Designers Inspired by Tradition

I love how we get multi-disciplinary artists at our annual arts festivals. The Balinale, MiniKino film festival, and Ubud Writers and Readers, are some recent cultural conventions which annually bring international talents in far more crafts than the category of festival.  I’m letting you in on the sartorial angle, and if I can get someone to donate their Bintang singlet to The Smile Shop in favor of donning a baju Lurik Solo, my work is done.

Just in case you didn’t bother to google it, a baju Lurik Solo is a Javanese men’s jacket, woven of a distinctive striped cotton, in the tradition of Solo, one of Indonesia’s great fabric capitals. 

As a bit of a festival lizard, I recently met some of Indonesia’s most innovative clothing designers, and I’ll tell you how you can buy their goods.  Even at the writers’ festival, an impromptu catwalk had Java’s Didiet Maulana modeling his own Ikat Indonesia fabrics, and Fashion For Words activist/writer Eliza Vitri Handayani wearing her sumptuous ball gown festooned with quotations from banned books. That session was moderated by diffability activist Carly Findlay, whose unusually sensitive skin drives her to seek out clothes of only the most comfortable, soft cotton. 

Ikat Indonesia is Didiet’s line of men’s and women’s clothing glorifying Ikat dyed fabric, and playing up the beauty and high craft of Lurik weaves (the unmistakable striped cotton fabric seen in Java).  His work regularly sells out of his online shop ( and he is in great demand as a corporate uniform designer and bridal expert.  His philosophy of clothing includes a strong desire for young Indonesians to re-engage with their traditions, and he says that a couple of his high quality classic pieces can be the basis of a wardrobe that will wear for a lifetime, whereas cheap trendy clothes can fall apart or be grossly out of style in a matter of weeks.

BIWA members model Lurikoe designs, Dian Retma in white.

Expats, do you ever feel dumpy or a bit of a trespasser when garbed in Indonesian clothes at a temple or ceremony? Love to wear a sarong as a scarf or shawl, but get disapproving looks? I told Didiet about my own fears of being accused of cultural misappropriation, since I still don’t know all the meanings of certain colors or fabric prints.  He suggested simply asking the nearest Indonesian for advice when selecting an outfit.  Eliza added that an intended lack of respect is certainly recognizable by most Indonesians, but if one innocently makes an unusual clothing choice, it is easily forgiven in the spirit of friendship.  Whew!

Another designer’s updated interpretation of Lurik is in the boutique Lurikoe, outside the Anhera Hotel in Sanggingan.  Find here the beautiful creations of Dian Retmawati, a fabric rule-breaker : some pieces flaunting feathery, frayed seamlines, ingenious mixing and matching, but always with an elegant line on the body.  Gorgeously flattering on bodies of all shapes and heights, Dian’s comfy dresses and separates pay honor to the craftspeople who invested so much work into the special dyeing and weaving processes.  

Dian honed her skills through friendship with a Milanese designer, so there’s a sense of Italian styling to her cutting and pattern work.  Her creations sell out quickly, as they are very reasonably priced. Made from Lurik weaves, they are built to last.

Friska Aldilla Eka Putri is a stylist and film costumer who is just about to launch her line of super-comfortable clothes.  When her baby girl was born, she realized that there weren’t good clothes for nursing mothers.  So she went to work on this concept, while also costuming the new, filmed-in-Bali internet series, Promoter in Paradise (in which she’s got a cameo role as a wardrobe stylist)!  She and her husband have worked on a number of small film projects, some shown at MiniKino this year, and she is in development stages of a feature-length movie, based on real events, about a woman avenger of abused and battered women.  @thisisfriska will connect you with her work.

Another fashionista working for nursing mums is Dwi at Inakunkun, her Instagram tag also.  She sells t-shirts cleverly adapted for easy breastfeeding.  I love her cute elephant patterned sarongs, and her leather flats were selling briskly at the BIWA bazaar.

Flash notice! Check out these designers: Agus Suryanto (Aku in Penestenan), Jivaloka (@jivaloka on Instagram), and Paul Amron Yuwono, a master of many trades who gives fashion advice on YouTube.

Schedule it now, art and culture lovers:  Singapore’s comic con, 7 & 8 Dec

Denpasar Festival 28-31 Dec 2019.  Intersection of Jl Veteran and Jl Gajah Mada.  Expect cultural performances & displays of all kinds.

Like your cultural fusion to be edible? Current opens in Nyuh Kuning this month, @letsgetcurrent for details.

By Renee Melchert Thorpe

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