Notes from the Front Row of JFW2016

The weeklong brutality that is Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW) last week came to town. Yours truly, mere days after a bruising 10-day sojourn to Milan and Frankfurt, threw herself into the annual fete with much glee and abandon.

Sustainability is the recurring theme in my head at this year’s JFW. Not just how to sustain my legs in heels throughout the week when my jetlagged body didn’t even know if it was hungry or sleepy, but sustainability in fashion more broadly.

The conversation about fashion business sustainability was initiated through the collaboration with The British Council that brought in The Guardian journalist Lucy Siegle—the driving force behind To Die For book and The True Cost documentary film, the latter of which was screened after the public discussion.

As the discussion unfurled, a gap was immediately formed. While the London-based panelists were hammering on end-to-end impacts of fast and cheap fashion, from exhausted resources to excesses of barely-used clothing filling up landfills, the Indonesian panelists and audience were still fixating on eco-friendly production materials.

From the feedback I received after penning the very same issue here in May, I could comprehend how the supply chain problem of sweatshop practice didn’t come up strongly for Indonesian audience, for Indonesia direly needs to resuscitate its garment industry after years of losing out to Bangladesh and Vietnam, and how the demand side problem of discarded new clothing didn’t even register, for thanks to widening income gap there’d always be someone too glad to accept hand-me-downs. Not to mention how the demanding, rising middle class would noisily protest of being undemocratically denied of their ‘affordable’ fashion choices from Zara, Topshop, Uniqlo or H&M (cue the been-here-since-dawn queues outside Grand Indonesia for H&M’s capsule collection with Balmain on Thursday).

But in truth, deeper conversations on the subject need to continue. JFW’s organizer concurrently runs the prestigious design competition Lomba Perancang Mode (LPM) and mentoring program Indonesia Fashion Forward (IFF), where promising new talents are intended to spring from, so JFW should use LPM and IFF to cement and spearhead the issue, lest the sustainability fashion would remain just the theme of the year to be all forgotten by next JFW.

Aside from the good show put by Merdi Sihombing, Friederich Herman and Etu to prove that eco-conscious fashion would look just as stylish, a truly marvelous collection that somehow also resonated with the issue came through Rahul Mishra, winner of 2014 International Woolmark Prize that married off time-tested Indian artisanal embroidery and sewing techniques with Australian merino wool. The shearing of the wool is a natural process that doesn’t harm the lambs, and occurs perpetually for a steady supply. The Indian artisanal works not only are time-tested, it’s also time-intensive as it surrenders the process pretty much into the artisan’s handiwork. Fast fashion it does not make, and for the exquisite ready-to-wear clothing it produces, the same collection he’d shown at Paris Fashion Week earlier this year, I genuinely wonder why fast fashion is what anybody should make.

Still on business sustainability, another aspect that’s been brewing in my mind is about JFW itself. On its 8th year, the country’s first of its kind, JFW is getting larger by the year, including the dream to bring Indonesian fashion to global stage. That dream is noble and worth fighting round-the-clock for; I say round-the-clock because it entails not just the months-long preparation for the annual JFW, but more of the year-round work to coach new designers and coax serious foreign buyers to attend and place orders at JFW’s buyers’ room.

Founded by one of Indonesia’s largest media groups, JFW is mostly run by the employees of said media group– people whom, to their hard-earned credit, have become a pretty good crew in managing a bustling fashion week through the years. Yet, as JFW gets more expansive by the year, such vast and substantial undertakings involving designers and buyers, or sponsors, require more focused and dedicated teams. Perhaps, for its own ultimate sustainability, JFW needs its own enterprise by now—an enterprise that, by its independent design, in time will also comprise of more varied stakeholders from the domestic fashion scene, making JFW a truly rounded vehicle for Indonesian fashion industry. I believe the well-meaning, hardworking people behind JFW could acknowledge this, and hopefully soon would walk the path towards it. PT Jakarta Fashion Week should be a “when”, not an “if”.

Now, about the fashion itself… who were the stars?

Strong concept, solid presentation: Etu, Sofie, Danjyo Hiyoji, Lulu Lutfi Labibi, Billy Tjong, Peggy Hartanto, Rinaldy A. Yunardi, MajorMinor’s capsule collection with artist Eko Nugroho, Bateeq’s capsule collection with Suzuki Takayuki

Delightful collection: Didi Budiardjo, Obin, Itang Yunasz, F. Budi, Toton, Iwan Amir

Promising works: Rama Dauhan, Sean&Sheila, So’e, Manda Talitha.

Until the next fashion week, daahlink!

As published:

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