New looks handspun onto the runway by dyeing breed of designers. (Photo courtesy of APPMI)

Senior Designers Fresh as Ever

MARCH 27, 2015

Despite its glitz and glamour, the fashion industry is one of the most difficult to enter and survive in. That's why professional associations say they play a vital role in the industry to help the struggling young talent, as well as to encourage veteran designers to share their knowledge and expertise.

The Indonesian Fashion Designers Association (APPMI) is one of the main fashion associations in the country.

Started by a handful of designers in Jakarta in 1993, it has since has grown to boast 11 regional branches and more than 190 members across Indonesia.

From its headquarters in Bendungan Hilir, Central Jakarta, the association promotes professional development among its members, among them established and up-and-coming fashion designers from across the archipelago.

"Nationwide associations, such as the APPMI, are necessary to develop the country's fashion industry," APPMI chairman Taruna K. Kusmayadi says. "Without such organizations, only designers in Jakarta would be able to develop their skills and knowledge and obtain media coverage.

"National organizations help to detect new, potential talent in different parts of the country and help them grow their businesses," Taruna adds.

For four years now, APPMI has been presenting its annual fashion extravaganza, Indonesia Fashion Week (IFW), in Jakarta.

The event presents the upcoming collections of Indonesian fashion designers, as well as handmade accessories by local craftsmen and home industries.

The event grows each year. This year, 747 local apparel, textile and accessory brands participated; 32 fashion shows highlighted designers' latest looks for 2016-2017, leapfrogging the global industry cycle and tradition of showing only for the upcoming season.

Among APPMI's veteran designers to show on the runways of IFW 2015 were Agnes Budhisurya, Poppy Dharsono and Wignyo Rahadi, who proved their ongoing creativity, as well as extensive knowledge and expertise in the market.

Agnes Budhisurya

Agnes calls her fashion items "art to wear." Each of her items is hand-painted by Agnes herself.

Agnes's collection that showed at IFW 2015, themed " Dongeng Mahluk Surgawi " ("Tales of Heavenly Creatures"), featured surreal paintings of peacocks and dragons on her looks.

"I think [dragons and peacocks] are very graceful," the 68-year-old designer says. "And I love to immortalize their beauty on my creations."

Agnes combines batik techniques, freehand painting and embroidery on her fashion collections.

"I also marry traditional batik motifs, such as kawung [palm fronds] and lereng [mountain slopes] and my freehand paintings on my dresses," Agnes says.

The results are ethereal art pieces that are rich in symbolism and philosophical meanings.

On a sky-blue, one-shoulder dress, for example, a dragon flies across a repeated lereng pattern.

Traditionally, the lereng motif was only worn in Javanese culture by the crown prince; while the dragon represents power in Chinese mythology.

For Agnes, the painting on the dress symbolizes a good leader.

"On the dress, we can see how the dragon swerves and ducks, showing his physical strength and flexibility," she says. "Likewise, a good leader should be powerful, but also humble and willing to listen to his people."

Agnes's dresses and blouses have simple H-line silhouettes with minimal detailing. The highlights of the items are Agnes's own hand-paintings.

Another beautiful creation by the veteran designer is a silk-chiffon evening gown painted with a peacock grazing in a meadow.

The dress's diaphanous layers ebb and billow as the model sashays on the runway, lending the peacock a sense of dynamism, as if proud and alive among the meadow's tall grasses.

Beautiful as they are, the designer admits that these fashion items not easy to create.

"It takes weeks to create each dress, depending largely on my mood," she says.

The prices of these made-to-order items start from Rp 5 million ($400).

Poppy Dharsono

One of the APPMI's founders, Poppy debuted domestically in 1977 with her first ready-to-wear label, Elle et Lui.

Indonesia's fashion industry has grown a lot since then. Many newcomers have come and gone. But Poppy, with her ingenuity and creativity, continues to thrive in this cut-throat industry.

In her IFW 2015 show, the veteran designer showcased a collection, themed " Warisan Tradisional " ("Traditional Heritage), that featured handwoven Balinese endek and songket textiles .

"For five years, I've been using Central Javan textiles for my collections," the 63-year-old designer says. "I think it's now time for me to highlight the rich beauty of Balinese textiles."

This change marks a significant departure for Poppy, whose choice of textiles has long been drawn from her strong regional identity. She served as a member of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) from Central Java between 2009 and 2014.

In her latest collection, the designer transforms the vibrantly colored Balinese handwoven textiles into neatly tailored jackets, jodhpurs and evening dresses.

Although her items are made from traditional textiles, Poppy's draping and tailoring lend them a modern and elegant look.

"I think the only way that we can perpetuate traditional culture is by transforming it according to the current trends," she says.

Tenun endek, a textile that originally came from Bali's northern kingdom of Buleleng, was traditionally reserved for nobles. The traditional processes for manufacturing endek almost went extinct in the 1980s before the government started to encourage local craftsmen to develop this textile for mass production.

One of Poppy's creations in the show was an A-line maxi dress made of pink tenun endek. The simple dress, paired with an oversized leather belt, brimmed hat and sunglasses, wouldn't look out of place on the most stylish streets of Paris.

In another look, the designer paired burgundy jodhpurs, billowing at the hips, with a fitted jacket whose lapels and cuffs were neatly finished with sequins in a similar hue. The look on the model was both sexy and quirky.

"I'm personally committed to keep featuring Indonesian traditional textiles from many parts of the country in my collections," Poppy says.

Wignyo Rahadi

Wignyo, born in Solo, Central Java, discovered his talent for fashion quite late in life. After more than a decade working as an accountant in a Sukabumi, West Java, textile factory, he fell in love with the region's tenun gaya traditional woven cloth.

"The tenun has quiet motifs that are quite a contrast from batiks," Wignyo says.

The motifs of tenun gaya range from intermittent dots-and-lines to electric waves.

It's hard to believe, then, that such intricate and dynamic textiles are manufactured without any electricity at all on traditional wooden looms (known as ATBM in Indonesian).

With a sound grasp of the textile industry's fundamentals, Wignyo bought a plot of land in Sukabumi and started a cottage tenun gaya business.

Sadly, Sukabumi had little love for its homegrown textile, Wignyo says; few locals were interested in supporting the tradition because of the intricacy of the work involved.

"They preferred to work in factories or the local brick manufacturer," the designer says.

But Wignyo was patient and persisted with only a handful of employees. He experimented with various silk threads and dyes and developed increasingly better-quality tenun gaya.

Eventually, Wignyo's fashion creations were deemed fit for a king -- or rather a president: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono often sported his looks.

For IFW 2015, Wignyo themed his collection "Handmade Made Modern."

"It's targeted toward young, urban women," the 54-year-old designer says of his clothes.

Wignyo's dresses have sexy, body-hugging silhouettes but are adorned with peplums.

"The silhouettes resemble those of mermaids," he says.

Wignyo's mermaid inspiration was, in fact, derived from errors made by some of his weavers, he says.

"Some of the motifs are slanted, just like the gills of a fish."

But instead of getting rid of the weaving errors, Wignyo decided to use the handwoven textiles for his new collection.

The clever design decision yields slightly slanted dots-and-lines motifs of the tenun to create a slimming impression for the wearer.

"I'm very grateful to be able to feature my collection in IFW," Wignyo says. "The event highlights regional textile producers and designers like me.

"The event also provides a meeting point between designers and textile producers," he adds.

"And I think that's very important. If the Indonesian fashion industry wants to grow, then all the stakeholders should synergize and grow together."

The Peak For more info:

Agnes Budhisurya Boutique,Jl. Minyak Raya No. 2,Pancoran,South JakartaTel. 021 7987275

Poppy Dharsono BoutiqueJl. Bumi No. 52-54,Kebayoran Baru,South JakartaTel. 021 7251928

Wignyo Rahadi Boutique,Jl. Cipete Raya No. 18C,Cilandak, South Jakarta,Tel. 021 70614193