Upholding Iwan Tirta’s Legacy
“A great man never dies,” said Greek poet and philosopher Callimachus. This saying is especially true in the case of Indonesian batik maestro Nusjirwan Tirtaamidjaja, better known as Iwan Tirta.
The master, who passed away on July 31, 2010, has not faded from memory. In fact, his reputation and works continue to influence.
“It’s been almost two years now since we lost Iwan Tirta,” said Daniel Sugiarto, managing director of Iwan Tirta Private Collection. “He was our leader, our tutor and our hero.”
ITPC, a fashion house established by Iwan in 2009, produces and sells high-end batik textiles, pret-a-porter collections, home decorations and gift items.
Today, ITPC has six galleries in Jakarta and four workshops, employing more than 500 skilled batik artisans in Jakarta, Pekalongan, Central Java, and Yogyakarta.
Starting today through next Wednesday, ITPC, in collaboration with Rumah Budaya Nusantara Puspo Budoyo (Puspo Budoyo House of Traditional Culture), will take part in the Indonesia Week celebration in Spain with a series of cultural and fashion shows.
Indonesia Week is an annual celebration of Indonesian arts and cultural heritage, hosted by the Indonesian Embassy in Madrid.
RBNPB performed during Indonesia Week last year.
“The ambassador [Adiyatwidi Adiwoso Asmady] was very pleased with our performance last year. She said that we should come again this year and bring along a batik house to present a fashion show in Spain,” said Lies Luluk Sumiarso, chairwoman of RBNPB.
Lies then contacted her friend Filda Yusgiantoro, chairwoman of the Iwan Tirta Foundation, to arrange a fashion show of Iwan’s batik in Spain.
“It’s always been our aim to continue the late maestro’s aspirations to introduce Indonesian batik to the world,” Filda said.
ITPC has prepared a special collection to be presented in Spain.
A preview of the new Spring/Summer 2012 collection was presented in the grand ballroom of the Dharmawangsa Hotel in South Jakarta on May 12. During the event, ITPC also introduced its new creative director, Era Sukamto.
The 36-year-old fashion designer is the first creative director of ITPC since the passing of Iwan Tirta.
“In our eyes, Era is a capable person,” Daniel said. “Despite her young age, she has more than 14 years of knowledge and experience in the fashion industry.”
Born in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, Era always dreamed of becoming a top Indonesian designer. She studied at LaSalle International Fashion College in Singapore and then worked for several design companies in Jakarta.
In 2004, Era established her own fashion company, Urban Corp. Indonesia, producing several collections including pret-a-porter and corporate uniform lines.
Era also actively participates in various organizations. She is currently a spokeswoman for the Indonesian Fashion Designers Council (IPMI) and a moderator at the Indonesia Young Entrepreneurship mailing-list forum.
Era is also involved with Cita Tenun Indonesia, a group for Indonesian textile lovers and collectors. With CTI, Era offers training and support to groups of traditional Baduy weavers in West Java.
The fashion designer has won a number of national and international accolades, including being named the 1997 runner-up at the Indonesia Young Designers Contest in Jakarta and runner-up at the Asian Young Designers Contest Singapore in 1998, as well as being a semifinalist at the Surrealism Fashion Contest in Switzerland in 2000.
Era said she was inspired by Iwan when she was young. “I was one of his biggest fans,” she said. “I still have newspaper and magazine clippings of his achievements. I wanted to be just like him.”
In later years, Iwan and Era often met at batik exhibitions and fashion shows, but the two were never particularly close. So it was a surprise to Era when ITPC approached her to become its creative director last December.
“For me, it’s an honor and a huge responsibility,” Era said. “Iwan Tirta is not just another batik label. He’s more like an icon of handmade Indonesian batiks.”
Era said she took a couple of months to think about the position before accepting ITPC’s offer.
“I now believe that it’s my calling,” she said. “It’s meant to be. Everything that I’ve done leads me down this path.”
Era has promised not to deviate from Iwan’s design principles. “We have found more than 10,000 batik motifs in his home library,” she said. “And each batik stroke has a deep meaning and philosophy behind it.”
However, Era acknowledged that some of the designs would have to be adjusted for the tastes and preferences of today’s customer. “Batik should never be seen as something old and obsolete,” she said. “Therefore, we have to create something fresh and modern out of it.”
In the new collection “Love in Spring Regalia,” Era presented 21 women’s and men’s outfits made of buketan batik.
Buketan batik is adapted from colonial-era Dutch paintings. It features ornate floral designs and bold colors.
For women, Era presented flowing blouses and long dresses that emphasize the feminine figure. The first dress that she presented in the Dharmawangsa preview show was especially adorable, made of a salmon-hued batik and enhanced with intricate patterns of blooming starflowers and colorful butterflies. The knee-length, sleeveless dress had a cowl neckline, with the back revealing the beautifully chiseled shoulders of the model.
The second piece, a caramel-hued batik dress that portrayed a garden of blooming hibiscus, was equally charming. The long dress, tied with a simple black sash at the waist, made the model look effortlessly chic.
But the final dress was perhaps the most enchanting of all. The A-line halter neck dress was adorned with colorful Swarovski crystals around the chest and a cute bow at the front and on the straps in the back.
The men’s shirts featured much bolder patterns and darker colors. A men’s item that turned heads at the fashion show was a long-sleeve shirt that featured a red bird of paradise sitting on top of a lush green tree. The batik’s soft and silky material gleamed beautifully under the spotlights.
The preview also featured a number of traditional dances from across the archipelago that will be performed during Indonesia Week in Spain. The first dance was the Betawi Lenggang Nyai (Footsteps of a Woman). The rolicking dance portrays the happiness of a woman after making one of life’s major decisions: to get married.
The second dance was the Tari Topeng Cirebon (Cirebon Mask Dance) from West Java. Male dancers interpreted the various stages of a boy’s life as he grows to become a man.
“Our calendar is full of cultural shows around the world for 2012 and 2013,” said Lies, from the RBNPB. “And from now on, we’re also committed to introducing traditional Indonesian textiles with our shows.”
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Wardana attended the Jakarta preview.
“This is a true manifestation of Indonesia’s cultural diplomacy,” Wardana said. “By introducing Indonesian culture to the international world, we’ll foster a mutual understanding and build a strong relationship between nations.”
To learn more about Iwan Tirta’s batik, visit www.iwantirtabatik.com