Bali’s Tenun Endek Gets a Fashionable Twist
Indonesia is blessed with a rich variety of traditional textiles. While Unesco acknowledged batik as an intangible cultural heritage in 2009, there are hundreds of unique traditional textiles still undiscovered or unused in modern fashion creations.
One of these traditional textiles is tenun endek from Bali. The traditional textile comes in a myriad of beautiful colors and geometrical designs. The fabric is painstakingly hand-woven by skilled artisans in Klungkung, Ubud and Gianyar using a traditional weaving apparatus.
Traditionally, the fabric is worn by Balinese men and women during religious ceremonies.
Fashion designer Eddy Betty and his business partner, Ley Puspa Sandjaja, decided to give the fabric a bit more exposure by featuring it in the new collection of their brainchild, the ready-to-wear deluxe label Edbe.
Since its inception in 2010, Edbe has become known for its fun and playful men’s and women’s collection made from hand-painted batik.
“Batik is an art of painting [with molten wax] on a piece of fabric,” Ley said. “On the other hand, tenun is an art of ‘painting’ with strands of threads that become a beautiful piece of textile.”
Presented on June 7 in the grand ballroom of The Ritz-Carlton, Edbe’s latest collection gave tenun endek a new, dynamic feel.
The new collection, named Imperata Nomadechic, featured 114 men’s and women’s casual outfits made entirely from the traditional textile.
As the fabric was already infused with bold patterns and colors, the outfits adopted simpler designs and streamlined silhouettes. A few ruffles, cinches and draperies were added to embellish the dresses, but otherwise the strength of the outfits came out of the dazzling colors and patterns of tenun endek.
“We don’t necessarily turn tenun into formal suits and evening dresses,” Eddy said. “With this collection, I want to show that we can also make tenun into something fun and playful.”
The fashion show was divided into three sequences, which showed daily life in Bali from sunrise to sunset.
The stage was designed to resemble terraced paddy fields in Ubud with rows of green paddy leaves swaying on the background. The video art onscreen portrayed a beautifully rising sun.
In the first sequence, Eddy and Ley presented men’s and women’s outfits in fresh natural colors, such as green, yellow and red. A clever combination of textures, colors and patterns made each outfit stand out. “We combine four to five different pieces of tenun endek [with different colors and patterns] just to make one outfit,” Ley said.
Eddy introduced his own patterns of flowers, butterflies, colorful checkers and polka dots into the traditional fabric.
“I want to give the traditional textile a fresh breath of life,” Eddy said. “With fun and playful patterns, tenun can look like something unique and modern.”
A short bubble dress in this sequence looked exceptionally stunning. The moss-green fabric was enhanced with a beautiful pattern of flying butterflies in red and lilac. At the waist was a unique belt made of woven rattan.
The second series of the show portrayed a blazing hot midday in Bali. In this session, Eddy and Ley combined the colorful tenun endek with ecru linen.
It was a successful combination. Both the linen and tenun endek had similar textures that made the fabrics flow seamlessly into one another.
A linen men’s shirt was enhanced with front and side patches of tenun endek. The traditional geometrical designs in natural brown and gray highlighted the plain khaki hue of the shirt.
A beautiful linen dress with an asymmetrical design was enhanced with traversing lines of rainbow-colored tenun endek across the bodice. The colorful lines created a dynamic impression about the model as she came down the runway.
The most beautiful part in the collection was in the third series. With a background of the sun setting over on a Bali beach, the models paraded on the catwalk wearing cutting-edge outfits made of dark-hued tenun endek.
The most beautiful dress in this sequence was a dark green dress entirely covered with a beautiful scale-like pattern. The dress has a romantic flowing silhouette that swayed beautifully as the model sashayed down the catwalk.
“People would say that tenun fabrics are stiff and not comfortable to wear,” Eddy said. “But this is not always the case. When you get to know the weavers, you can ask them to comb the material and make it softer for you.”
Through the end of this year, Eddy and Ley plan to work with groups of Balinese weavers to improve their techniques and help them market their products.
“More people should know of Indonesian traditional textiles,” Eddy said. “When they do, they’ll be amazed of their beauty and intricacies.”