23, 2015

It’s no secret that women are crazy about handbags. For many of us, they are not mere accessories with which to carry our belongings; they are symbols of status.

In some superficial circles, the design and brand of one’s clutch or tote somehow reflects the identity of the bearer as well as her position in society.

Therefore, it’s no wonder that a woman may have dozens of handbags. And still, choosing which one to carry is a daily struggle.

Aulia Rusnita Rusdi Fatah admits to being part of this consumerist group of bourgeois women.

“As a [high school] student, whenever I received pocket money from my parents, I would rush to the mall to buy some handbags,” said the 31-year-old. “I would match these handbags to my outfit whenever I went out.”

Aulia obsession blossomed from a materialistic hobby into a career: she now not only collects handbags, she also designs her own line.

The up-and-coming designer’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection under the label Lungsin (Weft) is currently on display in Tugu Kuntskring Paleis restaurant and art gallery in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

Lungsin handbags come in many different types and sizes, from palm-sized clutches to chic hobos and satchels. They are all embellished with Indonesian traditional tenun (handwoven textiles).

Aulia first started designing bags in 2012 after finding inspiration in her mother Anita Rusdi, Indonesia’s ambassador to Greece and an active member of Cita Tenun Indonesia. 

The nonprofit organization works to preserve and raise awareness about the archipelago’s traditional textiles.

“I was admiring my mom’s textile collections,” she said. “She has so many of them. Some are highly aesthetic, some are elegant and some are fun and colorful.” 

Aulia couldn’t bear the thought of these textiles lying idle in glass cabinets, waiting to decay; she wanted to transform them into something useful, so “I decided to make them into handbags.”

The mother of two then experimented with the brightly colored Tenun Endek from Bali, using the material to make pouches.

She brought one of her creations along to a social gathering, where it attracted quite a bit of attention. One friend even asked to purchase one for herself. 

Through word of mouth, Aulia’s small business quickly grew. Today, Lungsin bags are available in Galeries Lafayette at Pacific Place Mall, Alleira boutiques in Kemang and Gandaria City mall, and the Gran Melia Hotel, all in South Jakarta. Outside of the capital, the brand can be found at the W Hotel in Bali.

The Lungsin exhibition at Tugu Kunstkring Paleis was opened by Veronica Tan, wife of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

“I truly appreciate what Aulia has done with Lungsin,” Veronica said. “Her handbags highlight Indonesia’s traditional textiles and make us all very proud.”

A majority of the Spring/Summer 2015 collection combines genuine leather and even cobra skin with various tenun, including songket fabric from Palembang, South Sumatra; tenun baduy from West Java; and a variety of handwoven textiles from East Nusa Tenggara.

Each bag is handmade in Aulia’s workshop in Tebet, South Jakarta, with the help of skilled artisans who painstakingly apply intricate designs and motifs to Lungsin clutches, purses, handbags, coin bags, iPad cases and lipstick cases.

Despite the use of traditional textiles, the brand still has a chic, modern feel to it, thanks to the contemporary designs and fine craftsmanship of its items.

“[Lungsin] combines the traditional and the modern,” said Annette Anhar, manager of Tugu Kunstkring Paleis. 

The highlight of Lungsin’s latest collection is its clutches — they garnered the most attention at the line’s launch, with guests gathered around the display throughout the evening.

The batch included a long, ovoid-shaped clutch made of pink-and-gold songket Palembang, made to rest snugly in the curve your hand. The clasp takes the form of a brass peacock, whose tail is studded with faux diamonds. 

“The peacock [clasp] perfectly matches the elegant motif of the songket,” Aulia explained.

Siti Zaharah Awam, Indonesia’s representative for the European Center for Aging Research and Education (Ecare), had nothing but praise for Lungsin’s eye-catching clutches.

“Lungsin, particularly its clutches, can compete with any international brand,” Siti said. “The designer smartly chose Indonesian traditional textiles that are aesthetically pleasing. 

“These [clutches] would cost a fortune abroad. But here, they are quite affordable,” she added.

Lungsin handbags are priced between Rp 200,000 and Rp 1.6 million ($15.55 and $124.45).

“My vision is to create bags that are uniquely Indonesian and affordable,” Aulia said.

Seeing the unique beauty of Lungsin handbags, Lilik Purwanto, wife of Indonesia’s ambassador to Nigeria, brought a number of them to the capital city of Abuja, where she and her husband are now posted.

“The ladies there adore them. They have also shown a lot of interest in ordering a few items from the previous collection,” Lilik said, referring to the brightly colored satchels she used during a number of social gatherings in Ajuba. 

“[Lungsin bags] are more than just pretty,” she said. “I am proud to wear them to parties and social events as they represent our culture.”

With the help of her brother, Akmal Haris, Aulia has expanded on the brand with a line of home-living items, such as cushions, table runners and trunks — all baring the distinct Lungsin signature style of ethnic Indonesian fabrics.

“These home-living products, which are available now, have a far more traditional look in that they come in dark colors,” Aulia said. “But Akmal and I plan to collaborate with artisans from across the country to create motifs in light and brighter hues.”