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Batik models on a catwalk (Photo: Jojopix.info)

The Allure of Batik and Ikat

OurIndonesia – With the stipulation of Indonesian Batik as world heritage by UNESCO, and Indonesia’s decision in marking 2nd of October as national batik day, Indonesia’s traditional fabrics became a frenzy all over the world.

GUCCI and Dries Van Noten are high fashion brands and are very well known in the international fashion world. In their 2010 Spring/Summer runway show, GUCCI was inspired by the beauty of Indonesia’s ikat print and turned the mesmerizing print into a sleek, modern sexy dresses.

Belgian designer Dries van Noten, in the same year took inspirations from Indonesia’s batik patterns and turned it into chic dresses. The presence of batik and ikat on the high-end runway seems to open world’s eyes of the beauty of Indonesia’s traditional fabrics.

In Indonesia, from office workers to restaurants’ waiters, batik and other traditional fabrics had been worn as mandatory attires. They are also worn as a daily uniforms for many institutions like schools and Ministries.

Batik, Indonesia’s famous traditional fabric and pattern, has hundreds of patterns that contain specific meanings. Batik cloth/fabric is very expensive for its complicated making process, but nowadays the affordable version of it (printed version) is widely available for public.

Like batik that has been widely used by designers, Ikat fabric/pattern is extensively used as fashion main elements by designers like Didiet Maulana, a rising Indonesian designer. Deeply experienced in high fashion retail industry, Didiet is the man behind Ikat Indonesia, where he processes ikat into contemporary and urban-looking daily wear.

Having architecture background and taking inspirations from New York, Didiet had made his collection attracts loyal customers. With his Ikat Indonesia brand, this young designer was chosen as the official designer for APEC summit in 2013, making ikat-based attires for the world leaders.

The well-known premium batik line Iwan Tirta, established by the late maestro Iwan Tirta himself, is now having talented young designer Era Sukamto as its head designer. Era Sukamto recently held Iwan Tirta Private Collection DewaRaja 2015, for its upscale market target. Era Sukamto presented her signature style wearable collections for batik lovers.

Peggy Hartanto, another rising Indonesian designer famous for her edgy designs, collaborated with Bateeq brand from Surabaya to recreate batik kawung prints into chic cocktail dresses. Modern look meets ethnic blend harmoniously in this collection.

However, not all batik interpretations receive good critics. In this case is Agnes Monica. The Indonesian singer sensation wore batik vest combined with jeweled bra and hot pants in Grammy Awards 2013 –a style that emerged pros and cons on batik interpretations.

Traditional fabrics contain many elements of culture and history. The challenge to work with traditional fabric is that they are heavy and have formal impression. Yet designers have developed many innovations to make them as daily wear. One of them is NurZahra, a Muslim wear designer whose collection showcased in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tokyo.

NurZahra combined rich and aesthetic pattern of Islamic art and geometric design. Using Shibori coloring techniques (Japanese special tie-dye), NurZahra created the basic canvas for her creation. These tie-dye patterns were then blended with traditional Indonesian batik process.

Adding a hint of batik touch to the collection was an easy decision for NurZahra, as batik symbolizes classic royal heritage of Indonesia. NurZahra’s batiks were made with high craftsmanship by women in rural villages of Java, a making process that also serves the brand’s social spirit in empowering women.

At Jakarta Fashion Week and Indonesia Fashion Week, Priyo Oktaviano translated ikat print and tapis fabric from Lampung into a masterpiece collection of traditional fabrics. He elevated traditional fabrics into a different dimensions and fantasy pieces, that made the collection looks elegantly futuristic and contemporary like never seen before in Indonesia’s fashion scene.

Visionary Indonesia’s young designers want to make a traditional fabrics-inspired collection that everyone can wear. So they use the elements of traditional fabrics, then develop and explore those fabrics with new approach and lightweight materials (like cotton). These traditional patterns undoubtedly can add a twist in one’s appearance.

Indonesia’s traditional fabrics had charmed the world by storm. Legendary musician and guitarist Carlos Santana performed with batik shirts in his latest music video Saideira. And Nelson Mandela is often seen wearing batik shirt in some of his diplomatic visits.

Indonesia’s traditional patterns and fabrics had enchanted many people. Sometimes you see your mom wears her ancient batik collections, other time you find yourself purchasing a traditional ikat fabric when you were traveling to sumba village, -a fabric you can combine with casual tops and your favorite sneakers or use it as a shawl while attending cocktail party with your friends. Indonesia’s traditional fabrics can go no wrong for any occasions.