Last week, as per tradition, Jakarta Fashion Week concluded with Dewi Fashion Knight show, which anointed Sejauh Mata Memandang, Byo, Sean Sheila and Rinaldy Yunardi as this year’s Knights.
Chitra Subiyakto of Sejauh Mata Memandang easily convinced you how batik has its place within the day-to-day lives of Indonesians, instead of being confined to Casual Friday or special occasion wear, with the use of light fabric and subtle miniature prints.
What’s great about this collection is that it is not mired in nostalgia. Chitra is firmly planted in the present and batik is her language. While there are dresses and pants, a piece of batik textile from the label can be worn as a tube top, skirt or draped over the shoulder as a scarf.
What’s even more poignant is how the collection effortlessly bridges different generations. You can picture daughters, mothers and their elders in it. The timelessness appeal also means it can be passed down from one generation to the next. Compared to other labels in Dewi Fashion Knight, Chitra’s output for Sejauh Mata Memandang excels in the kind of beauty that brings to mind the quiet tenacity of women. And it is exactly this aura of kindred spirit that pulls you in.
Tommy Ambiyo Tedji of Byo has always been pushing wearable experimental objects, especially in the form of bags. Although he usually creates striking pieces to better showcase his bags on the runway, he’s still pigeonholed as a handbag designer. But with this collection, Tommy is no doubt gradually showing how his interest in experimenting on unusual materials can be applied to daywear as well.
This time, for both the clothes and bags, Tommy researched the weaving process and the geometric properties of Songket (traditional Malay textiles). “The modular textile version I developed for this collection is made by designing three sets of neoprene modules in the shape of X, + and O,” said Tommy. But for the bags, Tommy reinforced it with “latex to hold its shape and structure to function as a bag.”
It is even more impressive if you take on the account that all the intricate details on the bags are hand-woven. Naturally, there’s plenty to see and digest here, but luckily, Tommy kept the silhouettes of the clothes simple. The machine-cut neoprene garments complement the bags well and your attention is divided equally between the two.
While Byo will eventually encompass ready-to-wear, Tommy is placing his focus on the bags for now (the bags are available for sale, but not the clothes). “I still have much to master before production,” he expressed. True, the pieces on the runway are still too stiff to be wearable, but given how much he has achieved in this show alone, you can be sure that that day won’t be long.
The duo of Sean Sheila, Sean Loh and Sheila Agatha Wijaya also emphasised on the experimentation of materials. Just like before, the designers are conscious about waste in the fashion industry. “About 70 per cent of the Dewi Fashion Knight collection is waste made by our workshop from past seasons,” said Sean. Although the label is known for their beautiful embroidery, this time around they aren’t fixated with just that.
There is a lot to unpack in this show, but the chief idea is to show beauty in imperfections by patching various pieces together, inspired by old Chinese technique of repairing garments called Ge Ba. For example, they “layered PVC on top of damaged garments and lined them with bubble wrap” as well as “exaggerated the damage on some garments to expose the bubble wrap lining or bare skin.”
The end result felt poetic and raw. The use of PVC also gives off the effect of an oil slick that amped up the aesthetic of the collection. The show was also unsettling in some sense that plastic material, which has been causing so much distress to the environment, is so appealing here. Sean and Sheila offered a food for thought here: Is plastic the enemy? Or it’s us humans who ought to be more responsible?
Those who are familiar with Rinaldy Yunardi’s work will know that the designer excels in over-the-top and unapologetically showy accessories. They are made to amaze and rouse your imagination. They are created to turn heads. And this year alone, his works have been worn by famous divas, from Madonna, Beyoncé to Lady Gaga.
Even though the theme for Dewi Fashion Knight this year is “Heroes”, Rinaldy’s creations carry a darker tone. They bring to mind the iconic Carnival of Venice that features elaborate masks. If each natural disaster in the world (hurricane, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.) could take on a form, this would be it.
The collection affirms fashion as an expression of fantasy. That for every fashion designer that espouses realism, there will be someone like Rinaldy who is deeply entrenched in showmanship. Which is great, because that’s what fashion should be: a multifaceted industry where different schools of thoughts co-exist.