Footnotes from the Front Row: JFW 2016, Day 3

The issue of sustainable fashion, on the heel of the fast-growing fast and cheap fashion, took center stage yesterday. As someone who’s very concerned about the excess of fast fashion business model, discussed on my columns in The Jakarta Post and Grazia this year, I was glad that Jakarta Fashion Week and their longtime partner The British Council decided to cast a light on the issue.

An interesting panel discussion took place between stakeholders of Indonesian fashion scene and their London-based counterpart including Lucy Siegle, The Guardian journalist, author of To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?, and the driving force behind The True Cost documentary. Both parties were in agreement that sustainability in fashion is a great issue, yet as the discussion progressed one could surmise that while the core issue of fast fashion model is its end-to-end excesses throughout the supply and demand chains, the Indonesian fashion scene is still at the preliminary stage of concerning the usage of natural production materials.

As I highlighted to Lucy Siegle on our private chat afterwards, the discrepancy is quite understandable due to the differences in demographic and sociographic factors between the so-called developed countries, where the owners of fast fashion labels hold offices, and the emerging markets, where most of the fast fashion labels are produced.

The ‘sweatshop’ issue that’s such a scandal for established economies, for example, may not matter much on the other, less robust, sides of the world where not only the garment industry would provide much-needed employment to lesser-skilled workers, the paid wages weren’t illegally below the country’s minimum wage level.

The excess of discarded clothing? Income gap is always wide on emerging economies, so there’d always be needy hands to welcome hand-me-downs and there’d be no resource-depleting clothes thrown to landfills. And so on and so forth.

Understandable doesn’t mean excusable. As Lucy Siegle pointed out to me, the affordability excuse is also used in the developed markets, where the majority had afforded normal-priced retail clothing for decades before fast fashion ever emerged. People refuse to change what already conveniences them. So it will take much more than a panel forum, a movie screening, or the li’l me tugging at the issue on my columns every now and then for this issue to be taken seriously by the public at large, especially in Indonesia where the fast fashion labels brought in employment on the supply side and affordable options on the demand side, but I’m glad the public conversation was started. I’m counting on Jakarta Fashion Week to nurture this dialogue in the long run. In the meantime, if you’re into fashion or just business in general I strongly urge you to watch The True Cost documentary (downloadable through Amazon), and give it a moment to sink in.

As for the eco-conscious collections shown afterwards, Merdi Sihombing’s ethnic collection, based on E. Nusa Tenggara’s gorgeous heritage handwoven fabrics, Friederich Herman’s close-cutting tops and jackets (side boob, anyone?), and Etu’s androgynous Muslimwear are proofs that, at least on the creation side, going eco-conscious doesn’t mean dowdy fashion.

Most interesting collections gracing the runway on Day 3, however, belong to Rama Dauhan and the 2nd part of collaboration between MajorMinor and artist Eko Nugroho.

Following the line they’d shown the day before, MajorMinor continued to spring from the underwater theme while employing Eko Nugroho’s signature illustration of questioning eyes and tentacle-like limbs in vibrant colors. The accessories were also to die for, and I genuinely hope they’d be made available commercially once the collections go retail in Spring-Summer 2016.

Rama Dauhan showed strong concept continuity throughout the collection, a boldness to go to palette not usually reserved for spring and summer, and the beautiful play with embellished accents. His RTW collection would easily find market between creative youth type and polished corporate professionals. Without a doubt his line was the strongest among other collections featured by Mazda Young & Vibrant Designers show last night.

Now as I get ready for Day 4, you may peruse snapshots, videos or impromptu commentaries through @lyndaibrahim (Twitter) or @lyndaibr (IG). Will be back tomorrow!

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