Haryo Balitar and Toton Januar pose with their IWP Asia Regional trophy at their press conference. (JG Photo/Sylviana Hamdani)

Toton, Asia's Merino Wool Champion

BY :SYLVIANA HAMDANI

JULY 20, 2016

Jakarta. Indonesian premium ready-to-wear label Toton has brought international acclaim to the country's fashion industry, winning the Asian leg of the International Woolmark Prize (IWP) in Hong Kong with their wool-and-silk women's wear collection on July 12.

"We didn't expect this at all," said Toton Januar, chief designer of the label, at a press conference in Jakarta on Tuesday (19/07). "We're the first Indonesian designer to participate in the IWP. And we've never used Merino wool before."

IWP is an annual fashion competition held by The Woolmark Company — owned and managed by Australian woolgrowers —  since 1953.

There are six legs to the competition: Asia; Australia and New Zealand; the British Isles; Europe; India, Pakistan and the Middle East and the United States.

IWP's partner in Indonesia is Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW). JFW selected three Indonesian labels — Major Minor Maha, Toton and Vinora — to take part in the Asian finals in Hong Kong this year.

"This is a proud moment for Indonesia's fashion industry," said Svida Alisjahbana, chairwoman of JFW. "This is proof that Indonesian designers are indeed world-class talents."

For the regional finals, designers were asked to create a collection 80% made of Merino wool produced by The Woolmark Company.

"We could choose to use wool fabrics or wool fibers," said Haryo Balitar, Toton's business partner. "We chose the latter and had them handwoven by traditional weavers in Garut [in West Java]."

"We wanted to promote Indonesian craftsmanship to the world," Haryo said.

The weaving process involved a lot of trials and errors. "Wool fibers are fragile. Weaving them into a piece of textile was difficult," said Toton. "In the end, we made an 80%-20% wool-silk blend."

The clothes themselves were inspired by the interior of the Leang-Leang Cave in Toton's hometown in Makassar, South Sulawesi.

"The cave is so amazing," said the designer. "The walls of the cave are covered in prehistoric paintings in beautiful earthen hues," said the designer.

The judges in Hong Kong were astounded by Toton's collection.

"The judges said they were amazed with our works. We're happy with that," said Toton. "They said we've introduced a new way of looking at Merino wool."

As the regional winner, Toton received a prize money of A$50,000 and the much-coveted opportunity of representing Asia in the international grand finals which will be held in Paris in January next year.

"For the grand finals, we will bring in six new looks, which we've developed from our initial concept," said Haryo.

Steven Barraclough, head of the economic, investment and infrastructure branch of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, warmly congratulated Toton during the press conference yesterday.

"Big congratulations to Toton for winning the Asian final," said Barraclough. "We sincerely hope he'll come out as the international champion in Paris in January."

Australia is a major global wool supplier. Their annual wool export is worth approximately three billion Australian dollars.

Toton and Haryo are already hard at work preparing their capsule collection for the grand finals in Paris.

What are their chances of actually winning the international competition?

"One-sixth [there will be a total of six finalists]," said Toton with a laugh. "We're not expecting to win. But we'll do our best."

The winner of the IWP grand finals in January will receive A$100,000 and a distribution deal with a number of international retailers associated with The Woolmark Company, including Harvey Nichols in the UK, Boutique 1 in the United Arab Emirates and The Papillon in Kemang, Jakarta.

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