PIFW: Brands Sticking to a Palatable Formula

by Julius Kensan
14th March 2024
At Plaza Indonesia Fashion Week (PIFW) 2024, Patrick Owen anchored his collection on botanical references and a dash of nostalgia through lace doilies, while Sean Sheila embraced the chaos (partially) as shown through deconstructed looks.

It’s regrettable that Plaza Indonesia Fashion Week (PIFW) had the misfortune to run in the week when a political demonstration calling for President Jokowi’s impeachment took place. It brings to mind a similar circumstance back in 2019 when the fashion week happened at the height of the unrest against the controversial draft of the criminal code. Such an occurrence is going to happen at a greater frequency given the tumultuous time we’re living in.

Depending on how you look at it, fashion can offer a form of soothing ointment, a retreat against difficult times. Looking at Patrick Owen’s collection that fixed its attention on the botanical world—particularly resilient plants that survive “even the most hostile environments without losing their gentler side”—there’s an emphasis on nostalgia with an embrace of demure femininity.

To wit, white sundresses graze below the knees and were worn with a bonnet next to lace doily dresses tiptoeing between the line of the exposed and the covered. In particular, the presence of lace doilies evoked a simpler time, of childhood days spent at one’s grandmother’s house. Still, it was a straightforward collection that felt half-resolved. While Patrick firmly grasped the current fixation on nostalgia, the collection could benefit from a little bit more subversive attitude.

At the end of the show, each model came out carrying a stalk of flower and handed it to the audience, lighting the mood instantly as guests gasped in delight. If Patrick could harness such a genuine connection and transport it into the collection, it would have given the clothes an emotional depth too.

On the opposite spectrum, instead of serving as a form of retreat from reality, fashion can also hold up a mirror to the current happenings. The moment the first model came out in a suit that was reconstructed to be worn back-to-front at the Sean Sheila show, it seemed like designers Sean Loh and Sheila Agatha were embracing the chaos. It was further highlighted with pieces like the halter top with a flower motif that was slashed diagonally and hanging off the model like an act of defiance.

Models walked out leisurely to the brooding soundtrack of Chantal Chamberland’s ‘I Put a Spell On You’ as if fully giving into the turmoil. The world is heading towards fire? News flash, it has been burning for quite some time and we’re in the middle of it.

But the sentiment did not last. You wish the duo would throw caution to the wind and sink their teeth into the deconstruction. Instead, the collection was mainly filled with casual looks that seemed at odds with the initial direction that kicked off the show. It didn’t help that many of them looked familiar, as seen before in a previous show at Jakarta Fashion Week months ago.

In a way, many designers sent out palatable collections at Plaza Indonesia Fashion Week. It’s fair given that as a luxury mall, there needs to be a greater emphasis on clothes that would ultimately sell. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with showcasing commercial clothes. Still, it’s a missed opportunity when designers should be punching harder to drive their points across, instead of leaving the audience cold. At the most basic level, a bolder reason to exist.