Designers Make the Nation’s Batik Chic
Batik euphoria has washed over Indonesia since the United Nations’ cultural body acknowledged the textile as part of the world’s intangible heritage in October 2009.
Batik has been resurrected. It has gone from antiquated garments worn only for formal ceremonies to stylish and trendy. The government has designated Oct. 2 as National Batik Day, with the event this year celebrated in Jakarta with festivities and fashion shows.
Eight Indonesian and three international fashion designers presented their batik collections during a gala dinner and fashion show at the World Batik Summit, which was held at the Jakarta Convention Center in late September, ahead of National Batik Day.
“We’ve invited these international designers to create a special batik collection for the evening,” said Ika B. S. Wahyudi, chairwoman of the gala dinner and fashion show committee. “We wanted to see their perception of our traditional textile.”
Japanese designer Kaoru showcased effortlessly chic summer dresses made of vibrant batik pieces from Madura, Cirebon and Pekalongan, with Djawa Hokokai (Japanese-influenced) motifs. The more elegant Sogan (brownish-colored) pieces of Yogyakarta and Solo batik were made into tasteful formal jackets and long skirts.
Kaoru and her husband, Masakatsu Tozu, are avid batik lovers. The couple researched batik for 42 years and currently run a batik shop in Tokyo.
Milan-based Malaysian designer Datin Noor Fatimah also took part in the event, presenting light resort wear made of batik Tanjung Bumi from Madura and Batik Parang Kencana, a batik brand that sponsored the event.
“It’s an ‘East Meets West’ combination,” she said. “Resort wear at the moment is very in in Europe. That’s why I incorporated resort wear into my designs by using batik.”
Indonesian designer Chossy Latu presented exquisite batik evening wear made of silk. The made-to-order batik featured ornate floral and butterfly motifs, which suited the theme of the collection, “Twilight Garden.” Presented in classic black-and-white hues, his evening dresses exude a timeless elegance.
“With this collection, I want to show to the world that batik is just as beautiful as any other fabric and can be made into haute-couture collections,” he said.
Indonesian designer Sebastian Gunawan presented his new collection, “The Nyonya Glam.”
“Batik is undeniably a result of acculturations over many decades,” the designer said.
“For this collection, I was inspired by the Nyonya Ware porcelain sets made by Chinese Peranakan [Chinese descendents] in Indonesia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The porcelain sets are adorned with unique floral patterns, which are named the Familie Rose.”
Sebastian’s collection featured well-structured cocktail dresses made of china-blue silk batik. The motif, “Familie Rose,” reigned throughout the collection in red and yellow tints.
“But batik is not all about formal wear and evening dresses,” fashion designer Eddy Betty said. “The textile can also be made into something fun and exciting.”
Eddy presented his new ready-to-wear collection for his edbe label in a fashion show held at the grand ballroom of Hotel Mulia Senayan. Themed “Love Is in the Air,” the show featured 90 men’s and women’s looks for 2012.
Frivolous patterns were etched in shocking bright colors on the clothes showcased on the runway, while traditional batik motifs of lereng (slopes) and parang (knives) collided with fun, playful patterns of yellow rubber ducks, Russian matryoshka dolls and bouncing balls.
“They’re all memorable items from my childhood,’’ said Eddy, who also introduced a concept that he called “Mix Don’t Match.”
“Batik doesn’t have to be old, traditional and rigid,’’ he said. “You can play around with cuts, colors and styles to make it more fun and stylish.’’
Skirts and blouses with asymmetrical cuts and shredded hemlines defied convention. Mismatched colors and patterns were seemingly cut and pasted together in an absent-minded fashion. Yet, Eddy still managed to weave a harmonious feel throughout.
“The batik was all done by women living in villages on the slopes of Mount Merapi,” the 41-year-old designer said.
After last year’s deadly eruption that destroyed most of their crops and livestock, many of the villages around the volcano in Central and Yogyakarta had no means of income.
Some of the wives and daughters in the villages have taken on batik-making to earn a living for their families, while a nongovernmental organization has been teaching women to draw on batik.
“I just gave them my sketches and asked them to replicate them on the fabric,” Eddy said. “They’re not perfect. Yet, it’s exactly what makes batik so enchanting.”
The neon bright colors of the batik bring an electric thrill to the collection.
“They’re a piece of art,” he said. “It takes collaboration between man and nature to produce an excellent piece of batik.”
Eddy explained that to produce a certain color in batik required expert craftsmanship by the artisans, the right level of acidity in the water (for dyeing) and the right level of brightness from the sun when drying the textiles.
“Tak kenal maka tak sayang [If you don’t know it, you won’t love it],’’ he said. “The more you know about batik, the more you’ll fall in love with it.’’