Last Saturday, Peggy Hartanto and Sean Sheila returned to Jakarta Fashion Week for the Dewi Fashion Knight (DFK) show. Throughout the years, the brands chosen to show under DFK have carried the reputation of being the standard-bearer for the local fashion industry. With the exception of accessories brand Aidan & Ice (a tediously long show filled with Chanel-inspired outfits and brain-melting music—even Svida Alisjahbana, the chairwoman of Jakarta Fashion Week, who was seated at the front row looked bored), Peggy Hartanto and Sean Sheila delivered collections that at least gave them the credentials of showing under the distinguished banner.
Designer Peggy Hartanto of the namesake label presented a collection that continues to mine from the brand’s previous offerings. Her fixation on flora and present-day feminine aesthetics culminated in a singular design vocabulary of clean lines and vivid colours. In particular, the scalloped edges that were present in her past collections made their round again here in variations.
There is a sleeveless navy dress with a scooped neckline that is graphically contrasted with protruding white scalloped details from the waist down, resembling the fins of sea creatures. In another, the scalloped details, which took inspiration from a moon orchid, were applied on a bralette top. Another variation, seen on a lemon dress with matching gloves, brings to mind the form of fluttering butterflies gently clapping their wings as the model strutted.
A quick scan around the audience and your eyes will likely land on women in bold colour dresses with clean geometric lines. Chances are, those are Peggy’s creations. To this day, one of the striking elements of the brand that continues to appeal to her clientele is the fact that there is rarely a need to accessorise or dress it up even further. Her dresses are self-assured as much as they are beautiful to look at.
But the same strength displayed in this collection also proved to be its Achilles’ heel. Never mind that scalloped details are revisited again here. Even so, there is a feeling that something is missing—the yearning for the designer to sink her teeth beyond the self-evident beauty of flowers and nature.
Humankind’s understanding of plants and trees has expanded greatly over the past few years. In her book “Finding the Mother Tree”, author Suzanne Simard contends that within a forest, there is a mother tree that “acts as a hub of nutrients shared by trees of different ages and species.” In “The Hidden Life of Trees”, Peter Wohlleben believes that trees in the forest share a network and possess the capability of keeping even “the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots.”
The aforementioned knowledge could perhaps be employed and translated into the collection through the lens of women’s empowerment, inclusivity and environmental awareness that would imbue it with a compelling depth. Instead, Peggy was preoccupied with the flowers and missed the entire forest.
Sean Sheila by the designer couple, Sean Loh and Sheila Agatha Wijaya approached the collection with body modifications—body piercings and corsets—as the jumping-off point. With that in mind, the collaboration with accessories designer Rosalyn Citta resulted in customised hardware, most notably a barbell ring decorated with a dried petal motif.
For example, a black cut-out dress featuring the brand’s signature embroidered flower is held poetically together in the centre with the said hardware ring. The exploration of corsetry also yielded one of the standout looks: a black jacket with silver polyurethane corset panels that have the quality of armour. Worn on a non-model, the lady, who looked to be in her 50s with natural long grey hair, brought the look to life—as if the look indeed belonged to her and she was simply taking it out for a spin.
The designers also applied the idea of modification directly to the shape of the garments. To wit, a black viscose blend jacket commanded attention with its sharp shoulders and swelling sleeves.
In a way, the inclusion of embroidered flowers and the idea of deconstruction and reconstruction is in line with the tradition of the brand. This is why the styling of the show also lent an interesting interpretation. The idea of dressing and undressing surfaced in a couple of looks as if we were witnessing an intimate moment we are not supposed to. A model clasped her embroidered jacket as a sleeve slipped off her shoulder. In another, a model came out in a half-buttoned blouse, as if suspended in the act of wearing and removing her garment.
Unfortunately, the bewitching reverie is broken by the unnecessary inclusion of two menswear looks that felt out of place. The silver jacket with dangling chains looked like it belonged to the Burning Man festival. And while the inclusion of celebrity Sophia Latjuba at the end of the show is noteworthy, it drew the entire focus away—especially her corset-panelled top and a sheer wrap skirt that felt disconnected—from an otherwise solid collection.