Poppy Dharsono Puts Diplomacy Into Her Designs
February is a busy month for Indonesia’s senior fashion designer Poppy Dharsono. After several years out of the spotlight, tending to her ill husband, the 61-year-old has decided to make a comeback at Indonesia’s fashion week this month.
“I’ve left my business unattended for more than two years,” Poppy said. “Now that Pak Moer [her late husband Moerdiono] is no longer with us, I again have time to create fashion.”
Her revival began with a private fashion show at the residence of Mexican Ambassador Melba Pria on Feb. 3.
In the fashion show, Poppy presented 40 new looks, which were all tailored to the personalities, fashion styles and physical features of the models.
Six ambassadors, their spouses and seven of their close friends modeled for the fashion show that afternoon.
Friendship between nations was the main goal and theme of the fashion show that afternoon.
“With fashion, we can foster a good friendship with other nations,” Poppy said. “Fashion is art and art has no boundaries. With fashion, we can all blend together and discover beautiful new things in life.”
Batik from Central Java was the clear highlight of the fashion extravaganza.
“At first, some of the [models] were reluctant [to wear batik],” Poppy said. “They weren’t sure that they’d look good in batik because as we know, some batiks are vibrantly colored and have very bold patterns.”
But Poppy managed to convince these foreign dignitaries to model for her show.
“I tailored all the outfits according to their personal styles, so they’d feel perfectly comfortable in them,” she said.
It took more than three months for Poppy and her staff to prepare the show.
“Some of the ladies got so excited [to become models] that they actually went on a diet,” Poppy said. “As a result, two of them lost so much weight that my staff and I had to rework the dresses until 4 a.m. this morning.”
But the guests could not see any tiredness on Poppy’s face before or after the fashion show that afternoon. Together with the host, she welcomed all the guests to the event with a warm genuine smile.
“Fashion has always been my passion,” Poppy said. “For me, fashion designing is equal with a session of meditation. I always feel so fresh and recharged after it.”
More than 50 people attended Sunday’s event, which began shortly after lunch.
Sari Kusumaningrum, executive director of BeritaSatu Media Holdings, was the first to walk the runway. Sari wore a gorgeous red dress with elaborate ruffles at the skirt and a cute batik bolero with a similar hue.
Etsuko Katori, wife of the Japanese ambassador, presented a short beige jacket embellished with ornate silver embroideries. The jacket was paired with a sky-blue batik sarong tied at the waist.
“I feel so lucky today,” Katori said.
Katori met Poppy at a formal event in Jakarta a couple of years ago and complimented the designer on the dress that she was wearing.
“I didn’t know that she was a designer then,” Katori said. “But I already admired her dress. And today, I can wear one of her beautiful designs.”
According to Katori, the outfit Poppy was wearing that day was “very traditional with a cosmopolitan feel.”
“It’s something that I can wear to the presidential palace or any formal events here,” Katori said. “I can also wear it in Japan or Paris.”
Datin Syarifah Ikhlas, wife of the Malaysian ambassador, looked stunning in the fashion show. She wore a black velvet jacket, embellished with black sequins at the lapels, a full skirt made of batik with a pretty truntum (small flowers) pattern and a long crystal necklace.
“I think it’s a good effort from Poppy Dharsono to make a comeback,” Ikhlas said. “The dresses are all very beautiful. And there’s a thick sense of friendship and solidarity in today’s event.”
Indonesian chef Farah Quinn wore a mini tube dress made of batik with an ornate floral pattern that was paired with black leather boots and an elegant long overcoat made of tenun (handwoven fabric).
“I think it’s so glamorous, so beautiful and wow,” Farah said. “I love it.”
The 32-year-old chef also enjoyed herself during the fashion show.
“We had a lot of fun,” she said. “None of us are professional models, but we got the opportunity to do a catwalk.”
The host, Melba Pria, wore a simple white silk shirt, lightly beaded at the back coupled with an A-lined batik skirt in the parang (knife) pattern.
In traditional Javanese culture, the Parang pattern is reserved for dignitaries and noble families only. The Mexican ambassador definitely looked very elegant in it.
“I’ve always admired Poppy Dharsono,” Pria said. “She’s not only a great designer but also helps young Indonesian talent to grow. That’s really something from someone that’s already on the top to come down and say ‘You can do it, I’ll help you.’ ”
In her life, Poppy has been a movie actress, model, fashion designer and a successful entrepreneur. Since 2009, she has also been an active member of the Central Java Legislative Council.
Adding to her accomplishments, in 1993, Poppy and some of her fellow designers established Appmi (Indonesian Fashion Designers Association) to nurture new fashion talent in the country. Today, the organization has branches in 11 provinces throughout Indonesia.
“It’s been a long journey,” Poppy said. “Today the association is 20 years old and has hundreds of members all over Indonesia.”
From Feb. 14-17, Appmi will present the second Indonesia Fashion Week in the Jakarta Convention Center. Poppy will also participate in the event and present a joint fashion show together with Indonesian celebrity designer Sebastian Gunawan and Brazilian designer Samuel Cirnansck on the final day of IFW.
Titled “Consensual Modernity,” Poppy will showcase chic modern outfits made of batik and handwoven textiles from Jepara, Central Java, and Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, in the fashion show.
“Indonesia has a rich cultural heritage,” Poppy said. “It’s the task of every designer in this country to perpetuate it by presenting it with a modern international look.”
Poppy Dharsono Boutique
Jl. Bumi No. 52-54,
Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta
Tel. 021 725 1928
Top to bottom: Fashion designer Poppy Dharsono, center, in yellow dress, surrounded by the models of the fashions show; chef Farah Quinn in one of Poppy’s designs. JG Photos/Sylviana Hamdani